Phnom Penh has a cosmopolitan culinary scene as shown by its plethora of fantastic restaurants.
54 Langeach Sros
Definitely one of Phnom Penh’s culinary bright spots, 54 Langeach Sros is a local Khmer-style barbeque and beer garden that serves a mean plate of ribs — tangy with a hint of sweetness and slightly spicy. Don’t bother ordering just one plate. The ribs can take a half-hour to arrive, but they’re always worth it. Goat with black ants, “fried fish on the fire lake” (a complicated dish that involves a whole deep-fried fish cooked at the table in a pool of coconut curry), and crab with young green pepper are all excellent and remarkably affordable.
When you arrive, know what type of beer you want to drink, because you’ll be inundated with friendly requests from female representatives of the various beer companies trying to persuade you to drink their brew all night. Local options are sold by the can or pitcher and imported brands by the bottle. On weekends there’s often a live cover band. It’s worth a visit to get the full Cambodian experience.
Open daily, 4 p.m. to midnight
15A St 178
Tel: 017 455 454
Sovanna Restaurant has something to offer just about everyone. They have a newer, more upscale restaurant a few doors down, and have recently renovated the original. Even though Sovanna has lost the dirty-beer-garden feel it once had, the food is still excellent. The grilled beef and pork, tender, smoky and slightly sweet, are the standouts, but the sngor chrouk trey, fish soup with a lemongrass broth, lime juice, and fresh herbs, is not to be missed. Their menu has photographs and English translations, making this a good first Khmer BBQ experience for out-of-town visitors.
Open daily, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
2C St 21
Tel: 011 840 055
While it’s known for being a movie house, The Empire is also an excellent, friendly restaurant and bar. The menu features Cambodian dishes made with a Western palate in mind, sanitized of prahok and served without bones. At their core, though, these are typical Khmer comfort foods, satisfying and tasty. Try the Khmer beef soup — with its delicately spiced broth and tender chunks of beef it’s not only nourishing, but sublime. Another favorite is the red curry, served with French baguette. In addition to Cambodian homestyle cooking, the Empire offers an array of Western standards such as steaks with British-style chips and chili con carne. Read our full review of The Empire on the blog.
Open weekdays 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and weekends 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
34 St 130, Phnom Penh
T: 077 488 243
If you’re only in town for a few days and want to try the best of Cambodian cuisine, head to Romdeng. Located in a beautifully restored French colonial building, the restaurant serves traditional Khmer dishes, modern Cambodian cuisine, and even a few “creepy-crawly” dishes, such as deep-fried tarantulas and stir-fried red ants. Be warned that if you order the tarantula dish they’ll bring a live tarantula to your table to freak you out. The menu also features several vegetarian options and salads, so there’s something for everyone. The cocktails are not to be missed; they’re creative and addictive.
Romdeng is part of the Mith Samlanh “Friends” organization that helps train street kids and at-risk youth to work in the hospitality industry. So pat yourself on the back for eating there, and don’t be afraid to tip.
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (last order at 9:30 p.m.)
74 Street 174, Phnom Penh
T: 092 219 565
Tummy Filler Cafe & Pub
If you can’t decide whether you’re in the mood for traditional Khmer or Western food, Tummy Filler Cafe in Toul Tom Pong offers the best of both worlds. Their menu boasts Asian soups, fried rice, noodles, and Khmer classics like lok lak and amok. But it also serves up Western salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and fish & chips. Tummy Filler opens early every day with a range of breakfast foods and specialty coffee drinks. Their bar menu includes wine, beer, and mixed drinks with a selection of unique fruity and frozen cocktails.
Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
28A Street 460, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 017 559 168
Chinese dumplings and hand-pulled noodles
On Street 136 between Monivong and Central Market there are a row of unassuming Chinese restaurants, all serving hand-pulled noodles and homemade dumplings. If you’re craving Chinese food or need a carb infusion, this is the street to head to. Our favorite of the bunch is Herk Fung, but it doesn’t matter which one you choose — they’re all pretty good. Read our full review of the Chinese restaurants on Street 136.
