Epicurean utopia

There’s a whole world of food waiting to be discovered in Phnom Penh’s vast and eclectic restaurant scene, which caters to almost every taste imaginable. We guarantee you’ll never be short of options.

At most restaurants, the country’s favourite beer Angkor will be on offer. Brewed with the soft spring water from the mountains of Sihanoukville coupled with the finest ingredients sourced from around the world, this quality lager has earned the brand numerous Gold Awards from Monde Selection, making it a source of national pride.

The Foreign Correspondent’s Club (FCC) is housed right on the Riverside in a beautiful colonial building complete with wide open balconies that are just custom made for people watching. With a rooftop bar overlooking the Tonle Sap river too, the FCC (as its more commonly known) serves up classic Khmer dishes like fish amok and beef lok lak, as well as burgers, pastas, and pizza alongside a wide selection of cocktails, draught beer and wine, all for a moderate price. Their permanent photography collection catalogues some of Phnom Penh’s most iconic moments in recent history.

While the FCC has a great happy hour – two for one from 5 to 7pm – there are other main contenders along Riverside to drop by for a drink and a nibble. KWest Restaurant, on the ground floor of the Amanjaya Pancam Suites Hotel, crafts Khmer and Western food, although they are best known for their pepper-coated sirloin steak and pork chops in a creamy mustard sauce.

Riverhouse Asian Bistro is another stop for more upscale drinking and dining on Riverside, although cocktails and wines start at the reasonable price of $3.50. Chinese House, though, may take the cake for the trendiest of all the Riverside bars, with Phnom Penh’s shakers and movers flocking to the exquisite colonial-era Chinese mansion for some high-end cocktails.

Those looking for a more original meal should consider Dine in the Dark (St. 19), where visitors – you guessed it – attempt to feast in a pitch black room. A fun and surprising dining experience for both vegetarians and meat eaters.

While it labels itself a “cafe and shop”, The Providore (Sothearos Blvd) serves some of the best wines in town, especially at their regular tasting events. Hard to find cheeses are available at this Australian cafe to take home, or to pair with your wine and enjoyed at one of their outdoor tables. Drop in earlier for some breakfast – Eggs Benedict can be found here – or a gourmet sandwich.

Is it Sangria’o’clock yet? Spanish restaurant Tipico (St. 454) in Russian Market area has a white or red variety best accompanied with some our their brilliant tapas plates or paella. They also really like their gin and tonics.

Duplex on St. 278 is another Phnom Penh institution. Here you’ll find a truly international menu that includes Belgian specialities like home made meatballs, vol au vent chicken stew, and Belgian fries, along with Australian steaks, Khmer rice, and seafood pasta. The lengthy cocktail menu, and equally lengthy list of Belgian beers is the main event, however.

But let’s be honest. One of the reasons you came here was for the local food, right? If you ask any Phnom Penh residents the name of the very best Khmer restaurant, they will likely say Malis (Norodom Blvd). Owned by award-winning Cambodian chef Luu Meng, Malis prepares dishes that are the epitome of Khmer cuisine, with some truly original twists.

Toul Kork’s One More Restaurant (St. 315) is a bit out of the way for most tourists, but well worth the drive for larger groups. It has a full menu of authentic Cambodian dishes like stir-fried beef with tree ants (we hear they are crunchy). If you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, foreigner-friendly items can also be found, such as pan-fried sweet and sour gobi fish, deep-fried crab or papaya salad.

A hop, skip, and a jump down St. 240 brings you to The Shop, home to healthy breakfasts, salads, sandwiches and freshly made pastries. Set in a beautifully renovated colonial villa, the interior exudes a stylish warmth with high ceilings and wooden floors.

The Chocolate Shop two doors down offers the same menu with air-conditioning, but the pièce de résistance is an enormous glass cabinet stuffed with locally made Beligan chocolates, truffles, and macaroons. Offering the same cozyness as the original, The Shop TK on St. 337 and The Shop 102 (St. 102) are also must-visits in their respective areas.

If you’re looking to broaden your Southeast Asian culinary horizons, why not try Indonesian at Borobudur on St. 310 in BKK1. Borobudur cooks up two versions of nasi goreng – Indonesia’s national dish that literally means “fried rice” – as well as the much-loved spicy, caramelised beef Rendang curry.

Hops craft beer brewery with beer garden and grill on St. 228 is a not to be missed. They serve German classics, such as Nuremberg sausage with sauerkraut, to enjoy along with their perfectly brewed beers made with 100% natural ingredients.

However, if you’re looking for a lighter breakfast, Blue Pumpkin is one of the best French bakeries in town, and has multiple locations (St. 57, St. 63, St. 380, St. 556, Riverside and at the airport). Grab a fresh and flaky croissant, brioche, or danish with a frothy cappuccino or latte, although its homemade ice creams may prove too tempting to resist, even in the morning. A restorative late-afternoon cheese cake or tiramisu will solve all your problems too.

The opening of Alchemy GastroPub (St. 123) has made the Russian Market neighbourhood that much more fashionable. Gourmet versions of tasty American treats like braised short ribs, skirt steak, and mac n’ cheese are served alongside a wide selection of cocktails and wines. Beer drinkers will also delight at their selection of craft and imported brews.

