11 Feb2009

Lunch at Amansara

by Marketman

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An oasis in the midst of chaos. I so regret not planning our trip to Siem Reap earlier and moving heaven and earth to secure a room at Amansara, looking the other way at the astronomical room rates. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are certifiable “amanjunkies,” or huge fans of the Amanresorts group of hotels. We haven’t stayed in one for a while, but have done so on a dozen or more occasions earlier in the history of the venerable hotel group. It was our last day in Siem Reap, and it was also our 16th wedding anniversary, so we decided to lunch at Amansara, with prior reservations made to ensure entry to this small and extremely understated hotel. With thousands of motorcycle drawn carriages careening all over Siem Reap, spewing smokey exhaust and deafening noise, you knew this place was different just by seeing their version of local transportation…

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The simple nondescript black gate separated outsiders from the cool confines of the aman property. Located in a “guesthouse” originally built by Prince Norodum Sihanouk in the early 1960’s, the very large grounds have fabulously mature hardwood trees that have been complemented with a cool and “lush green studiously manicured to look natural landscape” so reminiscent of a well-maintained private home with serious means. Everything screamed aman (“peace” in sanskrit), which is to say, it screamed nothing at all…

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The gravel driveway was edged lush plants and expanses of grass, and staff swept up leaves as you might see in a large home in any Southeast Asian country…

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The reception desk was a study in minimalist elegance, with a simple vase of flowers, no visible computers, paperwork, welcome drinks with paper umbrella, etc. Just a few chairs at a simple desk with a back wall paneled in hardwood.

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A lousy view of part of the pool. I was trying not to be obvious about taking photos and I didn’t want to include any guests lounging in their bathing suits…

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A quick look into their shop confirmed that even that was painfully chic…

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…and their shelves were stocked with things you certainly didn’t need, but you somehow definitely wanted.

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The buildings included some original structures, which were restored and styled to their original 1960’s roots, and it all presented a languid, retro-vibe. I swear I had flashbacks of multiple relatives homes from the same decade in Manila and Cebu and the 60’s aesthetic was so palpable and period influenced but tastefully in sync with the new millenium. I was happy before I even sat down to lunch. I now believe that if I won a major lotto jackpot in the U.S., I would probably change my address and make it “Amananywhere”… heeheehee. :)

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From the moment we sat down to the way in which my San Pellegrino was poured, the phrase “SERVICE (with all capitals) with a (genuine) smile” were plainly obvious. Life was seriously good.

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I had a fantastic bowl of gazpacho (cold vegetable soup) to start, along with some freshly baked bread. Next I had a pasta with mushrooms (no photo) that was delicious.

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The Teen had a salad with a disc of goat cheese…

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…followed by fish on eggplant puree.

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Mrs. MM had a “Khmer sampler” with a pineapple and fish curry, a minced pork dish and a papaya and prawn salad. The sampler was very tasty and I ate whatever she didn’t finish. :)

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A dessert “buffet” with three pies/cakes meant we had several slices of a pumpkin cake, flourless chocolate, and if I am not mistaken, an apple cake. We definitely had a leisurely and wonderful anniversary lunch.

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It’s the kind of place you don’t really want to leave… and the walk down the driveway to the bustling street without was definitely best done in slow motion. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. rhea says:

    it’s simple “chic-ness” at its best.

    Feb 11, 2009 | 9:30 pm

     
  2. Tricia says:

    wow

    Feb 11, 2009 | 11:06 pm

     
  3. Diwata08 says:

    What came across your post was serenity, satisfaction, and some silent kind of thrill…made me smile :-)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 12:51 am

     
  4. danney says:

    I hate to say this but I’m not impress at all of the place. The place is boring. I find the cakes not exciting at all. Sometime not all expensive things and places = excitement and satisfaction. It remind me of some hotels and mansions in Bahamas and France. So lonely and so boring yet the price is way too much.

