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Miro: French-Basque Fine Dining with a Modern Twist in the Heart of Phnom Penh

By: Totallyrandomman Posted: September-29-2011 in
Roasted French duck breast with thyme, honey and fruits and a red sauce - click for more photos
<a href+"www.bodgenotspain.blospot.com">Totallyrandomman</A>

Nestled between Mango and Axara on Sihanouk Boulevard, there is a discreet sign atop an asymmetric arch which gently entices people up a set of floor-lit, geometric, stone steps.

The message it denotes is very clear: herein lies modernity; herein lies chic; herein lies fine dining.

Open for only three weeks now, Miro aims to provide a taste of Basque cuisine with a French influence and a playful modern touch. Chef in residence Samira Lopez is in charge of bringing to life the recipes created by Head Chef William Mahi; who hales from Biarritz on the Basque coast of France.

As we enter the bar area, we are greeted by the reinvigorating scent of lemongrass and the sound of The Gotan Project playing over the sound-system.

The background music, a broad mix with an emphasis on jazz-infused progressive dance, is ever present but never threatens to overpower the flow of easy conversation.

We are seated in the bar area and order a Raspberry Frappé and a Cool Breeze from the Non-alcoholic Frozen Drinks section of the drinks menu. They arrive along with complementary Scottish Salmon Crostini, Salami and Olives. The delicate, fresh lychee juiciness of the Cool Breeze and the fructose-tartness of the Raspberry Frappé are both pleasingly lacking in the overbearing, palm sugar saccharine so common in iced drinks here in Phnom Penh.

The bar's décor is modern and sumptuous with understated khaki green and brown light features which lend it a relaxed and earthy feel.
It’s likely to become a popular hangout in its own right, particularly with events like Martini Thursdays, with martinis for $3.50.

Suitably refreshed, we are discreetly ushered up a grand spiral staircase fringed with delicate chain-link ornamentation and seated in the main dining area, an intimate space with modern touches combining with a classic French Colonial feel.

As we peruse the menu, we are invited to choose from a platter of breads, rewardingly crusty, warm and fresh.

For entrées we order ‘French lobster bisque cooked for 72 hours in an Emulsion with XXL prawns’ and ‘Tender cuttlefish with roasted almonds and ratatouille niçoise’.

The bisque is rich and buttery with herb undertones and the skewered prawns are indeed of prodigious size with a delicate spiciness that complements the unctuousness of the lobster sauce.

The cuttlefish is full and meaty, avoiding the rubberiness so often a problem with cephalopods, whilst the ratatouille provides a pleasant counterpoint.

All of the portions are very generous, especially for a fine dining establishment.

For the mains we opt for ‘Roasted French duck breast with thyme, honey and fruits and a red sauce’ and ‘Roasted beef tenderloin, mashed potato with white truffle scent and a Bordelaise sauce’ with a bottle of Argentinian Terreza Reserve Malbec to accompany.

The duck was cooked just right, its pink richness complemented by the sweet fruitiness of the red sauce. The meat was a touch fatty for some tastes perhaps, but that is what you must expect when you order duck.
The real highlight of the dish though was a fruit compote full of caramelised opulence which added an extra dimension of texture to the dish.

The beef tenderloin was exquisitely tender, the Bordelaise sauce’s tartness bringing out the fulsome flavour of the beef. However, it was ordered well-done and came out a little dry The finely pureed mashed potato tasted a little nondescript at first, but then the subtle hit of truffle infuses the palette.

The Terreza Reserve Malbec was full-bodied with a pleasant tannin-astringency which complemented the rich, red meats well.

For dessert we ordered ‘Red fruits sauteed a la minute with vanilla ice cream’ and ‘Calache aux chocolate with coffee ice cream’.

The sumptuous velvetiness of real vanilla tingled on the tongue in a harmonious union with the natural sweetness (with just a hint of acerbity) of the blackberries and strawberries.

But for me the real highlight of the evening was the Calache aux Chocolate. The depth of taste of the coffee ice cream, with the solemnity of coffee unsullied by sickly sweetness, combining with the rich and smooth chocolate, and the texture of the nuts made for a sublime taste experience.

All in all, Miro provided a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere and a fine eating experience. Where I to be particularly harsh, I would say that some of the individual elements could benefit from a little more complexity of taste, but the the balance of elements was divine and generally the ingredients, with meats sourced from Spain and Australia, seafood from France’s Atlantic and Mediterranean Coasts and other ingredients sourced locally, were cooked to perfection.

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