Emperors of China
Another upscale Cantonese restaurant, Emperors of China has a full menu of reasonably priced dim sum. The dim sum menu is so good, in fact, that I’ve tried very little else on their menu, although I have heard it is good. My favorites are the “carrot cake,” actually small radish cakes with X.O. sauce, prawn shui maitopped with tiny orange flying fish roe, and har gow, steamed shrimp dumplings with a chewy rice wrapper. Although it’s a lovely restaurant, the service at Emperors at China can be mediocre, because allegedly they only hire leggy models with no waitressing experience, which can make for a frustrating, if good looking, experience.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
19 Street 63, Olympic, Phnom Penh
T: 023 637 6663
Dim Sum Emperors
A spin-off restaurant of Emperors of China, Dim Sum Emperors is a more casual restaurant that serves primarily dim sum. The menu features 19 types of dim sum as well as inexpensive rice and noodle bowls. My favorite dim sum here are the crab meat and coriander dumplings and xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings, and steamed pork ribs with black bean sauce. The service at Dim Sum Emperors is infuriating, just like at their sister restaurant. We’ve got a full review of Dim Sum Emperors on the blog if you want to know more.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Corner of Street 130 and Street 53, next to Central Market, Phnom Penh
T: 023 650 7452
Man Hao Ji Noodle Shop
There are a number of Chinese noodle joints in Phnom Penh, but newcomer Man Hao Ji Noodle Shop gives the rest a run for their money. This new Taiwanese-run restaurant on Street 118 has a small menu, and everything they serve is fantastic. That includes several noodle soups and bowls of handmade noodles. Their speciality is beef noodle soup, cooked in the Chinese style with red braised beef flavored with star anise and Shaoxing wine. At $5, it’s the most expensive thing on the menu, but well worth it. Also delicious are zhajiangmian, a.k.a. Beijing mixed noodles ($3), and Arhat vegetable noodles ($2). Read our full review of Man Hao Ji Noodle Shop on the blog.
Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
39 Street 118 (at Street 17), Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 089 265 065
Xiang Palace at InterContinental Hotel
Xiang Palace is the upscale Chinese restaurant at the swish InterContinental Phnom Penh. They serve refined Cantonese fare, including a wide selection of dim sum (yum cha for you Cantonese speakers). The menu is authentic according to my Cantonese-speaking friend that I dragged along to try the dim sum. On a more recent visit, we loved the Chinese roasted duck and sweet char siu pork belly. They’re having a Chinese New Year special menu for the entire month of February with delicacies such as Yoshihama abalone and scallops with X.O. sauce (a personal favorite of mine), plus their regular menu of dim sum, Cantonese specialties, and specialty Chinese teas. If you’re looking for a high-end Chinese New Year meal, this is the place to go.
Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.
296 Mao Tse Tung Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: 023 424 888 extension 3562
Chinese Noodle Restaurant
Expat favorite Chinese Noodle Restaurant is known for their cheap, hand-pulled noodles and homemade dumplings. This is one of those places that is often referred to as a “little-known secret” but is actually very widely known and you’ll always see at least a few English teachers enjoying their delicious fare at ridiculously low prices — a bowl of noodles can be had for less than $2. One of their specialties is Shanghai-style nian gao, also known as Chinese New Year’s cake. The dish consists of slices of chewy rice cakes, stir-fried with wilted lettuce and shiitake mushrooms in an addictive savory sauce. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to celebrate Chinese New Year, at $2 this dish is the way to do it.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
545Eo Monivong Blvd, BKK2, Phnom Penh
T: 012 937 805
At Sichuan Impression they serve up an array of authentic Chinese Sichuan dishes and hotpots. Everything is delicious, from cold sesame chicken, to the wood ear mushroom salad, to the small bowls of spicy dan dan noodles, to dumplings doused in chili oil, to the piece de resistance, a whole fish with pickled chili peppers, lotus root, and wood ear mushrooms, all smothered in garlic, spring onions, and Sichuan peppercorns, and then steamed at the table in paper. Main dishes cost between $12 and $15, and side orders were between $1 and $4. It’s not the cheapest Chinese food in Phnom Penh, but it is worth the price.
339 Sisowath Quay (at corner of Street 246), Phnom Penh
T: 069 528 555; 069 528 666
Known for roasting the best coffee in the Kingdom, Feel Good also has two coffee shops in Phnom Penh. In addition to serving a tasty cup of brew, they also have very good breakfasts and lunches. The menus are slightly different at the two locations–you might as well try them both–but we’re fond of the toasted bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon that’s available at both shops, as well as the excellent huevos ranchero at Feel Good II. For lunch there’s a selection of tasty salads and sandwiches. They’ve also got free WiFi, making it a good place to get hopped up on caffeine and get some work done.
Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
79 Street 136, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 077 694 702
Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
11B Street 29, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 017 497 538
Probably the most popular coffee chain in Phnom Penh, Brown Coffee has a dozen outlets all over town. This Cambodian coffee chain was one of the first to serve espresso-based coffee drinks, and their iced coffees and frappes are delicious. A place to see-and-be-seen for students, Brown Coffee boast plenty of big tables for work and meetings, but if you are looking for quiet, you had better go elsewhere. Their roastery on Street 57 also offers some single origin filter coffees and cold brew — be sure to specify when you order if you want yours without sugar.
Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Street 57 at Street 294, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 070 257 474
More locations: browncoffee.com.kh
For more places to drink coffee in Phnom Penh, see our guide to Phnom Penh coffeeshops.
The Providore is a new deli with attached cafe that serves up simple dishes meant to highlight the imported gourmet ingredients and coffee available at the deli. The breakfasts, from eggs and chorizo to chocolate French toast with maple-infused mascarpone get good reviews, as do their lunch sandwiches. But the standout on the menu are the platters, priced at just $10. There are French, Spanish, and Italian platters, each featuring charcuterie, cheese, and accompaniments from their respective countries — the Spanish one is excellent and very good value. Finish it off with a glass of draft Stella or a bottle of wine from their extensive collection.
Open daily, 7 a..m. to 8 p.m.
67 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 095 907 879
Irina Russian Restaurant
Long-running Irina Russian Restaurant has always deserved more attention than it has gotten. The surprising culinary diversity of the region is seen on the extensive Irina menu, which features both classic Russian and Ukrainian dishes, but also specialties from the former Soviet states, including Georgia and Uzbekistan. Vegetarians will be happy to hear that the menu also offers an extensive array of vegetarian dishes. Dishes are all reasonably priced between $4 and $7, and they also sell frozen homemade dumplings by the kilo as well as their homemade sour cream and cottage cheese for takeaway. Although Irina’s offers a delivery menu, it’s worth visiting the restaurant to see the collection of Russian and Soviet tchochkes and memorabilia. Read our full review of Irina Russian Restaurant.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
22 Street 29, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 012 833 524
The Lost Room
Open for dinner and drinks only, the Lost Room is located in the previously obscure warren of streets in the now trendy Tonle Bassac neighborhood. The cozy but stylish restaurant still has the off-the-beaten-track feel that inspired its name, and the owner and hostess, Wendy, lends the place a touch of glamour. The menu features a range of small plates that are meant for sharing, such as warm spiced goat-and-feta-cheese dip with crudites and peri peri Kampot crab cakes with onion jam. Be sure to try the crispy pork belly braised in dark ale; it will test your ability to stick to the sharing ethos.
The restaurant also has a excellent selection of creative cocktails and an excellent wine list. The bar stays open late, so even if you can’t make it for dinner, The Lost Room is a great place to stop for a drink.
Open Monday to Saturday, 5 p.m. until late
43 Street 21, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 078 700 001
Quitapenas is a high-end Spanish Mediterranean restaurant and tapas bar. Using local and imported ingredients (including Spanish jamon iberico), they serve up a delicious range of creative and classic tapas dishes. It’s a bit pricey by Cambodian standards, with the tariff for tapas ranging from $6 to $30, so be prepared to spend between $25 to $40 per person if you’re drinking wine. You’ll want to drink wine, of course, because they’ve got an extensive wine list, including Portuguese and Chilean wines and a good Spanish rioja. With the high prices, though, comes consistency, and the menu is reliably good. Ask for recommendations from chef Joaquin. If you want paella, it’s worth calling ahead so you don’t have to wait for it. They’re open for dinner daily, but also have an excellent brunch on weekends.
Open daily, 5 p.m. to midnight, plus Saturdays and Sundays 11:30 a.m. until 14:30 p.m.
#14B Street 264, Phnom Penh
T: 0888 222 880
Focusing on traditional food from Barcelona and the Balearic islands, Russian Market-based Tipico Tapas also offers dishes that fuse Spanish and local flavors. The constantly expanding drinks menu centers around wines, premium gins, and perfecting the classic gin and tonic. They offer a full bar and large glasses of red or white sangria. On weekends, Tipico offers a paella brunch special and every Wednesday is Ladies Night with buy-one-get-one-free alcoholic drinks from 5 p.m. until close.
