Pick of the munch
A legion of chefs, food adventurers, restauranteurs, and wine-buffs have made their home here, bringing with them the flavours of their country, whether they’re Khmer, French, Italian, American or Belgian.
We’re going to start with burgers, because we’ve seen internet wars break out over which are the best in town. Burger Gourmand on Sok San Road is what happens when the French get their hands on something as simple as a meat sandwich. Using homemade buns, they make them with beef, as you’d expect, but they also make them with duck, and lamb, and chicken, and pork, and for a rather unbeatable flourish, with foie gras. You can’t top that… unless, of course, you’re adding the caramelised shallots. Their French fries are top notch too.
Abacus Garden Restaurant on the road to the airport is also frequently touted for having the best burger in Siem Reap, an incredibly good value $10 sandwich of beef and magic, but they’re better known for their carefully thought-out set of French classics, sometimes with a little local twist. It is the grand dame of Siem Reap French fine dining, but she’s still sexy as hell, either inside with air-con or on the garden terrace.
If you’re looking for some musical entertainment while you eat, roll over to the Hard Rock Café on the King’s Road Angkor to sample their much-loved combo of live rock covers and tasty American fare, including their Original Legendary burger.
L’Annexe on Sok San Road is a French fine dining restaurant with gloriously informal elegance. Enjoy classics such as bœuf bourguignon, foie gras, carré d’agneau or Charolaise ribeye either in the intimate interior or relaxing outdoor garden. Chef Aziz also creates spectacular desserts, such as their best-selling Black Pearl, a spherical frozen soufflé and sorbet encased in chocolate.
At the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa, the restaurant Le Connaisseur serves up traditional French cuisine with a grand view looking out on the Royal Gardens. A five-star feast is also available at Circle, the new restaurant of the recently renovated Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor hotel on Achar Sva St. Gorge on stunning Khmer dishes via their all-you-can-eat hawker-style buffet, with free-flowing beer, wine and soft drinks.
Olive, Cuisine de Saison is a French Mediterranean restaurant that serves up a fresh, seasonal menu with flavours from the south that often have a lighter touch. This is where you’ll find a melted Gorgonzola salad with watermelon, thyme and orange supreme, or a fine-crust tomato that comes with French basil and pesto, or perhaps a roasted Cornish game hen with tarragon and baby thyme potatoes.
Blue Pumpkin started out as a family business in Siem Reap, but has since sprouted numerous outlets across town and further afield. It can’t decide if it’s a French bakery, a patisserie, a restaurant, or an ice cream parlour, so its all of them, with signature white sofa beds to recline and dine on.
La Creperie Bretonne on The Lane has a huge menu of galettes and crepes, celebrating the French region of Brittany’s most famous treat in sweet and savoury form.
Belgium gets a look in as well in Siem Reap with Le Bel Air, tucked down near the end of Street 26. This place is more than worth the journey – it is, after all, only five minutes from Pub Street – not just for the collection of 31 (yes 31!) Belgian beers, but also their menu of Beligan food including Liège Meatballs with Belgian fries (they invented them apparently), homemade Flemish stew cooked with Leffe beer, and the pièce de résistance, snail and truffle ravioli.
A short trip south out of town takes you to another Francophonic establishment, Georges Rhumerie, which showcases the exotic flavours of Reunion Island, home of the eponymous owner. All mains, such as the divine rougaille saucisse and boeuf gingembre, come with free samples of George’s homemade chutneys, chili pastes and jams.
Meanwhile, the Italians are also ably accounted for at Il Forno just off Pub Street, which dishes up fresh, homemade pasta, wood-fired pizzas, cold cuts, mains, cheeseboards, and weekly-changing specials. This place aims to charm and will leave you yearning for more; so like an Italian.
Celebrating the most famous Italian export of all, The Pizza Company, on Street Pokambor, brings you a huge selection of American-style pizzas, with the possibility of choosing your base. You also have a choice of pastas, salads, appetizers and fresh drinks.
Over to the Indian subcontinent now for some mouth-watering, hunger-busting meals. The Indian and Vannakan are next door to each other on Thnou St., both offering traditional Indian cuisine brilliantly priced and magically spiced (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves). We’re especially huge fans of the gigantic garlic nans that will keep any cold at bay for about a year.
At Veg G Table you’ll enjoy peace, tranquillity and the funkiest vegetarian food in town with full flavoured salads, wraps, and delicious homemade cakes.
Diners with a conscience have a range of options in Siem Reap, and unlike the 70s, just because it’s virtuous, that doesn’t mean it has to taste like straw bedding. The original was Sala Baï, a hospitality training school that has helped more than 1,200 disadvantaged young Cambodians find their way to new skills and new lives. And we’ve seen evidence that it really works. Their restaurant, near Wat Svay on the way to Chong Kneas, serves up twice-weekly changing set menus and à la carte dishes that wouldn’t look amiss in a smart restaurant in any destination.
