After imbibing in a smorgasbord of exquisite cuisine, it’s very safe to say The Common Tiger is anything but common. From my experience, it was extraordinary.
When meeting Timothy and Christina, the owners of The Common Tiger, they seem much like oil and vinegar; very different but together create the perfect combination. Timothy is a busy bee, always on his feet and running about to find the best of what’s the on the menu. Christina is laid back, soothing, yet full of warmth and life.
I had the pleasure of lunching at The Common Tiger with my friend and co-worker, Lyda, last Thursday. Part business, all delicious- it was definitely one of the favorable perks of my job.
In the daylight, The Common Tiger is a bright and spacious eatery- a repurposed villa with a sprawling garden and outdoor seating area, the “cocoon” room that seats private parties up to sixteen, and separate eating spaces in the actual restaurant so that diner’s are allowed an intimate dining experience. In the evening, I’m told it’s a perfect place for a romantic date; soft lighting, mood music- a perfect climate for a successful night out with your beau. The Common Tiger has already become wildly successful for their constantly rotating menu of contemporary world cuisine and incorporating an embryonic business model that will allow the restaurant to evolve in numerous ways.
Timothy, former Head Chef at Song Saa Island Resort, has a heart for his food. You can tell by the way he explains each dish, almost like one would praise their child; pride and criticism within the same vein. Every single morning, he visits the local markets at 7 to find the finest and freshest ingredients for a constantly changing menu and to give integrity to each creation. His enthusiasm when it comes to each serving is strong and it’s apparent that special thought has gone into each dish, even if he had only decided it would be offered on the menu that morning. He deems himself as the “worst planner” and that because of his seemingly cavalier take towards menu planning, his “sous chef is freaked out all the time”. It seems to work for them though with the staff being gracious, attentive, and seemed like they were at home- comfortable in their environment.
Christina, a singer well known by some of Phnom Penh’s other favorite crooners, co-owns the restaurant alongside Timothy- admiring his concoctions with fervor. While the hospitality industry is not one she had been interested or passionate in previously, since The Common Tiger’s birth she’s found it to be a gratifying experience. Not only does she get to witness clientele enjoying what they have to offer, but has seen the business grow quickly since it first opened roughly two months ago. The ability to view her counterpart display his pieces of edible artwork to the satisfaction of those who visit is enough for her to continue on this new journey that she’s found she enjoys so much.
While we ate, we talked about how the restaurant was going so far; they are extremely pleased with the outcome and how it is currently running and will continue to progress throughout time, never wanting to become stagnant in an ever growing industry. While the business aspect of the restaurant is important, Timothy shared that nothing should ever detract from the food being emotionally satisfying, but that your body should also “accept” it; as mine did. When asking about future projects or opening more restaurants, they both took a moment to pause before answering. While they would love to branch out and begin more ventures, Timothy explained what he had seen happen in the market and what he didn’t want to happen and what he does want for The Common Tiger. “Focus on one place and put yourself into it and give it real character…if you try and open four or five it just becomes this sort of soulless franchise.”
Christina says Timothy is his own worst critic when it comes to his cuisine, saying that he doesn’t always trust people when they rave about his cooking. He couldn’t argue when I mentioned an empty plate might be the real truth teller, as mine surely was.
WHAT WE HAD
Drink: Master P- banana, espresso, cocoa smoothie
The Master P gave me an extra kick that seemed devilishly good for a midday drink and alcohol free at that. And goodness, it was saliva inducing.
Starter: Caraway and Walnut Loaf with Smoked Caraway Butter, Cucumber Raita, and Chutney
Hearty, hot, and fresh out of the oven- the only way to describe the bread. Full of flavor, the accoutrements were fantastic additions to the already delicious starter. If I had eaten more than the 2 pieces I had, I would be full! A rich and a remarkable sharing option.
Starter: Prawn, Courgette, and Cucumber
Prawn soufflé stuffed in zucchini (courgette) blossoms paired with the extremely fresh prawns and cucumber served as a light starter was a fantastic choice. They even crafted the slate and wood serving trays many of the dishes are served on themselves!
Starter: Asparagus, Egg, Cured Tuna, and Tomato
Christina’s personal favorite starter, the flavors were a mix of savory from the egg to the sweetness of the tomato. A perfect size to prep the belly for the entrée.
Entrée: Glazed Pork Riblets and Sticky Rice
My favorite dish of the day, the pork literally fell off the bone as each piece was picked up and was served piping hot, perfectly seasoned and with a hearty bowl of sticky rice. Eating with my fingers was a much better option with lime scented finger bowls to rinse away the remnants of the delightful rib sauce, a mixture of spicy and sweet. The Green Papaya salad which came with the meal had a kick- perfect for someone who enjoys the bite of chili. The recipe was taught to Timothy by Christina’s Thai mother and knows the traditional, authentic way to prepare the favorite and classic dish. He became passionate when he spoke of other places saying they offer the “real deal” when it comes to green papaya salad, saying that many offerings are “bastardized, watered down, candied down version of what it actually should be.”
Dessert: Coconut and Mango with Cashew Nut (dessert)
I generally avoid gelatinous foods (hate Jell-O, hate pudding) but there was no way of knowing beforehand the consistency of this dessert (they mention they like to be as vague as possible on the menu to create a surprise element for the diners when they receive their plates) and I was glad, because although the dessert had a semi-jelly soft quality, as it was a panna cotta- it was frothy and creamy in unison and proved to be the perfect lunch-cap. Not overly sweet and an ideal way to finish the meal. Light, with the true flavors of mango and coconut coming through only to be complemented by the cashew nut and praline
Apertif: Star Anise and Roasted Pineapple Infused Vodka
So good and highly effective as an afternoon nap activator. I don’t usually comfortably do shots, but this one was a delightful finish to an afternoon meal with heavy notes of the star anise paired with citrus lightness of pineapple that completely covered the taste of vodka. Dangerously delicious.
Visit The Common Tiger Tuesday-Saturday: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
For reservations, call 023 212 917
No. 20, Street 294