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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Siem Reap: Haven Training Restaurant, where helping taste good.

Fine dining in Siem Reap was a pleasant experience with local ingredients working their way to excite my palate.  But on my 3rd day, I wanted to fulfil a more noble cause by eating charitably.  I dined at Haven Training Restaurant, a social enterprise aimed at helping the vulnerable by teaching them an important life skill.  Note that Haven is neither religious or governmental.

As important as the background maybe, quality food is all that matters when you are in the industry.  So lets look at what we had that day:

Salt & Pepper Calamari 

This humble dish needs no introduction.  Haven aced it beyond the scoreboard in my opinion.  Crisp, lightly battered and served crisp, these moreish bite sized appetiser was simply but every bit satisfying.  The serve of tartare on the size was well-made with a balance struck between the tartness of the pickles and the creaminess of the mayonnaise.

Fried Corn
The fried corn is NOT a popcorn but rather a traditional Khmer appetiser .  Scrapped of the corn cob, the kernels were fried upon order.  It carried a unique flavour where it was a tad salty, garlicky, mildly spicy and herbed thanks to the generous amounts of chopped coriander.  It was really nice at first but the large serve was hard to finish as the kernels felt a tad oily towards the end!

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Like the calamari, I suspect that the Cordon Bleu is another classic Western dish introduced by the owners.  While the best Cordon Bleu probably hails from Switzerland, I was actually pretty impressed with the one served at Haven Training Restaurant.  It was faultless to the extend that even the chicken breast was juicy!   On the inside was a generous slice of ham and a decent kick of cheese!  Not the cheesiest but it was substantial.  If you are lazy like me and swap out the occasional Friday night chicken Parmi for a Cordon Bleu, you will be pretty impressed.  The chips on the side, not impressive at all.  Definitely needs to be crispier!

Khmer Lok Lak
JH’s main was the Khmer Lok Lak after a practice of due diligence to ensure that only the best dishes were ordered.  Surprise surprise.  Another Pad Krapow look-alike.  As I have preached several times in the last two posts, the Khmer palate is very SUBTLE.  So do not expect heavy lashing of fish sauce, sweet soy and lemon. The Khmer Lok Lak was no exception.  It was a little underwhelming but every bit delicious.  Something mom would cook at home because an overdose in seasoning is unhealthy! 

Banana Cake
A surprising appetiser that was quite nice actually.  A littler drier and denser than a typical banana cake but it was flavoursome enough to tempt.  I imagine having it with coconut ice cream would make it even better :P!

Charity is a very sellable idea in this modern day and if you are not convinced, come in without a booking at dinner and be turned away in an instant.  Lunch on the other hand is not so stringent.  And do not get me wrong, I am not belittling the idea of charity and honestly I loved the idea of helping.  As Haven's tagline suggests, “where helping taste good”.  That is because for most parts of the meal, it really did!  But was this meal really a $30 dollar meal including 2 coconuts?  Hmm I wonder.

Haven training kitchen is ranked no.3 on Trip Advisor and despite open voting, I am not sure whether the voters were voting by their mouths or by their intentions.  Needless to say if a person ever asked me whether I would return to Haven?  More yes than no for sure.