By Philip Sinsheimer
Photos: Cesare Zucca
Cesare had planned it all and planned it well. We arrived in Cambodia’s capital and enjoyed a 2-night stay at the Intercontinental a magnificent venue that isn’t in the touristic epicenter of Phnom Penh which would be close to the river, close to the Royal Palace, but actually it is rather central taking the city in its full scope. There are good things about staying at a hotel that is NOT particularly meant for tourists and that ISN’T in the touristic hub of town.
For one thing, your fellow hotel guests do not resemble your neighbors back home! That is a change right there that you will not get from checking in the most popular touristic TripAdvisor foreign based venues. Grandiose lobby, courteous check-in, impeccable service and comfortable room with all amenities. Not to mention, a 24 hours business center a well equipped Spa, and a surprising swimming pool with ‘elephant fountains’
What else do you want?
A good meal, well, that we had, check, check!
THE BREAKFAST FEAST
The breakfast experience was outstanding, even after having experienced some of the most lavish spreads in Southeast Asia in the previous weeks. Outstanding by the luxury of the ingredients used or the diversity of the offerings? That’s not the point. The striking element was actually constraint. Less can be more. It is an asset to know just how many things one can get right and serve at its best of freshness.
Talking of freshness and quality of service, I think the best thing was this open bar of fruit and vegetables that you could choose before seeing them juiced before your eyes. Yes, we had seen at other breakfast buffets a whole variety of fresh fruit juices, but what is more luxurious than “made to order”? I had become shortly before our long trip a quasi-addict of fresh ginger juice. Not a tea, but fresh ginger extraction with just enough water not to choke in public.
Well, to my surprise, my request for a full glass of ginger juice was met with no surprised eyebrow meaning “are you sure? You must be out of your mind!”, but with a smile and a reassuring “yes, Sir, of course! I will bring that to your table in a couple of minutes”.
Real class is treating a client’s unusual demands appear as total normal.
Our second noteworthy experience was the dinner we had at Xiang Palace the hotel’s gourmet Chinese restaurant.
Besides the comfort and poise of the room, pleasure came from the expertise showcased by the chef in what are two of the most testing and iconic elements of Cantonese gastronomy.
The feast began with a trio of masterly prepared dim sum bites with a medal of honor to the delicacy of the sea scallop one for the exquisite freshness of both the filling and the wrapping.
Then we got to taste perfectly roasted meats with a winning trio of duck, chicken and crispy pork.
Having the pleasure of tasting true foreign cuisine is in itself a sign that Phnom Penh Intercontinental has become also a world class cosmopolitan culinary destination.