by Sean Nolan
Damnak Lounge is considered to be the best Fine Dining restaurants in Siem Reap. The menu celebrates the marriage of bold Khmer spices with the finesse of French cooking techniques.
In a city that is flooded with millions of tourist a year, mediocrity amongst restaurants can be a big problem. All too often tourist may visit a popular restaurant expecting the best gastronomic feast they ever had, or at least, a taste of authentic local cuisine. Sadly that isn't always the case.
Damnak Lounge, however, is one of those restaurants that will meet any food lovers expectations. We were blown away by the quality of the food they served and the passion that went into every dish.
If you ever find yourself visiting Siem Reap and want good quality Khmer Cusine, we recommend giving Damnak Lounge a try.
Lotus Blanc Resort — Not far from Siem Reap Proper and is easily accessible via tuk-tuk. Damnak Lounge is located on the first floor.
The Interior is modern French style and can seat, around 50 guests with a full bar and an extensive wine selection. They have Live Music every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 7 pm – 9 pm.
There is also a balcony overlooking the pool of the resort if you'd like to dine al fresco.
Executive Chef Suban has made a name for himself as one of Siem Reap's top Chefs. His menu for Damnak Lounge is a modern take on traditional Khmer Cusine and his philosophy in the kitchen is what he calls "last minute cooking." Chef Suban believes that in order to get the full flavors of ingredients and to ensure freshness, all dishes are made to order. Ingredients are chopped or pounded, even picked just moments before cooking. Chef Suban describes this method as the heart of Khmer/Cambodian Cusine.
Chef Suban has trained in France and has been cooking since he was a young man. He now resides at Lotus Blanc Resort as the Executive Chef, where he oversees the kitchens of Damnak Lounge and Lotus Blanc Restaurant.
(Western Set meals are priced at $35.00 USD per head, $45.00 USD p/h with wine pairing
Khmer Set Meals are priced at $25.00 USD per head wine pairing is optional)
The French have left an everlasting impression on Khmer Cusine, this bread basket is a perfect example. The freshly baked bread was crispy on the outside and soft in the center. The Curry dip was fantastic!
This delicate purse was crispy and packed full of flavor and is a nice introduction to the Khmer Pallette.
The mellow lime and fish sauce allowed the tartness of the Makok to stand on its own. If you've ever had a papaya salad the taste is similar. Sweet, sour, salty and spicy, all blended perfectly in this fantastic salad.
(Makok is a fruit from the Cashew family and is commonly found throughout SE Asia. It has a taste similar to a crabapple and unripened plum. They are known as Libas / Spanish Plums in the Philippines.)
This dish was excellent! The addition of the Duck Confit added a richness that was balanced perfectly with the broth which is soured using leaves of the Makok Tree. Hot basil, galangal, lemongrass, and turmeric round out the complex flavors of the soup.
(Samlar Machu or Cambodian Sour Soup is common throughout Cambodia. Tamarind is usually used as the main souring agent and the variety of meats and vegetables used vary, depending on region and what's in season at the time.)
Khmer Beef With Lemongrass Skewer – Grilled Beef Tenderloin seasoned with Khmer spices.
The beef tenderloin was cooked perfectly and the lemongrass skewers added extra flavor. What made this dish stand out was how simple it was, and the incorporation of the world-renowned Kampot Peppercorns — that added a nice heat that went well with the charred flavor of the beef.
(Kampot Peppers are considered to be the best peppers on the planet and are coveted by Top Chefs in the culinary world. They are Native to Kampot Province in Cambodia and are believed to get their distinct flavor from the soil contents of that region.)
Banana Glazed with Palm Sugar – Finger Bananas glazed in palm sugar, coconut, and orange juice with seasonal fruits.
Rich and sweet, this simple cultural dish is the perfect ender to the bold and intricate flavors of the Khmer Set Meal. The palm sugar glaze was so delicious that we ended up using it as a dip for the
River Prawn Salad – Poached River Prawn with Avocado and Red Wine Vinegar dressing.
This light and fresh appetizer is a perfect introduction to the Western Set. The Prawn was cooked perfectly and the Red Wine sauce didn't overpower the other flavors of the dish.
Beef Fillet Carpaccio – Thinly sliced Beef with Basil and Tomato Salsa, drizzled with Truffle Oil and topped with Parmesan Cheese, Arugula, and fresh cracked Kampot Pepper.
Beef Carpaccio is one of Chef Suban's favorite dishes. The thinly cut slices of beef are served ice cold and the tomato and basil sauce is a nice break from the traditional squeeze of lemon.
Potato And Leek Creme Soup – Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Croutons, Crispy Bacon, topped with Cream Foam and Truffle Oil.
One of the better Leek Soups we've had. Creamy and smooth, the Creme foam really elevated this dish and balanced the earthy flavors of truffle oil and leek. Perfect for rainy days or for anyone who craves a nice homestyle soup.
Beef Medallion with Curry Butter – Tender Beef medallion with seasoned butter, mash, and sauteed vegetables nested on Merlot Reduction.
The Medallion seemed to melt in your mouth and the Merlot Demi-glace was excellent. The Curry butter was packed with flavor and perfectly married Khmer flavors into a western dish. Again the Kampot Peppercorns really stood out and enhanced the flavor of the beef.
Crepe Suzette – Panna Cotta and Orange Caramel Sauce with Seasonal fruits.
What better way to end the Western Set Meal? This French classic is Sweet, hot, crispy, and cold. The Crepe is finished with a delicious orange caramel sauce and the housemade vanilla ice cream made with Madagascar vanilla bean.
Chef Suban has perfectly captured the essence of modern Khmer Cusine at Damnak Lounge.
He's able to blend French and western styles with the bold flavors of SE Asia and his Khmer Menu was Amazing.
Chef's talents really shine when it comes to Beef. The Cambodian Beef Skewers and the Beef Medallion with Curry Butter are our favorites. The Makok Salad and Sour Duck Soup also stood out. For dessert, we enjoyed the Crepe Suzette.
If you're looking for a fine dining experience in Siem Reap, Damnak Lounge is a perfect choice. The Pricing is reasonable for the quality of food and the excellent service.
Congratulations Chef Suban and Damnak Lounge!
The Khmer Set will cost you $25 US Dollars for a 4-course meal.
The Western Set runs at about $35 US Dollars for a 4-course meal (Wine pairing is also available for an additional price).
You can also order everything we tried plus more from their Ala carte Menu.
Live an Awesome Life,
SEAN NOLAN of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our experience was courtesy of Innotality Group of Hotels and the Awesome staff of Lotus Blanc Resort. We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S: Due to High demand and popularity — Damnak Lounge will be expanding and will soon open a banquet hall later this year that can accommodate parties of 100.