The first in a series of culinary events called “Les invités du Mag” (Mag guests), featuring special tastings of the best dishes from the Thalias Group’s brands, with guest personalities from the worlds of business, entertainment and sport.
For this first culinary experience, Prince Tesso Sisowath, director of the Norodom Buppha Devi dance school, and one of his best dancers, Savath Srey Len, were kind enough to play the candids and give their verdict on a specially concocted menu.
Sevensea Seafood Restaurant, as its name suggests, is a seafood restaurant offering a variety of Chinese, Cambodian and Asian cuisine styles. Located just off Koh Pich’s Rainbow Bridge in Phnom Penh, Sevensea boasts a reputation for excellence among local gourmets and tourists alike. A vast, welcoming dining room, several private lounges, a conceptual decor blending art deco and Asian ambience and, above all, a team of talented chefs who have evolved under the magic baton of chef Luu Meng to offer eminently refined and original cuisine. Luu Meng, the restaurant’s creator, is not only one of the Kingdom’s most illustrious chefs, but also one of its most innovative, never afraid to be creative with Chinese, Cambodian or Western dishes. And of course, when it comes to Sevensea, using top-quality seafood, fish and vegetables.
Welcomed by Sakana and her smiling, friendly team, we are ushered into one of the private lounges. The sober, two-color decor is enlivened by a large watercolor painting and a few antique kitchen utensils and containers. The atmosphere is sober and simple, ideal for keeping one’s focus on the main reason for this visit, a tasting that promises to be promising.
“Sevensea was one of Princess Buppha Devi’s favorite restaurants; she liked to reserve a private room to peacefully appreciate the quality of the cuisine on offer,” confides Prince Tesso.
As for Savath, who is still a student, this is her first experience of fine dining, and her smile speaks volumes about her eagerness to sample this special menu.
Any self-respecting Chinese restaurant must offer Dim Suns such as Siu Mai, Xia Jiao and Xiao Long Bao as starters, served in these famous little bamboo baskets heated by steam.
Dim Sun is the most popular Chinese appetizer par excellence, and also a perfect appetizer. Dim Sum originated in the Guangdong region of southern China. The Cantonese culture of this specialty originated in tea rooms in the second half of the 19th century in the port city of Guangzhou, the region’s capital, following the nationwide ban on opium smoking.
Travelers and merchants on the Silk Road used to stop off at tea houses to enjoy a meal consisting entirely of Dim Sum. Over time, this practice spread and gained popularity throughout the region, particularly in Hong Kong.
Sevensea has a reputation for serving the best Dim Sun in the country, and if the religious silence with which our guests enjoy this starter is anything to go by, it’s probably true. This perfect starter is complemented by steamed rice rolls with Shitake mushrooms, crispy almond fritters and fried Wonton with shrimp.
Elixir of life
A special mention for the rice rolls with Shitake mushrooms, creamy and melt-in-your-mouth, served with a remarkable homemade sauce. A little history too: Shiitake mushrooms are found mainly in Japan and China, and are the second most widely consumed mushroom in the world. Used in traditional medicine, as it contains lentinan and other components that may stimulate the immune system, it is nicknamed the “elixir of life”, and considered in Asia to be THE mushroom of longevity.
Next up are two rather Cambodian dishes, fried Chay Sim with garlic and shelled chicken with vegetables. Chai Sim, a variety of rapeseed, is a very popular vegetable in the Kingdom, found in almost every market and in many local recipes. The name Chai Sim or Shoy Sum literally means “vegetable heart”. Its leaves and stems are barely crisp and juicy, and can be easily adapted to many dishes.
Savath Srey Len confides that this is his favorite dish:
“I eat a lot of them, but they’re not necessarily as well prepared as today’s recipe”.
As for Prince Tesso, he mentions chicken as his favorite, for the tenderness of its meat, the condiments, and also because it was “their favorite dish when we came to have lunch with Princess Buppha Devi”.
Certainly the star of this tasting: a marbled sand goby steamed with black mushrooms. A respectable size, the fish is shelled and therefore boneless, and served with these voluptuous mushrooms, a few stalks of green onion and red chili pepper.
This is a must-try, as it’s a top-quality type of fish, with tender flesh and a delicate texture that’s very much in evidence in Cambodian, Thai and Cantonese cuisine. The marbled goby, native to the fresh and brackish waters of the Mekong and Chao Praya basins, as well as the rivers and other bodies of water of Cambodia (where it’s called ត្រីដំរី “TreiDamrei”), is therefore a highly prized fish throughout South and Southeast Asia.
And the recipe for Sevensea is simply sumptuous and subtle. Enough condiments to sublimate the taste, but not too many, to preserve the pleasure of tasting the delicate flesh of a premium fish. In fact, despite the fact that the meal is already well advanced, we take more and more, simply for the pleasure of it.
The meal will end – calendar permitting – with an excellent “mooncake”, the essential Chinese dessert served during the traditional mid-autumn festival. The preparation and sharing of these cakes is one of the most important traditions in Chinese culture. The round shape of the mooncake symbolizes fullness and the spirit of family union. Sharing and eating it during the week of the festival is a sign of family unity and solidarity.
An enjoyable, high-quality gastronomic experience, according to the happy, satiated faces of our guests. An experience that – does it really need to be said? – confirms undoubtedly that Sevensea Seafood Restaurant is one of Phnom Penh’s best culinary rendezvous for lovers of Asian cuisine.
With an abundant and creative menu, top-quality products, a calm and well-designed environment, impeccable service, not to mention a respectable wine list, the establishment offers the ideal conditions for a rather unique gastronomic experience, skilfully orchestrated by the innovative spirit of Luu Meng and his team of chefs.
By C.Gargiulo Cambodge Mag – french version here