Haven moved to a new property just five minutes out of town, but nothing else has changed in this place that trains 12-15 students a year. Their menu of Khmer, international and Swiss food draws rave reviews, and every single one of them is well earned from a garden restaurant with a whole lot of heart.
Nearby is Spoons, another social enterprise investing funds in the training of underprivileged locals, with a scrumptious selection of Khmer street food and home cooking favourites.
Heading north a few blocks, on Street 25 is Butterflies Garden Restaurant, set in a stunning traditional wooden house. With 20% of profits given to staff and 10% donated annually to local charities, you can treat yourself with some excellent Asian dishes such as fried crab with Kampot pepper and grilled red tilapia fish with salt, or some Western mains like steak and chips. Try to spot some butterflies in the garden too.
Going further north along Wat Bo Road, away from the city, Marum also has a smart garden and beautiful wooden villa from which to serve the inspired creations cooked up in the open-plan kitchen. This is Khmer fusion tapas, which sounds complicated but is delicious, and allows you to size your meal according to how hungry you are.
Back in town, Common Grounds is a social enterprise in the emerging hip district, Kandal Village. It attracts a regular crowd who come not just for the (blessed, blessed) air-con but also for the American diner-style menu, including burgers, an awe-inspiring grilled cheese sandwich with Swiss cheese, cured ham, basil and Dijon mustard, cheesesteak and plenty more. Their baked goods also disappear fast each morning.
Grill your own feast, Cambodian-style, at either of Original Khmer BBQ‘s two locations in town. You simply order plates of uncooked meats, seafood and vegetables, and place the items on your table’s “Phnom Pleung”, like a cross between a BBQ grill and a hot pot.
Charcoal Restaurant also offers a discovery tour of Khmer cuisine with set menus for two featuring numerous exquisite dishes to sample and share. Their signature dish, L’ Entrecote Café de Paris Secret Sauce, is designed for dining pairs too, and comes with a free bottle of huse wine.
Contemporary Cambodian cuisine and western food in a unique environment for a sophisticated lunch or dinner can be found at HUNKAAR Table & Lounge, the vibrant restaurant of the stunning, recently opened Anjali by Syphon Hotel. It’s an ideal place to discover new flavors and aromas. Dishes range from $5.50 to $8.50 and there’s a monthly signature tasting menu under $25.
If you’re looking for a healthier approach to life, you should head to Artillery, whose menu of light (and some hearty) meals is designed to appease vegetarians, vegans, celiacs, paleo dieters, as well as absolutely none of the above, with delicious flavours that seriously fill you up. The open courtyard and light, breezy interior perfect the mood here.
The King’s Road Angkor Village complex is home to a range of bars, restaurants, and galleries. Here you’ll find Embassy, a restaurant with bold splashes of colour and a bolder approach to Khmer flavours. The chefs here, the famed Two Kimsans, create inspired Khmer fusion set menus. So seize the opportunity to enjoy Cambodian food in a fashionable setting. Nearby, The Grey also lets you experience Khmer gastronomy with their “Phnom Pleung” grill-it-yourself tabletop BBQs.
And of course, you can’t do all that without something sweet at the end. Gelato Lab is owned by an Italian chef who has turned the art of gelato into a science, minutely breaking down all of his recipes in order to create flavours that are simply mind-blowing. The chocolate sorbet will rock your world.
Behind Central Market, Bloom Café sits quietly on a corner inspiring the kinds of passions that would make demure souls blush. With a huge assortment of divinely-flavoured, colourfully presented cupcakes (including gluten-free) – the only difficulty you’re going to face is which meal to skip so you can have more.
Chi Restaurant serves up innovative Khmer and pan-Asian cuisine incorporating the freshest organic produce from morning markets and small farms. Early risers can enjoy a sunrise breakfast, while couples can savour the intimacy of their Dining by Design. Signature dishes include Braised Lamb Shank Curry Saraman and Royal Seafood Amok, comprising squid, tiger prawns, Khmer spices and coconut milk. All the elements of the Khmer Mojito are hand-picked from the chef’s garden. Enjoy lilting accompaniment from bossa nova jazz musician as you dine on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
New in town, Green-Go Garden have thought of everything to create a sanctuary-like space in which to relax while being active. From 9am until 5pm, the place functions as a co-working space and café serving detox smoothies and organic coffee, with a proud emphasis on sustainability. After sundown, the garden lounge comes to life with Cambodian craft beers on tap and organic wines alongside its fusion Mediterranean menu with a touch of Khmer cuisine. Signature dishes include creative plates like the Mediterranean Pepperoni & Cream puff filled with tofu paste and sweet caramel. Their selection of cocktails, from classic favourites to new Green-Go fresh fruit infused specials, and spirits can be enjoyed in their daily happy hour until 7pm..