Long famous for the country’s best ribs, Kampot wasn’t known for much else food-wise. Now Kampot is one of Cambodia’s culinary hot spot.
A new Belgian-owned tapas bar serving inventive, surprisingly delicious takes on Spanish tapas influenced strongly by local flavors and products. This was some of the best food we’ve had in Kampot in a long time, and from a first-time restaurateur to boot. Try the bisch kampot, beef with pepper-lime sauce, strewn with fresh green peppercorns on the vine, and the holy squid, marinated in a deeply flavorful sauce and cooked up with fistfuls of holy basil — mop up the squiddy juices with lightly toasted baguette slices and you may be unable to keep a contented sigh from escaping your lips. Grilled pepperoni pinxto with pickled chilies was also compulsively eatable.
The space has an appealingly eclectic minimalism, with mixed table sizes and heights, mustard yellow walls, and old Chinese biscuit tin light fixtures. The bar serves up a few kinds of crisp, bubbly cava, considered but somewhat pricey cocktails — try a passionfruit daiquiri when it’s in season — homemade limoncello, and Cambodia beer on tap. The gazpacho bloody marys are nothing less than addictive. One particular delight is the Baraca “dessert” — a shot of Thai rum paired with a sweet Indonesian clove cigarette. Skeptical? We were, too, but it’s a great way to end a meal.
Cava goes for about $3 a glass and $14-17 a bottle, and tapas will run you around $1.50 to $3 per order. Order four to share for a light meal. Baraca also offers a few sunny, inexpensive guestrooms. Read our full review of bARACA Rooms here.
Open daily, 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
7 Street 726, Kampot
T: 011 290 434
True coffee nerds will know they’re in the right place upon seeing Cafe Espresso’s menu introduction — “Sorry, we don’t serve ‘regular coffee.'” Arguably the best coffee in Cambodia, Cafe Espresso serves up a wide range of expertly prepared European and Australian-style espresso drinks, pour-overs, siphons, and even one of our favorites, the humble Aeropress. The cafe, which opened in 2011, sources regional coffee beans and roasts them in-house daily, for a strong, flavorsome coffee perfect for milk-infused espresso drinks. If that weren’t enough, Cafe Espresso serves breakfast and lunch, and the food is fantastic.
Particular standouts include the housemade muesli, with rolled oats, crispy rice, nuts, goji berries, candied lotus seeds, and rosella, served with yogurt and fresh tropical fruit, and the savory herbed corncakes with poached eggs, a fantastic fresh chile-spiked salsa, and sweet-smoky tomato jam. Lunchtime features simple, satisfying fare like pulled pork sandwiches and burgers, and many of the cafe’s dishes feature surprising middle-eastern flavors, like harissa. Check for daily specials. The Australian owners are welcoming and happy to dole out sightseeing recommendations, and the cafe is family-friendly, with a no-smoking policy indoors. The free wifi, large wooden work tables, and comfortable old shophouse style make this an ideal place to hunker down for a few hours with a flat white and a laptop.
Open daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
#17 Street 717, down the side street from Epic Arts Cafe (Look for the small wooden “Espresso” sign), Kampot
T: 092 388 736
Come hungry and leave happy at this sweet cafe with ample indoor and outdoor seating, country-chic mismatched cushions on the seats, and charming striped cotton napkins. The portions at Ellie’s are huge and wholesome — we especially enjoyed the hummus and roast vegetables sandwiched between two slices of housemade whole wheat bread, which was thick and yeasty. (The cafe offers bread wholesale as well.)
The iced orange tea, flecked with orange zest and slightly sweet, washed it all down very well. The all-day breakfast, particularly anything featuring a poached egg, looked terrific. Ellie’s sells other cakes, brownies, cookies and the like, along with coffee, and ice cream by the scoop — we were disappointed that they had sold out of ice cream at the time of our visit. Great place for vegetarians.
Open daily, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
42/44 Street 726, Kampot
T: 088 488 4953
Divino Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria doesn’t seem like much from the outside. The tiny restaurant has little in the way of ambiance and only a few tables, which can result in excruciatingly long wait times. But the food makes it all worth it; the place serves some of the best food in Kampot.
