June 16, 2012

Cambodia Food Trip: Aha Restaurant Review

Cambodia and in particular, Siem Reap has seen an efflorescence of good eateries opening up in recent years. Perhaps it’s their history of royal, elegant flavours, or the acquired French technique, or even the more recent phenomenon of gastronomic talent deciding to stay in the kingdom; but either way, cooking up a storm comes naturally to Khmers.

Being spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a place to indulge and imbibe, Aha, the funky bistro add-on to Hotel Be is a standout first choice. In the heart of all the commotion in the market area, Aha is a slice of cool in the bustling chaos of the Passageway.
Aha interior at night
The quaint name, apparently, refers not to the famed Norwegian band, but to the idiomatic ‘Aha!’ proclaimed after a surprising discovery - and what a discovery this little place is. With a wave feature wall, floor to ceiling temperature controlled cellars and a centrally placed, open kitchen loaded with high-tech toys and fresh ideas, you know this place means business.

With Khmer flavours being so scrumptious, it almost seems sinful to mix it up with the prosaic - Atlantic fish, Australian beef and the like, but Aha gets things done with skill and technical precision. Local flavours and produce mix with international ingredients to create delights like Jasmine rice coated salmon with a tamarind reduction and the chocolate dipped, peanut butter dumplings with a passion fruit sorbet. However, the small tapas plates are where the kitchen team really shines. Cheeky, eclectic, technically impressive and loads of fun, order up the Green mango salads with dried snake, tzaziki cashewnut prawns with raspberry dressing or the unagi rolls with wasabi whipped cream; all served up in trios of bite sized plates, each offering complex textures and novel takes on classic flavours.
Aha's Cheese Plate
The dish to kill for? The Cheese plate with a trio of gorgonzola with cherry tomatoes, the crispy crepe with achingly soft brie and the sweetly sour caramelised apple, goats cheese and garam massala. If half the menu’s got you salivating and selecting dishes becomes a veritable Sophie’s choice; then loosen your belts and order up all four of the tapas combinations for a degustation-style delight - every plate is joyous and wickedly cheeky, you won’t even notice you put away 12 plates.


And don’t skimp on the wine - Aha’s sommelier has done his homework with an impressive selection with an unbelievable range of Bordeauxs, Rosés and bubblies. Filipino restaurants, take note, then eat your hearts out - Who said Southeast Asia didn’t know how to choose wine, let alone store it? If you’re fool enough to pass up the wine or you’re in the mood for something more hardcore, Linga Bar across the road handles the naughty cocktail side of things, with all the usual gin and vodka based concoctions to whet your whistle.

At under US$20 per dish, a roaringly creative culinary team, gorgeous decor and a shockingly good menu, Aha pulls every punch with precision, cheekiness and fun, whilst showing every restaurant in the region how things should be done. Sigh, if only we could have a place like this! Empty your stomachs and book ahead.

What: AHA Wine Bar Restaurant
Where: Alley behind Pub Street, Siem Reap,
Tel: 855 63 965 501
website: http://www.hoteldelapaixangkor.om/en/
                    http://www.facebook.com/123aha

Pros:
-  A lip-smacking, eclectic and witty menu that’ll make your tastebuds smile too - it’s like watching a precocious, yet genius child impress you
-  An amazing wine list to suit every dish - be profligate and order by the glass for each dish for a real treat
-  Gorgeous, avantgarde decor that doesn’t detract from the colourful fun going on outside
-  Perfect location in the heart of town - alfresco is great for people watching (and all the odd characters coming in and out of Linga Bar); inside is your quirky refuge
-  Finding a place as awesome as this in Southeast Asia. It restores our faith in the future of restaurants in Asia
-  The prices are so good, you’ll feel guilty paying them

Cons:
-  There’s not enough stomach space to eat everything in one sitting - bring us more stomachs
-  More tapas, perhaps?


Make sure to visit Aha in Siem Reap :)
To know more about our trip in Cambodia, you can visit:
CAMBODIA GUIDE BY MARK AND MILLIE
Hope this helped.
Love 
Mark and Millie
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Listening to: Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon by Urge Overkill (Pulp Fiction Soundtrack)
             <3: Food trip last night in Soderno and The Collective
              =(: stomach pains today ha!

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