Forgive us for we have given you deafening radio silence. We're blaming it on the crazy busy hive of activity since we reluctantly kissed summer goodbye.
To avoid falling into a deep depression from the weather downturn, our little amok team has been working our tushes off to feed the hungry and new explorers who are keen to try something different, they're trying our Cambodian food. And bless them for it.
While our bodies are physically aching (a sign of old age no doubt) for endlessly being on our feet, most of the time it doesn't feel like work. We are so thankful for everyone of our guests who jump on public transport, navigate through the horrific Chapel Street traffic or manage to rally a herd to visit us for dinner. We love meeting new faces and embracing old ones.
At the halfway mark of 2016, we wanted to share seven (amongst many) milestones you helped us to achieve:
1. Our first Autumn/Winter menu
Cambodia doesn't experience such a harsh winter like Melbourne does (unless you consider the Monsoon), so Cambodian cuisine is fairly consistent year round.
However, our fusion menu reflects Khmer traditional recipes paired with the available Australian seasonal produce. Therefore, instead of young green mango in our salads, we have jicama and apple to pay tribute to similar textures and tastes. As such, our menu underwent a minor face lift for autumn/winter where we introduced new dishes including:
Eggplant chips, sweetcorn, mixed spiced pineapple dressing
Sihanoukville style grilled squid, pork lemongrass stuffing, chilli, wild mushroom, ripe mango, orange watercress salad
So far both dishes have received a very warm reception and we're pleased they're delighting even the fussiest palates! We're now working on our spring/summer menu (it's starting to sound like a fashion calendar) so stay tuned for what's coming up.
2. We've served hundreds of dishes with our new Chef's Sharing Menu
We suspect that our dishwasher may have an imminent breakdown from working endless hours soaking, rinsing, drying and then hitting repeat for the plethora of empty plates.
This was largely driven by our genius idea to increase our chef's sharing menu to serve eight courses instead of six. If votes was defined by orders, then this was a very popular decision agreed by our dinner guests and yes, at $49 per person, it's almost a steal but chef Woody Chet insists you try EVERYTHING. Noted: Do not argue with the chef in his own kitchen.
We get it, you're tired and hungry and arriving at amok restaurant was an effort in itself. Last thing you want to do is then think about what you're going to eat for dinner. Cue in Chef Woody Chet, he's got your back.
We love seeing guests being surprised with wondering "what's next?" while chef Chet performs a balancing act in the amok kitchen. It's quite admirable that he manages to choose selections for each table, keep tabs of who got what and when - all while actually cooking, preparing and plating up each dish. They say chefs are passionate but clearly this is another level.
3. Meeting and feeding some passionate foodies
We had one guest who was quite inquisitive about what she was being served and we happily explained the origins of each dish and the ingredients used. It only dawned on us the next morning when we received the phone call from The Weekly Review that it was Alice in Frames! The bubbly, open-minded, open-hearted, pun-loving foodie with more quirky outfits than your imagination complimenting her radiant smile and energy. That Alice!
It was certainly a busy six months hosting dinner to guests and foodies alike at amok restaurant. We appreciate everyone's support and the biggest compliment you can give to us is posting a review and sharing your experience with others. Here are some familiar faces who recently came over for dinner:
The Smudge Eats team where they featured us in "Flavours of Urban Melbourne" as one of 120 best cafes, restaurants and bars outside Melbourne's CBD. We were honoured to have our signature amok dish included with the recipe and have limited copies available for purchase.
The Weekly Review (thanks to Alice’s surprise visit) were kind to feature us in the early April edition calling amok restaurant "perfect pan-Asian." Shucks.
Jenny from The Melbournian Critic paid us a visit for Cambodian New Year and enjoyed our traditional and modern versions of Cambodian cuisine.
Ellen from The Urban List swung by and we're glad she did as we're officially Urban Listed!
Brent Owens (2015 Masterchef winner) rolled in with compadre Matty Brown and exchanged some sage advice about all things food.
Kirsty decided to frolic in our food and was game to try the chef's sharing menu. The chocolate bacon combination in our prawn brioche mystified her however we assure you, it's all edible!
Our friends over at the Melbourne Chinese Post graced us with their company and from the looks of it, thoroughly enjoyed it! Do we have any interpreters out there to translate?
We are now listed with the Australian Good Food Guide and up for the Reader's Choice Awards! We would love your vote and you have until 31 December to put amok in the running.
Kirsty was then kind enough to include her review of amok on The City Lane (thank you!) and challenged those who haven't tried Cambodian to get cracking! We couldn't agree more.
For all of our reviews rounded up in one place, you can visit our Media page.