    We have better places and better food in the Philippines compare to Aman-sarado na.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 1:31 am

     
  5. tnm says:

    This place looks like someone’s house instead of a resort. It’s like being a guest in someone’s (big) house. I love mid-century architecture esp. if the interiors are as nice as this. I’ve never stayed in an Aman resort…gotta start saving up.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 2:10 am

     
  6. tna says:

    I agree with tnm – it’s like dropping by someone’s house lang. No hotel/resort type of flashiness – very “aman-ly” i suppose :) Gotta confess though, I love frills in my desserts. So like danney, the pics of the cake slices wasn’t that exciting for me. HOWEVER, if the taste spoke volumes then I say, don’t judge the book by its cover! he…he…he…

    Feb 12, 2009 | 4:45 am

     
  7. Marketman says:

    danney, it isn’t for everyone. And the fact that they bake the desserts in house and they tasted superb were enough for me. I’ll pass on flashy presentation in lieu of substance and service… Preferences in hotels certainly differ by client… I can’t imagine picking say a flashier larger place like a Shangrila or Plantation Bay over say an Amanpulo in the Philippines, or the Nusa Dua Resort or Hilton in Bali over Amandari, but others would disagree and be most happy in their hotel of choice. I think this is one of the “homier” properties of Aman, intentionally wanting you to feel as though you are still in the Prince’s or King’s original “guesthouse” for friends touring the nearby temples… And with just 24 suites/rooms, the maximum number of guests on the property at peak is roughly 45-50 people, so the dining room might fill up with just 15-18 guests at any one time, and THAT is considered very busy. Most of the suites have their own dining areas as well, so sometimes you never see the other guests at the hotel. So the “dessert buffet” is laid out on a side table beside large couches where you can lounge with your tea… not an endless marble counter with a selection of 450 items. I suppose it’s the same difference between cruising the mediterranean in a 150 foot private yacht versus a 2,000 passenger cruise ship with a casino, spa and several restaurants. :)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 5:22 am

     
  8. sonia says:

    different strokes for different folks!
    i would go for a quietly elegant aman anytime. substance over frills ( as in those unadorned desserts)anytime.
    after the rant, this is a certified rave.
    thanks

    Feb 12, 2009 | 5:38 am

     
  9. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Simple Luxury

    Feb 12, 2009 | 6:34 am

     
  10. eej says:

    Less is more. I prefer clean, minimalist artscape compared to loud garish setting. A is for Aman and it’s good enough for me.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 6:40 am

     
  11. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Ha ha ha..MM you have sold me into the “Aman” way. Having stayed in so many hotels..this looks really simple yet elegant. I only also know that like Amanpulo–the rates really are outrageous…but hey..if you can afford it—go for it!! We only live once. Live laugh love!!!
    After baking bettyq’s fudgye brownies,I can now understnad how those flourless cakes are done. I thought I made a mistake when I measured 1/3 cup Ap flour for the recipe…but hey..it was really fudgey and exactly the recipe I was looking for. Really delish…teehee…thanks bettyq. Thanks MM for “sharing” your vacation with us.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 7:24 am

     
  12. wltrrbls says:

    It’s great to see these wonderful places we can ill-afford. Hehehe.

    The aesthetics of Aman is just heart-stopping. I wish there are more properties like this. It’s understated beauty and timeless elegance simply begs the question: why all these garish properties and tacky homes? More money than sense?

    Feb 12, 2009 | 7:28 am

     
  13. marissewalangkaparis says:

    P.S. Belated Happy 16th anniversary Mr and Ms Marketman!! I guess one thing I like about you is your being a good family man!! Cheers…may your clan increase!!