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
80 Street 454 (2nd floor), Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 023 986 453
Friends the Restaurant
If you’re only in Phnom Penh for a day or two, make sure that the Friends restaurant is one of your stops. The restaurant seamlessly blends Cambodian cuisine with modern European fare, with something to suit everyone. They’ve got a tapas-style menu that’s perfect for sharing, with meat and seafood dishes but also an extensive list of vegetarian options. The menu changes frequently, but favorites include sauteed baby squid with Kampot pepper and rice wine and a smoky eggplant, garlic, and coriander dip served with bread. Friends also serves a mean glass of fruit: they have a nice selection of refreshing freezes, shakes, lassis, and juices.
Friends is part of the Mith Samlanh “Friends” organization that helps train homeless and at-risk youth to work in the hospitality industry. Order an extra dessert — it’s for a good cause. They’ve also got a store next door with some very cool hand-made, recycled souvenirs, and their cookbook, while expensive, is very good.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
215 Street 13, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 012 802 072
Backyard Cafe is representative of the new wave of Phnom Penh restaurants. It serves live, raw, vegan, gluten-free, and healthy foods (not necessarily all at once, though). Even if this is not usually the sort of fare you find appealing, you’ll be surprised at how delicious and filling the cafe’s food is, despite the healthiness factor.
The menu is filled with salads, quinoa, sandwiches, and lasagna made without pasta (it’s surprisingly good). After lunch, try a raw dessert made with cashew and nut “cheese” or one of the smoothies or juices. Backyard Cafe can also provide multi-day raw food and juice cleanses, including delivery to your home or work.
Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
11B Street 246, Phnom Penh
T: 078 751 715
Banh Mi & Bros
Banh Mi & Bros was started by a group of French expats inspired by the banh mi sandwich’s popularity in Paris. With brushed concrete, traditional Cambodian tiles, and a slick-looking bar, the restaurant is a far cry from the usual street stall where the sandwiches are typically sold in Cambodia. They serve eight sandwich variations, priced between $2.80 and $3.80. The ‘Special Brothers’ sandwich is a riff on the classic banh mi, made with Vietnamese pork sausage roll, ham, and pâté. It’s not cheap by banh mi standards, but it’s delicious. Touches like homemade mayonnaise and perfectly crunchy (and not sweet!) baguette make clear that this is far too gourmet to be street food.
Open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
157 Street 63 (just off of Sihanouk Blvd), BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 085 400 880
Nömpang’s Russian Market-area cafe is popular with young Cambodians because the price is right; a classic banh mi is just $1.95. And yes, it is a banh mi. They’ve hedged a bit on the name, calling the cafe Nömpang but advertising their offerings as “the best banh mi in Phnom Penh.” Nömpang’s east-meets-west sandwiches don’t have a lot of gourmet touches — they are essentially the same sandwiches you’ll find being sold out of street carts, only made hygienically and with higher-quality ingredients. Nömpang’s classic banh mi has a light layer of pâté, thin slices of pork sauce roll and ham, spring onions, cilantro, and a side of lightly pickled radish, carrot, and cucumber that you can choose to add to your sandwich.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
89 Street 163 (corner of Street 408), Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
(other locations can be found on their website).
T: 081 311 117; 077 563 132
Black Bambu, a restaurant run by the Cambodian Children’s Fund, is a high-end restaurant offering gourmet fusion dining and excellent brunches. The breakfast menu is small and changes regularly, with a range of brunchy options for around $4. We were impressed with their dinner menu as well, which features everything from tacos to grilled scallops, all plated beautifully. The restaurant is very brightly lit, so perhaps not the best place for a romantic first date.
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
#28 Street 228 (corner of Street 55), Phnom Penh
T: 023 966 895
The Tiger’s Eye
South African chef Timothy Bruyns is serving some favorites from Common Tiger’s brunch menu, along with some new Western and Asian breakfast dishes at the gastropub incarnation of his restaurant, The Tiger’s Eye. Braised short rib stirred through egg noodles and bok choy with a fried egg on top was excellent, with the tender meat holding itself together just until it’s inside your mouth. Tim’s bread — served with lightly smoked butter and vanilla tomato chutney — and his pastries are two things I order every time. The brunch menu is excellent, with breakfast items priced at $7 or $8, and the restaurant offers great views out onto Sothearos and the White Building, it’s a great place to have a leisurely if slightly indulgent morning meal.
49 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac Phnom Penh
T: 017 876 382
Enso on Street 240 has a range of international influences on their menu — shakshuka and watermelon salad with pomegranates and rose water pointing to the Middle East, avocado “smash” on sourdough evidencing an Australian influence, pancakes for the Americans, and leek pie with smoked salmon and eggs benedict with leg ham to round things (and bellies) out in continental fashion. They also offer a slew of nice juices and smoothies served in mason jars.
