Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Sous-Vide Challenge

Deco’s sous-vide burger

The first time I had heard about the sous-vide method of cooking was when Caspar from Yumi and now Deco joined us for a nyam about a year ago. He had just purchased the equipment and was already talking about tinkering with the method in an effort to perfect a sous-vide burger. Needless to say, Vinh and I were really excited.

Caspar’s sous-vide burger has finally arrived on the menu at Deco. Not an everyday burger, coming it at $9 for the burger and triple cooked chips, it is however, probably the new king of burgers in Phnom Penh. Cooked evenly through with the sous-vide method done right, the meat is juicy and delicious. I think they even try to show off the quality of the burger meat by keeping the toppings relatively simple.

The triple cooked chips fine but were not my favorite mostly because they are English style chips, not the American fries I’m looking for with a burger. But the ketchup and burger sauce that came along with the plate were both awesome. For those of you not in Cambodia, ketchup being good is unfortunately not a given. It is typically some gross, sweet watery mess so Heinz 57 is a treat.

The rest of the menu looks really good as well but I’m going to have a hard time not ordering the burger next time I’m back at Deco.

Garage’s sous-vide burger

On a normal night, Garage has one of my favorite burgers in Phnom Penh. Nothing fancy, just a solid backyard bbq style burger. It does take as long as 45 minutes to get one if their grill isn’t fired up when you arrive but they do the regular burger really well. However, comparing the sous-vide burger from Garage to the Deco sous-vide burger isn’t even fair. At least not at this point. While Caspar spent a year trying to perfect his sous-vide method, I’m pretty sure the Garage owners bought one and are using their customers to learn how to use the equipment. The night we gave Garage a shot, the burgers were extremely dry and crumpling apart as we tried to eat them. Apparently the whole idea behind sous-vide is to make a juicier burger; this was not the case.

I’d stick to the regular burgers at Garage until they get this new style figured out.

– Bryse

Our first post on this blog focused on a very American diner burger at Mike’s Burger House. 2 years down the line, the culinary landscape has significantly changed with new and exciting restaurants popping up left and right. Sometimes, they are a hit with us and other times, a bit of a miss.

So when I wasn’t too surprised to hear that Phnom Penh has a joint that does sous-vide burgers. I was surprised when I found out that there are two!

Sous-vide is the method of slowly poaching a vacuum sealed bag of food goodness until it achieves whatever temperature the chef would like. What this does is two things:

  1. The food is cooked in it’s own juices, hence intensifying flavor and overall juiciness
  2. Allows for almost perfect cooking temperatures

However, there are some downfalls to the cooking technique.  Because it slowly brings the internal temperature of the food up, cooking times are significantly longer than traditional methods. Also; and this is very important for burgers; there is no browning of the meat. A big part of the burger experience is that char or “crust” that is prevalent on flame-grilled or griddle cooked patties which gives a textural one-two punch when biting into a burger.

Okay, enough burger knowledge for one post, let’s get to the burgers!

We first went to Garage to check out their sous-vide burger. We are big fans of the Garage burger and Jeff the owner is always tinkering with the menu. Usually this is a bad omen of things to come in a restaurant, but in this case, it’s great to see someone constantly refining the menu to keep it fresh.

One admission about the review: C0-owner Jeff was not at the restaurant and his partner had a really bad day trying to get the sous-vide machine up to speed which has adversely affected this review. 

The sous-vide burger was overcooked. There is no other way to put it lightly.

An overcooked sous vide burger at the Garage

An overcooked sous vide burger at the Garage

The burger had a great crust on it so I have a feeling it could have been left on the grill a bit too long. It’s quite disappointing as the onion confit, rocket and sriracha mayo were a great complement to the burger.

In typical Nyam fashion, we ordered way too much food and ordered 2 more sandwiches on the menu.

Cuban sandwich at the Garage

Cuban sandwich at the Garage

We ordered a stellar Pulled Pork Sandwich and a Cubano. Both were excellent though the Cubano didn’t have the prerequisite mustard on it but a simple splash from the bottle of French’s solved that problem

Pretty much all of the food on the Garage menu is under $5 which makes it a great deal for what you get. I will definitely be back to the Garage to retry the burger as this was a one-off experience.

Now onto a more different bear in Deco. Co-owned by Caspar from Yumi and Rob from Rubies, Deco is located in BKK I and is set in a beautiful art-deco villa.

Menu at Deco

Menu at Deco

The Deco burger is  the best burger in town.

Hands down.

However, it’s too much of a good thing.

More on that later.

Chilled tomato soup at Deco

Chilled tomato soup at Deco

There are elements of molecular gastronomy on the menu but none of that exemplifies it more than the chilled tomato soup. The clear broth belies the intense tomato flavor that pummels the perception of what your eyes are telling you. A great start to the meal.

Sous vide burger at Deco

Sous vide burger at Deco

Now onto the burger. It’s simple in it’s presentation which once again belies how much thought is put into it. Every ingredient was top notch even down to the fresh tomatoes which are prominently displayed on top of the patty. I have an almost Un-American love of fat fries aka chips and these triple fried ones are definitely some of the best in town. No ketchup needed for these babies as they are also salted perfectly.  The remoulade-like burger sauce gave a great tangy bite to the burger. As for how the patty was cooked, check out the photo below:

A perfectly cooked sous vide burger at Deco

A perfectly cooked sous vide burger at Deco

But throughout the meal, something was constantly nagging at me and it took me a week or so to figure out what it was.

It’s too perfect.

I have proclaimed the best burger in town a couple of times, here and here but both burgers had their faults. This one is completely flawless and that’s the problem with it. Maybe I like imperfection.

