Editor Marissa Carruthers and photographer Charles Fox step into the tiger’s lair to discover the latest chapter in the mammal’s life at The Tiger’s Eye.
When news that Common Tiger was closing the doors on its leafy villa setting started to spread throughout the capital, there were more than a few gasps in the air. Having set the standard for innovative contemporary cuisine served in a sumptuous setting, the loss would undoubtedly leave a gaping hole in Phnom Penh’s diverse dining options.
But when the brains behind it announced they would be stepping into the space of former eatery, The Duck, a simultaneous sigh of relief echoed across the city. This was coupled with a healthy helping of curiosity: renowned for his clean, minimalist yet urban style, combined with simple but well-constructed dishes, what did co-owner and chef Timothy Bruyns have in store for this much more intimate space?
The proof is in the pudding, and while the new, cosier venue may pale in comparison to the spectacular space of Common Tiger, it still packs the punch of its predecessor. The menu has seen a revamp, playing with popular classics as well as throwing new creations into the mix, this time taking in breakfast, lunch and dinner. “We’ve taken everything we learnt from Common Tiger and brought it here,” says Bruyns.
Local dishes sit smoothly alongside their Western counterparts, with the breakfast menu taking in the Cambodian staple morning meal of bor bor ($5). Sticking to tradition, this refined version uses the highest quality produce to make the popular porridge. The broth is flavoursome, with each ingredient shining through, from the zingy lime and mint, to the roasted garlic, the soft texture of the thin slices of braised pork shoulder and the crunch of the beansprouts.
The boiled egg with mushrooms ($7) is beautifully presented. The thick wedge of focaccia bread – made fresh on the day – is rubbed with raw garlic and just the right amount of oil to keep it light and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the out. It is topped with halved, soft boiled eggs, woody mushrooms, ricotta and crisp cress.
Moving to the mains and the crab and courgette pasta ($7.50) sees fresh, hand-made tagliatelle dotted with sweet crab meat, poached and flaked on the day. Sliced courgette, ricotta, garlic and a sprinkling of herbs and splash of oil finish off the light dish. “Sometimes the simplest of dishes is the most difficult,” says Bruyns. “There’s nowhere to hide; pasta is pasta.”
The beef soup ($17) is another simple yet deceivingly flavoursome meal. A second deception comes in its appearance. While the mix of delicate, 36-hour braised beef, sweet potatoes and carrots looks heavy and more suited to a warming, winter dish, it is in fact fairly light, with the sesame oil, pepper and soy sauce in the tangy broth bringing it firmly back to Southeast Asian soil.
“I feel a lot more confident about this space,” Bruyns says. With a menu and food that delivers equal confidence, The Tiger’s Eye is an exciting next step in the animal’s tasteful evolution.