Kingdom of Rice
Not too long after saying goodbye to Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman’s six-month pasta party Mr Liquor’s Dirty Italian Disco at the Tennyson Hotel, we learned Merivale had recruited another innovative Sydney team to fill the space – ACME partners Mitch Orr and Cam Fairbairn, and head chef Lillia McCabe and front-of-house manager Sophia Thach.
Kingdom of Rice, a Cambodian street-food pop-up, started its six-month residency in October 2018. It’s brought lots of skewers and Southeast Asian flavours to the table, and of course more of the venue’s notorious good vibes. The roller door, mismatched furniture and communal tables remain – along with the walk-in liquor fridge – but that’s where the similarities between Kingdom of Rice and its predecessor end.
Thach is of Khmer descent and created the menu after a recent return to her roots in Phnom Penh. The savoury part is split into five sections: snacks, skewers, grill, wok, noodles and rice. All the dishes are designed to be shared, from the selection of skewers, which includes phsaet ung (shiitake mushroom), sach chrouk ung (caramelised pork) and sach gor ung (lemongrass beef); to the hot-off-the-wok classics such as bort ling (corn, dried shrimps and scallions), cha dtrop (chicken, smoked eggplant and coriander) and cha le'a samot tdek meric (pippies, lime and kampot pepper); seasoned meats straight from the grill; and accompanying rice and noodle dishes.
For dessert there’s Southeast Asian fruits in the form of jek ung (grilled banana, sticky rice and caramel), noum dorng karem (pandan coconut waffle and coconut sorbet) and bobor lapoav (roasted pumpkin, tapioca and coconut milk).
Plonk yourself down on a stackable plastic market stool, grab a pair of chopsticks and dig into your meal, served on a melamine plate. Wash it down with an Asian beer or natural wine out of the fridge, while you take in the clash of the floral tablecloths against the lime-washed soft-pink walls lined with jars of house-made pickles.