Cuisine Wat Damnak brings together authentic Cambodian flavors and French culinary technique to create a cuisine true to its Cambodian roots yet wholly unique.
Chef Joannès Rivière’s innovative menus are inspired by the food traditions of Cambodia’s golden age, when each day’s fare was made up of herbs and vegetables from the family garden and fish and game from the surrounding fields. While today most produce in Siem Reap is imported from outside Cambodia, Cuisine Wat Damnak’s ingredients are almost entirely sourced from nearby farms and foraged wild from around Siem Reap Province: ambarella and kuy fruits, edible flowers, water lily stems, fish and seafood from the Mekong and Tonle Sap. The menu changes every week to reflect the seasons, the chef’s skill and creativity, and the terroir of Siem Reap, for a dining experience unlike any other.
Housed in a traditional Cambodian wooden house in the heart of Siem Reap’s Wat Damnak village, Cuisine Wat Damnak offers three distinct dining experiences. Downstairs, the modern dining room is a stylish, air-conditioned space decorated with local artwork and handicrafts. The fan-cooled upstairs retains the wooden house’s traditional Cambodian country charm, with an ambiance that complements the menu. Outside, the softly lit garden is the perfect place to appreciate balmy Cambodian evenings, surrounded by lush tropical greenery and local herbs.
Joannès Rivière was born and raised near Roanne, a small French town in the Loire, a region famous for its gastronomy. Joannès obsession with seasonality and farm-to-table eating began early, when he worked at the family restaurant run by his father, who also grew vegetables for the renowned Michelin three-star restaurant, La Maison Troisgros. After graduating from cooking school in France, Joannès worked as a pastry chef in the US for two years and learned an impressive amount of American slang.
In 2003 he first came to Cambodia as a volunteer cooking teacher for the Sala Bai Hotel School in Siem Reap, where he wrote the school’s cookbook, Cambodian Cooking. Before opening Cuisine Wat Damnak, Joannès spent five years as the executive chef at Siem Reap’s famed Hotel de la Paix. In Cambodia he also met his partner Carole Salmon, with whom he runs Cuisine Wat Damnak. Fluent in Khmer, the couple have embraced their adopted country, its culture and its food. Their hard work has been rewarded with critical acclaim, and the restaurant was recently named one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants.