Mie Café : Can’t Miss Dining near Angkor
A visit to Siem Reap can’t be considered complete without a meal or two at Mie Café. The restaurant is in a traditional wooden Khmer house — that of the chef’s grandmother — a few minutes north of the Angkor National Museum, between downtown Siem Reap and the Angkor temples. It can be reached via a nice walk along the riverside from most Siem Reap hotels, or a short tuktuk ride.
Entering from the road, your eyes will be pulled through the garden into the wooden house and the areas set with tables and, in the evening, candlelight. But stop and linger in the courtyard before you sit down. Amongst the ponds and trees are organically-grown vegetables and herbs which are used daily in the kitchen. See if you can identify what’s in season for a preview of what might soon appear on your plate. Sit on the bean bags chairs in the garden for a pre-dinner cocktail (or if you’re in need of a between-courses cigarette).
Dining is either on the first or second floor of the house. Low fans are set up to keep you cool and dissuade any lingering mosquitoes. There’s a room with air conditioning upstairs. Downstairs a water wall into a fish pond creates a relaxing vibe. Mie Café’s decor is simple yet elegant, which is the perfect prelude to your meal. Staff are excellent, speak English very well and can accommodate even challenging food allergy issues. Vegetarians are asked to call ahead so the kitchen can prepare something special.
Mie Café is headed by Chef Pola Siv. Inspired by his mother’s cooking as a child, Chef Pola went to Switzerland for culinary school and to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant. He then brought his skills back to Siem Reap. He offers a menu of Khmer and western dishes which can be ordered à la carte or as a tasting menu. Popular items remain on the menu and there are daily specials.
Chef Pola uses local Cambodian and Southeast Asian products whenever possible, many grown organically or foraged nearby. In addition to the herbs and vegetables from the front garden, crab is from the Mekong, eel and fish are from the Tonle Sap, and poultry is from local farmers.
Excellent versions of traditional Khmer dishes are on Mie Café’s menu, all served beautifully with a European touch. Coconut-based fish or chicken amok is flavoured with lemongrass and noni leaves, and is as smooth as silk. Fish from the nearby Tonle Sap is served in several ways, including in a sweet and sour sauce with fresh pineapple and in kor ko-style stew, somewhat similar to amok. Stir-fries and curries dot the menu too.
For an appetizer, snakehead fish is made into a carpaccio and cooked in citrus and Cambodian spices, topped with a poached egg tempura. Mie Café’s tuna tartare was so delicious I needed to go back for a second visit to have it again. The raw tuna is mixed with avocado and mango for the perfect mix of bright flavours. It’s the ideal meal for Siem Reap’s hot weather.
Those who wish to challenge themselves should consider the grilled beef laap with red ant eggs. A traditional dish in Cambodia, this version has a touch of balsamic and Parmesan to marry the local herbs, chili, sticky rice flour, and beef. It’s available both as a main and an appetizer.
Westerners preferring more familiar foods will enjoy the braised pork shank with porcini mushrooms, the barbequed baby back ribs served with french fries or the organic roasted chicken. Or perhaps a squid ink ravioli will tempt.
Be sure to save room for Mie Café’s dessert choices. When it’s hot, the frozen lime pie is perfection. The tart treat with shortbread crust is served beautifully in two semi-circles with a touch of mango sauce and sprinkled with tiny grapefruit vesicles which added a brightness that changed the dish from simply delicious to sublime. Try the traditional lok lak (a coconut-pineapple cake), pannacotta, warm chocolate cake, locally-made ice creams or various banana dishes.
Because of its location, Mie Café is an ideal place to relax and refuel during a full day at the temples. A tuktuk to the main temples costs $20 at Siem Reap’s high-end hotels, and this includes a return trip to town for lunch. While you could eat within the Angkor park, culinary-minded travellers will much prefer Mie Café’s exquisite food instead. Because the restaurant is in the northern part of Siem Reap it’s a quick tuktuk ride from the temples and it’s possible to avoid most of the city’s traffic.
You are unlikely to need a reservation for lunch, but note that the restaurant is closed Tuesdays and lunchtime hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., so plan your Angkor sightseeing accordingly. Reservations for dinner are essential in high season, and wise at other times of the year. They can be made by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or have your hotel call on your behalf.
Mie Café is a member of the Secret Tables family of restaurants, handpicked restaurants throughout Asia which use local ingredients and ensure fair wages and careers for their teams.