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The drama of sushi

By: Alison Jarvis Posted: August-13-2011 in
Alison Jarvis

It has been less than a month since the Rahu brand was launched.

Largely by word of mouth, the popularity curve for this Japanese Restaurant has proven to be something of a sprint up Mount Fuji, a fact all the more surprising, given its inconspicuous aesthetic amongst the neon lights on Riverside.

Rahu is reaching out to a market with a discerning palate in search of an evening of entertainment in which flavour and taste (with all its meanings) take center stage. Manager Sokha, tells us succinctly that what Rahu provides is ‘a fine dining experience’.

Rahu, inspite of its well-publicised link to Metro offers a different concept: the idea of a full evening out rather than a quick-paced stop-off before a club. It can be likened to a night at the theatre, where your senses are engaged and invigorated, for several hours over a shared experience.

This simile is not out of place. The kitchen is open from 5pm to 1am: it is open for dinner. The glow from the bar emanates and helps to brighten up the intimacy of the darker restaurant area. This creates a feeling of privacy, where, even on this Sunday evening, multiple expats, Cambodians and their children take their seats.

Rahu has tweaked its menu in response to forensic market analysis. Congees and Asian soups have been added and the salads removed from the Metro menu, so that late night diners can chose a quality and light alternative to street food or simple junk.

As the metaphoric curtains swish back, we are graced with the presence of sushi: the familiar face of spicy tuna, the originality of seasoned mushrooms, and the maverick beef and red ants (chewy with an invertebrate crunch). All of which are available on a daily basis at a 50% discount after 11pm, or as a high-class take-out.

Act Two brings the salmon sashimi, laced with fragrant oil and a fried snapper. The latter is served on a bed of noodles in a rich butter sauce, which offsets the healthy edammame beans and the cleansing ginger and wasabe accompaniments.

Our final Act of the evening brings two clever twists. Two Cambodians an American and me peer curiously and speculate on the identity of what looks like large slices of pork, chicken or fish. But this meaty flesh turns out to be roasted king oyster mushrooms, suiting both the carnivore and the vegetarian alike.

The second twist is a delicately sugared banana sushi, an interesting take on Cambodia’s own mango and sticky rice.

The bar operates smoothly throughout our meal, with immaculate waitresses serving a range from water and wine through to espresso martini, hot sake and mocktails.

With this breadth, it would take some time before a diner had worked their way through the entire menu, which incidentally also provides a full Western selection.

Rahu confidently expects its clientele to increase in number. Indeed, en route to the bathroom lay gold masks embossed onto stools which serve as additional seating. Ergonomic yet artful, this extra chair store creates a compelling aesthetic, second only to the painting of that monk resting strikingly on the rear wall.

Whether Rahu endures indefinitely as part of the Phnom Penh bar and restaurant scene remains to be seen. However, plans for expansion, to capitalise on its ongoing status as a rising star are underway. The management's vision is for a VIP room next door. This looks set to translate into an imminent reality, and one that will pander to the wealthy Cambodian’s penchant for privacy, as well as barangs with a love of sushi.

Rahu offers a quiet hedonism for those who care about what they eat and believe food to be an end in itself. In its accessibly priced exclusivity, it is looking to fill a void in Phnom Penh’s buoyant Japanese restaurant market.

As one of my Cambodian companions put it: “it is unique and classic”. Indeed, the Rahu kitchen offers a blend of invention underpinned by the comfort of recognisable Japanese food forms.

There will be an encore. And maybe even a standing ovation. You decide:

Rahu can be found at:

#159 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia


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