An eater’s 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. This quality lager has earned the brand numerous Gold Awards from Monde Selection, making it a source of national pride.
Another highly popular local brew is Cambodia Beer, a refreshing and easy to drink lager with a rich, fruity head and a full-bodied and creamy flavour. Regional and global brands such as Tiger and Heineken are also widely available though generally command a premium price.
The Foreign Correspondent’s Club is housed on the Riverside in a beautiful colonial building complete with wide open balconies. With a rooftop bar overlooking the Tonle Sap river too, the FCC (as its widely known) serves up classic Khmer dishes like fish amok and beef lok lak, as well as burgers, pastas and pizza all for a moderate price.
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 dining on Riverside, with weekly specials on Western and Asian meals, a selection of grilled, sizzling dishes and a scrumptuous choice of cakes.
Chinese House, though, may take the cake for the trendiest of all the Riverside spots, with Phnom Penh’s shakers and movers flocking to the meticulously decorated colonial-era Chinese mansion for some high-end plates and drinks. Talented South African Chef Ines Samaai has produced a fabulous menu with various themes matched to the various spaces on offer: the lounge area has Greek & Oriental tapas, the renovated garden has BBQ grilled dishes, and the more formal upstairs features French & Asian-inspired cuisine.
For dinner with a view, get yourselves up to DEVA Lounge.Bar.Restaurant on the 9th floor of the iOne Building on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. Enjoy international with a Khmer twist – such as beef carpaccio with Kampot pepper, steaks, crispy salmon, local skewers, and fresh oysters – accompanied by a breathtaking cityscape vista.
Those looking for a meal with a difference should visit Dine in the Dark (St. 19), where visitors attempt to feast in a pitch black room. A fun and surprising dining experience for both vegetarians and meat eaters.
Valentino’s on St. 174 has a relaxed outdoor garden terrace bistro with a menu of Eastern, Western, and fusion dishes. Then at midnight, you can go inside the nightclub and feast your eyes on the gay review show.
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.
Duplex on St. 278 provides 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 cocktail menu and list of Belgian beers are both lovingly lengthy.
Just south of Independence, along Norodom Blvd, is Atmosphere, a true Phnom Penh institution which opened all the way back in 1995. The menu is replete with quintessential French food, including some BBQ items.
But let’s be honest, one of the reasons you came here was to sample the local food, right? The newly opened Phka Slaa Khmer Restaurant serves traditional Cambodian cuisine in a clean and comfortable setting. The $6 set lunch menu garners rave reviews, as does the crispy pork, fish amok and whole fish with Koh Kong sauce. Keep a keen eye out for the daily specials too.
Nham Central, on the second floor of Exchange Square (St. 106), also grants the chance to stuff yourself with delicious Khmer food. The spacious but cozy area can seat more than a 100 diners tucking into the likes of the $2.50 Khmer set (soup, main and dessert) or $4.50 weekly special with a drink.
Another new addition to Exchange Square is the latest outlet of global franchise Hard Rock Cafe, which now has an incredible 176 cafes, 24 hotels and 11 casinos operating in 75 countries worldwide. The menu is stacked with classic American cuisine items: if you’re as hungry as Elvis we can heartily recommend the Jumbo Combo to share for starters, the Cobb salad, the Original Legendary Burger, the Famous Fajitas, and a hot fudge brownie for dessert. Taco Tuesdays have tacos at just 99 cents each, and the Sunday Carvery between 11am and 2pm is a must for cravings of a huge Sunday roast.
Down on St. 240, The Shop is 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 on St. 102 are also must-visits in their respective areas.
Hops Brewery & Craft Beer Garden on St. 228 is a not to be missed, serving German classics, such as Nuremberg sausage with sauerkraut, alongside their perfectly brewed beers made with 100% natural and imported 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 (Riverside, St. 380, St. 556, 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.
An international French bakery brand, currently with seven outlets spread across the capital including their new Riverside location, is Eric Kayser. Check out their best-selling Baguette Monge, with its cooked cereals flavour and pointed extremities, or their Monge Tart, an iconic pastry made of layers of cream cheese and shortcrust, topped with red berries.
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, craft beers and imported brews.
A little further down St. 123 you’ll come across Dos Besos, dishing out authentic and delicious Mexican food and drinks. Try the enchiladas, carnitas tacos. chimichanga, and fresh churro bites, washed down with a fair few frozen margheritas.
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 classy dishes 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.
Meanwhile, Roots and Burgers down on 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 Subs & Sandwiches 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. Tucked down St. 240 1/2, it specialises in healthy options for a variety of lifestyles such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, raw and paleo. The cafe is also host to detoxes, cleanses, and diet programs, with local artwork and handcrafted products featured too.
But wait! We almost forgot the Italians! Who really needs any encouragement to seek out a pizza or pasta? 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.
If pizza is what you are specifically craving, go directly to the source at Pizza Factory & Cafe on St. 184. Their afternoon happy hour from 2:30pm to 5:30pm each day grants you an excellent buy one pizza, get one free deal, which also applies for beers or cocktails from 5:30pm until 8:30pm.
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.
Now with five locations across the city (Toul Kork, Central Market, PP Airport and Chbar Ampov), Dim Sum Emperors issues all manner of things Hong Kong and Guangdong. Their extensive dim sum list includes classic pork and shrimp dim sum, as well as 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.
Comme à la Maison (St. 57) tops many lists as well, whether it’s for a sit-down full-course dinner or to grab a fresh baguette and some goat cheese tapenade from its next-door shop.
On the Corner le Resto du Coin on Riverside 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 a hit with both tourists and expats thanks to its finely brewed coffee and excellent Eggs Benedict. Specialising in contemporary Australian cooking, Enso also serves lunch and dinner, along with an all-day breakfast menu.
For more information on these and many more restaurants in town, go to www.pocketguide.asia.