Open daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., closes at 5 p.m. on Sundays
50 Street 240, Phnom Penh
T: 078 626 240
The Salmon House
Salmon House is an amazing find for salmon lovers on a budget. The restaurant is run by a salmon importer who wanted to showcase the versatility and deliciousness of salmon. They have a $2.50 lunch menu that includes several types of salmon served with rice, and access to the all-you-can eat salad bar. There’s a more elaborate two-course $5.90 lunch option that changes daily. The ala carte menu is more expensive but still good value; a large plate of salmon sashimi is $5, and a platter of three types smoked salmon is $7 (although it’s served without bread or crackers). The preparation is clearly aimed at a Cambodian audience, and some Westerners may be offended by decisions like pairing smoked salmon with a honey mustard sauce, but whatever they are doing seems to be working, because every day the place is packed.
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Street 266 behind Pencil, Phnom Penh
T: 012 961 662; 061 221 113
Mr. Mab 123 Global Street Food
Want to try Cambodian street food, but worried about sanitation or unsure how to ask about ingredients? Mr. Mab 123 aims to make Khmer street food more accessible to expats and travelers. Mr. Mab 123’s menu is an ode to street food around the world. In addition to highlighting classic Khmer street foods, it offers European and Asian street favorites. The drink menu includes a wide selection of beers, cocktails, and rum and whiskey flights.This is Mr. Mab’s second Phnom Penh location, the original being a seafood and cocktail bar in BKK1. They also have two locations in Kep: one at Spring Valley Resort and one at the crab market.
Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
69 Street 123, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 087 525 777
Big Board Kitchen
Big Board in Toul Tom Pong serves up an Asian twist on the classic Austrian schnitzel. Their expansive menu includes chicken, pork, or eggplant schnitzel with various preparation, sides, and sauce options to customize your meal. Noodle dishes, fried rice, and appetizers are also available. There are many vegetarian choices including eggplant schnitzel, noodle and rice dishes, deep fried vegetables, and deep fried tofu crumble balls. Big Board also has a selection of wine, beer, and drinks including homemade lemonade.
Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
33 Street 123, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 017 841 258
Roots and Burgers
Also in Russian Market, Roots and Burgers focuses on bao buns, root vegetables and Asian fusion burgers. The fast-casual concept offers a healthier spin on the ‘burger and fries’ tradition with creative root-vegetable-based sides and toppings. Don’t worry if you’re attached to your side of classic white potato french fries — you can order those too! The root vegetable theme extends to the cocktail menu with features like the sweet potato old fashioned. Roots and Burgers also serves a variety of coffee drinks, breakfast dishes, and Asian desserts including a collection of shaved ice dishes from around the globe. Weekend brunch specials include free flow beer or cocktails.
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
80 Street 454 (1st floor), Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 023 986 452
Yes, it’s in the Lonely Planet guide, but this oddly named Keralan restaurant serves up lively, chili-infused southern Indian food — curries and thalis, with quite a bit of seafood — plus beer, lassis, and south Indian and Malaysian-style teas to boot. Try the Kadala curry, made with black chickpeas and studded with black mustard seed and curry leaf, and sop it up with well-made Keralan-style roti, a flaky fried bread. Or come in for breakfast and treat yourself to a terrific dosa — a crisp, crepe-like pancake made from a lightly fermented rice and lentil batter. Dosas come either rolled or folded around your choice of filling, a masala mixture of fragrant potatoes, onions, and spices and rich ghee, or a couple of fried eggs. The dosas are accompanied by sambal and coconut and tomato dipping sauces. The back room is air-conditioned, but we enjoyed sitting in the front and observing the neighborhood goings-on.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
13E Street 282, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 017 913 812
Piccola Italia Da Luigi
Piccola Italia is a popular pizzeria among Phnom Penh expats. The small restaurant in Tonle Bassac is always packed, because they serve the most authentic Italian pizza in Phnom Penh. Their pizzas are crispy, and thin-crust with bulbous air pockets around the rim, that holds its shape when lifted. If you’re a pizza aficionado, you’ll want to try Piccola.
