Cambodia’s securities exchange opened for business last month with a side order of celebration. Ellie Dyer ventures to its namesake restaurant, The Exchange, to see if its stock is soaring too.
The exposed brick walls of The Exchange, coupled with its elegant rounded glass bar, balance old-world class with contemporary style. A glance at the menu shows the winning formula is repeated in the kitchen of the capital’s newest high-class eatery.
Classics have benefited from a refreshing twist thanks to the experience of two men: Tom O’Connor, previously of Metro and Fish, and chef Al Schaaf, a partner at Sharky’s and Fat Boy Sub and Sandwich Shop, who has returned to his fine dining roots.
The menu – which comes complete with images of a stock market bull – was designed with both Khmer and expats in mind. Imported beef cuts, to be devoured by power brokers, sit side-by-side with sharing platters, juicy burgers and fresh salads for an after-work crowd.
Inspiration has been drawn from all over the world. Moroccan spiced bean salad ($6) and teriyaki ribs ($12.50) are coupled with French onion soup ($4) and a cheese platter ($13.50). “We tried to cover as many places as we could,” says O’Connor. “But we do sell a lot of steaks: a lot of the Asian market really enjoys high quality imported steak.”
Imports prove the backbone of the dizzyingly-diverse menu. Scallops hail from Japan, salmon from Australia and rabbit from Vietnam. “The great thing is the range of products we can use here because of the customers. In the bar, I’m not going to get my hands on things like parma ham, truffle oil and lobster,” says Schaaf.
The Ohio-born American, who studied chemical engineering before beginning a life-long love affair with the food business, uses expert techniques to make home-made pasta and pâté, even smoking tomatoes at local butcher Dan Meats to accompany the house-cured salmon ($14).
“My brain had to switch gears for the kind of food we were doing. Now, the gears have changed and everything is running along great,” he says. “Cooking is cooking wherever you are, whether you’re cooking in a nice restaurant or cooking in a bar: it’s just technique.”
Although the standouts of the restaurant’s options are imported, O’Connor emphasises that these products are balanced with local produce. Despite this, both men shy away from using the dreaded word “fusion”.
“It ends up being confusion. It’s just about being able to find and utilise products that are in the country,” says O’Connor.
28 Street 47
Tel: 023 992 865
Open from 10am to 11pm