    Feb 12, 2009 | 7:28 am

     
  14. abby says:

    Looking at the pictures, amansara also reminded me of a relative’s house in quezon city. If by any chance I would be lucky enough to go there, I would have to constantly remind myself that I am in a hotel lest I go out to the dining area in my pajamas, bed hair to match, thinking it is my relative’s house. hahahahah

    Feb 12, 2009 | 8:18 am

     
  15. ragamuffin girl says:

    amananywhere: the poshest address one could possibly have. It’s living the life! :)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 9:49 am

     
  16. AleXena says:

    Due to work, lately I have been given an opportunity to stay is some hotels here in our country. The nicest I had was in Marco Polo in Davao. I paid for a standard room but got bumped to their more chic and expensive rooms coz they we’re fully booked heeheehee! I loved the service and the fact that they gave me a bigger room for booking early is was enough said.=)

    The desserts may look plain to my taste but the ambiance was superb to my senses! Now if you’re on a vacation wouldn’t it be much nicer to have a simple surrounding around you? Away from all the hustle and bustle of your daily life. That and good food hehehe!

    I agree with ms.marissewalangkaparis though, the Amanpulo rates are outrageous!=P but the way I see things you pay an outrageous price for luxury. And she’s right, if you can afford it, why not???=)

    Maybe someday…=)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 9:52 am

     
  17. Mila says:

    I remember seeing photos of the Prince’s guesthouse before he fled (first or second time) and then when Aman restored the place. The lines are clean, with that strong late 50’s, early 60’s aesthetic. With it’s historical past, it’s wonderful that the hotel chain didn’t destroy it and turn it into something guadier (as it would have been if another of the hotel chains had snapped it up).
    MM, plan to go to Bhutan next! The Aman resort there looks gorgeous!

    Feb 12, 2009 | 10:36 am

     
  18. Marketman says:

    Mila, I would go to Bhutan just for the hotels (several in the Aman chain) and you are supposed to trek from one to the other. Forget the trek, get me a burro or something… :)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 12:13 pm

     
  19. mdg says:

    life is really great…if we can afford it, why really not?! ;)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 1:04 pm

     
  20. Marketman says:

    lunch was MUCH, MUCH more reasonable than the price of a room… :)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 2:07 pm

     
  21. zena says:

    If i can’t afford to stay there, then lunch will be the next best thing. =)

    Feb 12, 2009 | 4:06 pm

     
  22. jennie says:

    we spent christmas on another Aman resort called AMANPULO. Service to a “T”. Exclusive, private and very relaxing.

    The country club served continental, japanese and filipino fare. The beach club had spanish food and the other side of the island had vietnamese food cooked by a vietnamese chef.

    the guest to server ratio was awesome. we felt like we were the only ones on the private island.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 5:56 pm

     
  23. britelite says:

    they did not show you the rooms?

    Feb 12, 2009 | 6:19 pm

     
  24. Mangaranon says:

    I love Aman resorts! Congratulations to Adrian Zecha. Who cares about the cost when you have the best? MM, they are rolling out a new Aman in the heart of Beijing.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 8:33 pm

     
  25. Marketman says:

    britelite, they were fully booked. No rooms to show. But their website gives a very good view into the suites… jennie, did you have any baby sharks swim between your legs in the shallow waters off the beach? The landing onto Amanpulo is cinematic, to say the least…

    Feb 12, 2009 | 8:40 pm

     
  26. suzette says:

    hi mm, we’re planning to go to cambodia in the summer too. your posts make me more excited!

    Feb 14, 2009 | 1:38 pm

     
  27. Connie C says:

    Food looks elegant enough but your first picture of the carriage with an elegant design caught my eye…. never mind that it spews unhealthy exhaust. Is that how tricycles are designed in Cambodia nowadays? I did not see them on my visit to Siem Riep a couple of years ago.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Cambodia outpaces us in economic growth and development. How sad for Pinas.

    Feb 14, 2009 | 5:29 pm

     
  28. Marketman says:

    Connie C, these are the aman-cycles only. The ones on the street usually are as pollutant and loud as ever, with nary a design attempt to speak of…

    Feb 14, 2009 | 5:50 pm

     
 

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