The Exchange (St. 47) is housed inside a renovated colonial mansion close to Wat Phnom, keeping the outside a traditional French style while the interior resembles an old-fashioned pub. It has excellent sharing platters and a lengthy menu of beef, poultry and seafood classics like pan-seared red snapper, bacon and brie burger, and twice-cooked tamarind duck. Their cocktail menu offers seemingly infinite variations on the martini and some well-designed house specialties.

For more burgers with all the fixings, take a stop by American restaurant Lone Pine (St. 282). The gluttonous best of American comfort food can be found here, particularly some southern specialities like gumbo, Cajun Po Boy, barbecued pulled pork, biscuits and plenty of chilli. Their Philly Cheesesteak and Reuben sandwich will help lessen your longing for the things you truly miss about the States.

On the other side of Independence Monument and up St. 51, the same owners run Taqueria Corona, a Tex-Mex restaurant with some fantastic fish tacos. Vegetarians will have an easier time here as most burritos, tacos, and quesadillas can be made without meat – the meat-free Allen’s Nachos come highly recommended. Wash it down with a pitcher of margaritas, sangria, or an ice cold, lime topped Corona.

Cousin’s (St. 200) should be your spot for a lunchtime burger bite, offering a French interpretation of the American staple, with extra touches like raclette cheese and pork belly on top of a juicy beef patty.

Meanwhile, Roots & Burgers (St. 454) has added an Asian touch with some creative recipes like braised beef or pomegranate-cured duck served on a rice-based bao bun.

At Fatboy Sub ‘n’ Salad on St. 130, you’ll find subs, wraps, salads and the odd burrito prepared freshly in front of you, whence you can opt to chomp down onsite or take out.

Vegetarians, there’s no need to despair! ARTillery Cafe has you well covered. That’s because this trendy spot tucked down St. 240 1/2 specialises in healthy options for a variety of lifestyles such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, raw and paleo. The push for clean-living doesn’t stop there. The cafe is also host to detoxes, cleanses, and diet programs. Local artwork and handcrafted products are featured too, hence the emphasis on the first three letters.

But wait! We almost forgot the Italians! But then again, who really needs any encouragement to seek out a pizza or pasta? (Real question: do you exist?) All pasta is made fresh at Il Forno (St. 302), where you’ll find some mouth-watering menu items like ravioli filled with prawns and sea bass or gnocchi with porcini mushrooms. Wood-fired pizzas, panini, and meaty mains round out the menu, although Il Forno is best known for its ever-changing list of specials, so be sure and check their website.

You’ll be completely spoiled for choice at Terrazza (St. 282). They quite literally have it all, without losing their attention to detail. Start with a classic beef carpaccio or eggplant and bruschetta, slurp your way through a plate of tagliatelle or lasagna, nibble on some prosciutto and mozzarella pizza, and finish off with marinated chicken or suckling pig. Come hungry.

But if pizza is what you are specifically craving, go directly to the source at Pizzeria Matteo on St. 466. Baked in a stone oven, their pizza apply a creative take on the internationally beloved staple. You’ll find pizza topped with parma ham, smoked salmon, and classic cheeses. If that’s not filling enough, try their black risotto.

Getting back to some regional dishes, Emperors of China (St. 163) has specialities from across the wide culinary expanses of China. Their lengthy menu has highlights like crispy Beijing duck, Shanghainese dumplings, and sautéed slice mutton.

The two Dim Sum Emperors outlets (St. 53 and St 315) issue all manner of things Hong Kong and Guangdong. Their extensive dim sum list includes classic pork, and shrimp dim sum and barbecue pork buns.

Rokku Sushi Lounge + Bistro (Sisowath Quay) brings a novel twist to Asian fusion. Fresh nigiri, sashimi, and sushi are an excellent way to start a meal, or make for their own spread with options such as fatty tuna sashimi and the Laura Mam Rock & Roll, named after the Cambodian pop star and co-owner. Rokku’s fusion really gets going, though, on the dinner menu with spicy ahi tuna tacos and unagi linguine.

While technically a Hawaiian restaurant, Poki Poke (Sothearos Blvd)serves a popular dish from Japan: a raw fish salad, or “sushi bowl”, with Japanese seasoning and sauces.

Rounding out the capital’s best Asian restaurants is Namaste India (St. 308). This intimate eatery can satisfy your cravings for spicy food will some all-time classics of the subcontinent, such as lamb roghan josh, chicken tikka masala, palak paneer, and aloo gobhi.

And then there’s the French. They may have been kicked out in 1953, but they just keep coming back to colonise Phnom Penh’s kitchens. But who’s complaining? Le Saint Georges (St. 136) lets you dip your digits into gourmet French fare with its tapas menu, which stars several varieties of foie gras. Cassoulet, duck, and plenty of potatoes grace its hearty dinner menu.

Comme à la Maison (St. 57) tops many lists as well, whether its for a full-course dinner or to grab a fresh baguette and some goat cheese tapenade from its next-door shop.

Riverside’s On the Corner le Resto du Coin offers a mix of Khmer, Thai and French – where else can you find cheese fondue, steak tartare, and pineapple fried rice on the same menu?

Enso Cafe on St. 240 is popular with brunch-seeking tourists and expats thanks to its finely brewed coffee and excellent Eggs Benedict on its all day breakfast menu. Specialising in contemporary Australian cooking, Enso also serves lunch and dinner.