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Laneway culture starting to spread from Bassac to Lanka

All Bistrot Lanka’s furnishings are custom-made by local tradespeople. SCOTT ROTZOLL
All Bistrot Lanka’s furnishings are custom-made by local tradespeople. SCOTT ROTZOLL

Laneway culture starting to spread from Bassac to Lanka

Serving up French food with a global twist in chic bespoke surroundings, Bistrot Bassac became an instant favourite when it opened on Street 308 last year. Now taking a similar approach, the owners have opened up a sister restaurant on another laneway, this time near Wat Lanka in BKK1.

While French photographer turned restaurateur Cochise Ory opened Bistrot Bassac with his partner Borany Mam, for the new place, Bistrot Lanka, Ory has teamed up with young entrepreneur Thomas Giordano. While the two men have been busy with the new venture, Mam has continued to run the Street 308 eatery.

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Bistrot Lanka’s exterior. SCOTT ROTZOLL

“Basically, we wanted to do the same concept as Bistrot Bassac but using a different place, a different area, keeping the same atmosphere – congenial and friendly – but changing the menu,” said Giordano, 26.

Bassac regulars will feel right at home at Bistrot Lanka. It’s in a similar narrow, two-storey converted shophouse with a stairway up the back next to the kitchen. The clean, dark grey walls, exposed brick and rustic wrought iron furniture will also be familiar. One of the few differences is in the floor tiles, which feature large filled circles instead of a geometric pattern.

The approach to the food is the same as well – fresh French fusion with influences from the Mediterranean and Asia – but Giordano said they didn’t want the menu to be a “copy-paste”.

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The chicken steak comes with tabbouleh and tzatziki. SCOTT ROTZOLL

Among the new recipes is the substantial and delicious tuna tataki with homemade wasabi-mayonnaise sauce ($9.75) – one of those dishes that keeps people coming back to order again. Also tasty are the chicken steak with tabbouleh and tzatziki ($6.5), and the pork loin ($7.75).

Remarkably, it’s Ory’s mashed potatoes, which comes as a side with several dishes, that’s one of the highlights. Mashed just before serving, with a touch of garlic and spring onion, it’s spiked with debaucherous lashings of butter and cream.

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Bistrot Lanka’s cakes are baked daily. SCOTT ROTZOLL

Giordano said he and Ory wanted to not only bring the spirit of Bistrot Bassac to the BKK1 laneway, they also wanted to recreate some of the magic of Street 308, which has become one of the most popular nightlife destinations in Phnom Penh.

“We chose this area because I had already opened a bar next door [the speakeasy Batt Bang] and we wanted to develop the street into something, not exactly like Bassac Lane, but similar,” he said. He said the location in BKK1 was easy to locate but underdeveloped.

“We want people to know this small lane, make it an attraction,” he said.The pair are now actively seeking out business people who might like to set up shop in the alleyway, helping them find suitable locations and negotiate with landlords.

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The pork loin comes with delicious mashed potatoes. SCOTT ROTZOLL

“We welcome different people, clothes shops and such, not just F and B [food and beverage],” he said.

Giordano said the team had learned a couple of valuable lessons from opening Bistrot Bassac. Chief among them was the need for air conditioning, as well as more comfortable seating. Among the custom-made furnishings are soft-cushioned bench seats and chairs.

However, Ory said one thing they got right the first time was their approach to customer service, which involved doing whatever it took to ensure customers enjoyed themselves.

“We’re flexible to change the [layout] of the room or to change dishes to suit the customers,” he said. “And even if you come here by yourself, we’ll always be here to come over and have a chat. We always want people to have a good time.”

Bistrot Lanka is located off Street 51 at the end of the unnamed laneway opposite Street 288. Tel: 096 455 4651.

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