The owners, Marco and and Alessia, moved to Cambodia from their native Italy, where Marco worked as a chef for several decades. And he knows what he is doing — the Italian pastas and pizzas are superb. The daily specials offer a range of Italian specials that far surpass the usual spaghetti bolognese found on the menu of what feels like every restaurant in Cambodia. The fresh-made gnocchi was a particular standout, so light and pillowy it was hard to believe we weren’t in Italy, and the thin-crust pizza is superb.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (this seems to fluctuate, though)
Street 724(beside Old Market, Kampot
T: 088 479 1027; 088 814 2410
The handpainted sign over the bar says “Be Nice or Leave,” and it aptly describes the welcoming atmosphere at this bar and eatery run by two Louisiana expats recently arrived in Kampot. The dinner menu is mostly New Orleans-style American Cajun and Creole dishes like stewed okra and tomatoes, and gumbo made with their secret-recipe, locally made andouille.
The menu changes frequently and the food we tasted was delicious. The bar is stocked with an unexpected and quite good selection of American bourbons — Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark — not something you typically see in Cambodia, and a small, rotating selection of American beers in the bottle, like Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo. With cold Cambodia beer on tap and a large, friendly black Labrador Retriever patrolling the bar, this is a great place to experience a bit of southern hospitality in Cambodia.
Open daily, 1 p.m. to 12 a.m., closed Saturdays
52 Old Market Street, Kampot
T: 060 789 128
Ecran has moved to a new riverside location in front of Rainbow Bridge Hotel, but apart from the view, not much has changed. This casual noodle house serves up delicious dumplings — pork or veggie, fried or boiled — and hand-pulled Chinese noodles either fried or in soup. It’s always to decide between hand-pulled noodles and dumplings, so we suggest you get both. If you come at the right time of day, you’ll get to watch the noodle-maker at work stretching out pounds and pounds of noodles. Dumplings are $2.50 for 12, and noodle soups $2.50, and beers are $1.
Ecran Noodles used to be attached to Ecran Movie House on Old Market Street (Street 724). While they are now in separate locations, they are still under the same ownership. This means that if you want to rent a movie from one of the hundreds on offer and watch it in one of the four private, air conditioned screening rooms (two are nonsmoking, and one can fit up for 40 people, with a 157-inch screen), you can get noodles and dumplings delivered. Movies are $3.50 per person, per movie.
Open daily, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Riverside Road, between Old Bridge and Kampot Hospital, Kampot
T: 010 249 411
Famous for ribs, Rusty Keyhole is a Kampot institution that has a little something for everyone. It’s family friendly, with outdoor seating with river views and a popular expat bar inside, and did we mention the ribs? The sweet, tender ribs drenched in the Rusty Keyhole’s secret sauce are probably the meatiest that you’ll find in Cambodia, they’re cut so they include the pork loin as well, so a rack of ribs, which comes with coleslaw and fries or baked or mashed potato, easily feeds two for 32,000 riel ($8).
If the thought of sharing underwhelms you, they’ve got a 1.5kg rib deal for 58,000 riel ($14.50). If you can finish it on your own in an hour or less, you’ll get your photo on the wall and a free, completely unnecessary, dessert that brings to mind Mr. Creosote final bite. It’s not all competitive eating, though. There’s also a selection of Western favorites and even a few Khmer dishes, as well as specials and desserts. Definitely the place to visit if you’d looking to meet long-term Kampot expats.
Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Riverfront Road, Kampot
T: 012 679 607; 092 758 536
The hottest new restaurant in Kampot, Tertúlia is a wonderful addition to the town’s booming culinary scene. The restaurant serves authentic Portuguese food, professionally plated in a way that would never have been seen in the Kampot of yore. The menu is filled with fish and seafood dishes, including Bulhao Pato clams, octopus salad, and the traditional Portuguese slow-cooked seafood dish, seafood cataplana. Meat eaters need not worry, though, steak mirandesa and beef cheeks in a red wine reduction are also on the menu. Mains cost between $7.50 and $12.50, and they also have a nice selection of Portuguese wines.