Also, the location is too close for comfort. For example, I love the burgers at Cafe De La Paix (RIP). But one of the reasons why I love them is that they were 6 hours away from Phnom Penh and it took a bit of effort to get one. And that made them special. I’m not saying Caspar and Rob shouldn’t pack up and move to Siem Reap but it’s too much of a good thing.

This is my last post as a regular contributor of Nyam Penh. I have moved to Saigon and have started up a new food blog called Vietnomnom. I am getting content for a post in the next month so please check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Also, thanks to all of our readers and commenters for reading Nyam Penh and helping us get to where we are now.

Vinh

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Ayotaya

Interior of Ayotaya

Interior of Ayotaya

Ayotaya is a no frills Thai restaurant that is severely lacking on ambiance but inversely makes up for it in flavor. Upon walking in, you have a sense that you have entered a canteen. It’s white walls are bare with a few signs stating daily specials. It also has that living room look that only a canteen in Southeast Asia can have with a few couches in back, a whiteboard with daily specials which are in Thai no-less, and the ubiquitous TV running a very melodramatic dubbed soap opera.

Interior of Ayotaya

Each table comes with your own personal trash bin

The good thing about places like this is the high probability of getting a really good meal. But sometimes you need a ringer to really order the goods. Enter Fon from Hungry Go Where who we gave the undue pleasure of ordering for us and Lina from My Big Fat Face.

And it was so good… 

Fon ordered a total of 6 dishes which included 2 plates of Green Curry Fried Rice ($3.00), Lime Steamed Tilapia ($6.00), a Wing Bean Spicy and Sour Salad ($3.50), Fried Squid in Curry Powder ($4.00) and a side of fried eggs ($2.00).

They were all excellent with the Wing Bean Salad and the Tilapia being my favorites of the meal. The salad was clean and fresh with the Wing Beans giving a great crunchy texture to it. For the Tilapia, I am a huge fan of this Thai preparation and almost always order it when it is available.

The only niggly thing I could say about the meal was the quartered hard-boiled egg as garnish on almost all of the dishes.

All in all, Ayotaya is a great Thai restaurant on the cheap if you can deal with the canteen-like feel of the place.

Vinh

Ayotaya is conveniently situated at st 302 in BKK1. You wont miss the cheerful yellow sign outside Decoration is basic, yet clean and welcoming.

Being Thai, of course I was tasked to order for the other 3 foodies – pressure was on. Fortunately all the dishes we had lived up to the expectation. I was happily to collect the compliments!

Fried squid in curry powder

Fried squid in curry powder

We ordered few things to share; snake beans salad with prawns, steamed river fish with garlic, chillies sauce, green curry chicken fried rice and fried eggs to accompany the curry fried rice.

Snake beans salad with prawn came with light and slightly spiced coconut dressing. It was a hands down everyone’s favourite and personally, I can eat that everyday. Steamed river fish came in a generous portion. We asked for the garlic & chillies sauce to be spicy and the restaurant was not shy to give us that. The sauce offers that perfect sour, spicy and salty combination which compliments the fish really well. We just could not have enough of that.

Green curry fried rice

Green curry fried rice

Last dish, curry fried rice with fried eggs. The dish reminds me of good street food in Bangkok  – rustic and giving home cook feel – Two thumbs up!

There are daily specials on their board every day (in Thai). Just ask what they are if you are curious and want to try something different, their Thai staff will be able to explain to you.

Fon

Ayotaya
No 58 Street 302
BKK 1
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
099 222 408

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The Exchange Burger

The Exchange

The Exchange

The Exchange is one of a number of high-end restaurants that have opened up in Phnom Penh in the past 6 months. I tend to wait a bit to let the restaurant get on it’s feet a bit and sort out the niggly details that comes with opening a restaurant.

After hearing that Al formerly of Sharky’s was running the food side of things, I excitedly threw out this rule and showed up on opening day. Unfortunately, in my excited state, I forgot to bring my camera.

Interior at the Exchange

Interior at the Exchange

The interior of the Exchange exudes class and was very well designed. Also, I really enjoyed the open air feel of the place with lots of windows let in the breeze and light. I ordered the burger and my wife ordered the braised lamb shank. Both were excellent and the service was impeccable. The only issue was my burger was dripping with juices which made it nice and juicy but turned it into a soppy mess.  Al came over after our meal and I mentioned the juiciness. He winced and mentioned that the staff isn’t properly resting the burger before serving. I didn’t think anything of it as it was the first day.

Fast forward to a week ago where Bryse and I headed back to the Exchange to have one item and one item only: the cheeseburger.

The cheeseburger at the Exchange

The cheeseburger at the Exchange

It’s advertised as the Flame-Grilled Black Angus Beef Burger on the menu and was definitely worth it a second time around. The menu is a mix of  pan-asian and western grilled plates and prices range from 8.00 to 16.00 dollars but we didn’t bother with anything else.

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked to a rare temperature, the burger comes with extremely fresh tomatoes, crispy lettuce, an onion confit and swiss cheese on a not-too sweet sesame seed bun. A side of fries with a garlic aioli and ketchup round out the plate. Not too bad for $7.50. I mentioned in an previous post that T-Bone had the best burger in town but after this one, I have to take that crown off T-Bone and place it squarely on the Exchange burger. The high quality of the imported Australian meat shines through and the fresh garnishes make it the complete package.

Just a little juice

Just a little juice

So next time you are fixing for a burger and are willing to dish out a little more loi, then you can’t go wrong with the burger at the Exchange.

Vinh

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

A big old flag at the Exchange

A big old flag at the Exchange

The Exchange
#28 Street 47
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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