4. Celebrating our first Cambodian New Year with a special banquet
We shared our first Cambodian New Year celebrations at amok restaurant with great fanfare. This three day festival officially ran from Wednesday 13 April to Friday 15 April 2016 however we thought, heck, let's extend it to five days instead finishing celebrations on Sunday 17 April.
To mark this special occasion, Chef Woody crafted a special banquet dish that paid homage to Cambodia's most important holiday. This is a time when Cambodians rush home to their families to pay respect to their traditions of prayer, charity and goodwill in order to receive blessings from the new year to come.
Dinner guests delved into our Chaul Chnam Thmey (which translates to 'enter new year') banquet to taste the flavours of a Cambodian home cooked meal during the festivities. It featured traditional favourites such as chicken curry, sach jagat (chargrilled beef skewer), spicy kroeung pork dip, fragrant rice and turmeric pancake. If you missed out this time around, pencil it in for next year - we'll have another banquet up our sleeves then.
We couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to 'come home' on Cambodian New Year by creating one perfect home right here at amok restaurant.
5. Welcomed the inspiration behind amok restaurant to Melbourne
The arrival of chef Woody Chet's parents was just in time for Cambodian New Year and we couldn't be more happier. Why they would trade the warm weather for our fresh late spring mornings is anyone's guess but we think it's gotta do with love.
We're enjoying the quality time sharing old family recipes for us to be inspired by before they jet back in mid-July to escape our winter. So if you are over for dinner, come over and say hello!
6. Reached 365 days to blow out the candle on our very first birthday!
First birthdays are so special and whilst normally it's the birthday kid who gets spoilt, we decided to buck the trend and instead spoil our guests.
So we rolled 365 scotch fillets and served them compliments of the chef to our dinner guests for our birthday week. On our actual birthday, we treated guests with the bubbles and toasted to amok restaurant’s many more birthdays to come.
With a full house on our birthday nights, we satisfied our sweet tooth by blowing out the birthday candles on our special amok’s birthday dessert. To top it all off, we received a review from our motherland's The Phnom Penh Post! If all birthdays are like the one we just experienced, we can't wait until the next one! And yes, you're always invited to come.
Here are some fun facts we learnt about ourselves from the last 12 months:
We served over 16,000 dishes to hungry dinner guests
From our small menu, the oysters were the most popular with over 2400 oysters slurped
Chef Woody Chet's award winning duck curry is a clear favourite with guests with close to 900 ordered followed by our signature Tasmanian salmon fish amok
Sharing is caring and our top five dishes we ate from the chef's sharing menu included the calamari salad, pork ribs, the school prawn and pork salad, wagyu salad and the chicken ribs
When it comes to the #treatyoself moment, guests indulged on the vanilla coconut cream, followed by the amok surprise and our personal favourite, the red rice dessert ball.
So tell us, which on is your favourite dish?
7. Hosted the very special "Reflections of my Asia" dinner
To round off the birthday festivities, chef Woody teamed up with his mentor, chef Leslie Chan and good friend chef Hoang Le for one special evening. Together they hosted a unique banquet dinner, Reflections of my Asia, where they personally curated the menu to feature their personal favourites.
Each dish fused seasonal Australian ingredients with traditional dishes from Hong Kong, Cambodia and Vietnam and guests enjoyed a six course banquet including wine.
We came, we indulged and we conquered the luxurious spread on offer. It was great to see the trio at work in the amok kitchen to send out starters that included the freshly shucked oysters and duck mousse sliders, followed by the house cured Cobia, As we moved into entrees, like a military drill, the grilled Moreton Bay bug with stuffed squid came out with the mains - Braised beef stew and heirloom vegetables and the Peking duck breast taking the spot light.
We miraculously managed to find room to squeeze in the vanilla cream, pomegranate, dragonfruit and melon sorbet and just like that, we ate like royalty.
At the end of the night, we proudly to donated 10% of proceeds to the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals in Cambodia. There are many charities supporting Cambodia's third world communities however we still treat organisations with caution as there are many dubious operators. We have always wanted to support the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospitals and what they stand for is close to our hearts.
Each day, they provide free treatment to all Cambodians (predominantly women and children) and perform on average, 75 surgeries, treat 3000 outpatients, admit 400 hospitalisations, and delivered 70 births. They rely solely on donations to operate as their patients do not pay for treatments, which is why every little bit counts.
Our inaugural "Reflections of my Asia" was such a wonderful experience that we're already planning the next one some time in November. Stay in touch as we have limited tickets of 40 so our advice is to snap them up when they become available!
Until next time, enjoy the winter and we'll see you over for dinner!