Seating is all outdoors, but their garden patio doesn’t have the ambiance that the menu deserves, due to the blueish cast of their LED lighting. The restaurant is excellent by Kampot standards, but our gritty clams reminded us that we’re still out in the sticks. A meal for two goes for around $40, depending on how much Portuguese wine you imbibe. Be warned that it’s cash only.
Open Tuesday to Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.,closed Wednesdays
Tuek Chhu Road (just over the New Bridge), Kampot
T: 089 850 358
Owned by a French expat, the Honeymoon Creperie features a range of sweet and savory crepes, salads, pates, as well as a selection of French cheese and of course, wine. The place lacks in ambiance, but everything on the menu is very reasonably priced; sweet crepes start at $1 and savory crepes at $4.
We were impressed by the Norway, a buckwheat crepe filled with smoked salmon, creamy cheese, herbs and lime, served with a green side salad. The pâté platter and cheese platter at $4.50 and $5 are both exceptionally good value. Like all true French restaurants, smoking is allowed inside, but outdoor seating is also available.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
56 Street 726 (East Street), Kampot
T: 015 402 321
Epic Arts Cafe
The Epic Arts Cafe is one of the most popular eateries in Kampot, and with good reason. Part of the Epic Arts inclusive arts NGO, the cafe was created as a place to employ differently abled young people and was envisioned as a hangout for deaf students. They might not be able to get a table, though, because the place is always packed, and when we visited there was a line out the door.
The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch with a simple but delicious menu of healthy international specials, salads, bagels, and paninis. We tried the bagel with hummus and olives, sweet corn cakes with tomato salsa, and grilled barracuda with mango salad, and each was delicious. Because most of the staff are deaf, ordering is done by paper and pencil, and it must be said when we were there the cafe was woefully understaffed. But the food more than made up for it, and the prices, with mains between $3 and $4.50, were very good value.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
67 Street 724, near Old Market, Kampot
T: 092 922 069
We stumbled across Twenty Three during their soft opening, but already they were packed with bearded and tattooed 20-somethings. The place is very much a hipster restaurant (right down to the menu font), but in the best possible way. At Twenty Three they make their own pickles and serve salted caramel desserts, braised pork belly, and classic cocktails — all delicious evidence of their hipster bona fides. But more important, the food is very good and reasonably priced. The menu is small and changes regularly, with daily specials that depend on the mood of the South African chef. The standout for us was the smoked mackerel pate, served with whole-wheat toast and cucumber pickles. Prices are between $4 and $6, and there’s also a bar with a nice selection of cocktails, including negronis and Manhattans as well as more exotic concoctions.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.
23 East Street, Kampot
T: 088 607 9731
The Loving Spoon
The Thai-Swiss couple who own the Loving Spoon have come up with a unique way to divide the labor of running a restaurant. In the morning, Lukas prepares Western breakfasts that are raved about all over town. And in the evening, his Thai wife, Aom, makes what is roundly agreed to be the best Thai food in Kampot.
The menu is simple and inexpensive — in the morning eggs and coffee are served with a loaf of homemade bread that you can take as little or as much of as you like, and in the evening there’s a selection of Thai dishes costing $5 or less, which can be made authentically spicy or less so, at your request.
Open daily except Thursday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for breakfast and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner.
Street 276, Kampot
T: 089 981 974
There’s an expression that goes, “do one thing, but do it well.” Wonderland has taken it to heart because all they sell is homemade frozen treats, namely popsicles and frozen yogurt, and they’re fantastic. The made-by-hand frozen pops come in a variety of flavors, including coconut with lime zest, passionfruit, and vanilla with red Kampot pepper. The salted caramel popsicle (made with Kampot salt) is out of this world. You can also try the salted caramel sauce on a cup of frozen yogurt or top with any of their 16 toppings that include fresh local fruit and other less healthy options. If you’re coming to Kampot, save room for dessert at Wonderland.
Open daily except Wednesday, 2:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Street 724, across from Old Market, Kampot
T: 012 374 052
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