With a formula of seafood by the shore proving a hit for the Sokha Beach Resort’s Lemongras Restaurant, Micheal Sloan speaks to head chef Ross Erikson about his plans for the upscale eatery.

Since Lemongrass opened, the seaside restaurant has thrived on the influx of guests staying in the Sokha Resort and become a popular fine dining destination with Sihanoukville locals.

But in a business where complacency is the first step on the road to irrelevance, head chef Ross Erikson is radically overhauling its menu, with a view to ensuring that everything changes except for the restaurant’s reputation.

“The old menu was quite plain and quite boring. The idea with the new menu is to try to make it match the standard of the hotel,” he says.

Starting in May, the affable Australian relaunched the Lemongrass menu, focussing on fresh, locally available ingredients and marrying Cmabodian seafood and Japanese cuisine.

“We’ve got lots of prawns, crabs and lobsters and some cool new interesting things on the new menu, which is almost entirely revamped,” he says.

When loking for standout dishes in the new ensembles, there are several to choose from including the beef bulogogi, comprised of Australian sirloin steak marinated in Korean chilli paste and topped off with sesame oil and soy sauce.

Served with green mango kimchi, the dish retails for $15.50 and is best accompanied by Erikson’s zucchini carpaccio ($4.50), a mix of seared scallops wrapped in thinly sliced courgette and drenched in a citrus and soy sauce.

Another of Erikson’s personal favourites is the sea bass ceviche, served with coconut sauce and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit. Desserts also come in for special attention. The mango tart ($5.50) is treated with a blowtorch for a caramelised finish.

Lemongrass’s focus on seafood is partially from geography and partialy by design. Erikson, formerly the head chef at Rahu, has a particular fondness for it. “I love to eat it and I love to cook it, but it’s also very easy to get wrong,” he says.

After serving an apprenticeship in Victoria, Erikson spent four years working in the United Kingdom-based Ricker Restaurants chain and the Vue Du Monde in Melbourne’s Rialto Tower, before moving to Phnom Penh to head up Metro two and a half years ago. He now spends six days a week in the Lemongrass kitchen.

Despite four months of work on thee new menu behind him, Erikson says he still plans to tweak it agagin later this year. “I believe you have to keep cjanging it to keep it interesting, and hopefully the next one will be better. Here you’ve got a beautiful setting on the beach and a nice restaurant with friendly staff, and you need to have a menu to match.”

Lemongrass Restaurant at the Sokha resort in Sihanoukvile
Open daily from 10am to 11pm. Tel: 034 935 999.