36 Street 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 017 323 273
Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro
Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro serves thick-crust American-style pizzas. They’re large and substantial, drenched in cheesy, meaty goodness. A pizza here can easily make for a meal for three or four. You’ll also find burgers, cheesecakes, and a variety of beers including German and Belgian beers, and local craft beers from Cerevisia Craft Brewhouse at Brooklyn Pizza.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
20 Street 123, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 089 925 926
The Italian House
The Italian House is a quiet, cosy restaurant specializing in Neapolitan-style pizzas. What’s that, you say? Neapolitan-style pizzas are thin crust and bake at higher temperatures and and only cook in about 30 to 90 seconds in a domed brick oven. Other specifications for certified Neapolitan pizzas include using a specific type of Italian tomatoes for the sauce, using a specific type of Italian flour for the crust. The restaurant is run by Mr. Paolo, an Italian pizza maker and oven builder. The pizza at Italian House are, without a doubt, authentic and delicious.
Open daily, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
2 Street 312 (end of Street 9), Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 092 230 207
Japanese and Korean restaurants
Japanese Noodle Bar O-San
Japanese Noodle Bar O-San serves up several types of ramen and tsukemen ramen — the latter is cold noodles served with an intense porky gravy for dipping that is sort of ramen deconstructed, and perfect for hot days. The specialty of the place is tonkotsu ramen, that features a rich, milky pork bone broth that is the specialty of Kyushu in Japan where the chef hails from. We tried the special tonkotsu which could have been billed “heart attack in a bowl” — it was an enormous portion of the previously mentioned tsukemen pork gravy that is most certainly best enjoyed in small quantities. The small restaurant is casual but authentic and popular with Japanese expats. The service can be spotty, but if you’re a ramen fan it’s definitely worth a visit.
27B Street 294, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 097 9327 067
Kanji Japanese Restaurant is Cambodian celebrity chef Luu Meng’s latest venture. As with his other restaurants (Malis, Topaz, and Yi-Sang), the culinary delights at Topaz don’t come cheap. The restaurant is definitely on the upscale side, perfect for impressing a business associate or romantic partner.
Kanji’s menu is quite extensive, covering the gamut from sashimi to soup and teriyaki to teppanyaki. It’s expensive by Cambodian standards, but not ridiculous when compared to similar establishments elsewhere in the world. Prices range from $9 for tempura or $11 for salmon teriyaki to $28 for makunouchi bento or $14, $22, or $30 for a sushi moriawase combination. Read our full review of Kanji on the blog.
Open daily, 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
128F Sothearos Blvd (next to the Almond Hotel), Phnom Penh
T: 023 220 822
Sesame Noodle Bar
This undeniably popular eatery has gotten people from outside of the neighborhood into Toul Tom Pong for the first time in a long time. Russian Market is to Phnom Penh what “above 14th Street” is to the Village-dwellers of New York City–a place that’s regarded as not worth going to. But Sesame Noodle Bar changed all of that with their tiny menu of perfectly crafted meals. The stars of the menu are the sesame house noodle ($3.75) and the sesame fatty noodle ($4.50). The house noodle can also be made vegetarian or vegan, with tofu and vegetable noodles in place of egg noodles. The dishes feature chewy cold noodles with crisp cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg, and caramelized pork (for the house noodle) or pork belly (for the fatty noodle) with a cold sesame sauce. It’s simple and delicious food. The other stand-out on the menu is the thor bun (2 for $2.25)–roasted pork belly on a steamed bun with homemade pickles and hoisin sauce and a touch of sriracha. Momofuko’s got nothing on this. And on top of that, the place is cute, filled with Japanese toys and action figures. In the evenings they also serve creative cocktails.
Open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., open for dinner 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Mondays.
#9 Street 460 (between 135 and 155), Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 089 750 212
The Sushi Bar on Street 302 in BKK1 is the first Phnom Penh launch of this Vietnamese chain. It may not have the best sushi in town, but it offers the best value-for-money sushi in Phnom Penh. The menu features a huge selection of sushi, from sashimi to hand rolls to nigiri. They’ve got a great nigiri plate that features 9 pieces of sushi for $5.80. The quality is about what you’d expect from a sushi chain back home; this is not artisanal hand-crafted food, but it’s still pretty damn good.
They’ve got bigger sushi platters with 16 pieces for up to $18. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the Sushi Bar offers only sushi. They’ve got lots of donburis, or rice bowls, bento boxes, tempura, and katsu-type dishes. The restaurant itself offers chain-style ambiance of the fancier sort and is upscale by Phnom Penh standards. They’ve got seating at the sushi bar downstairs and booths upstairs. We prefer the upstairs, which offers booths and slightly more privacy than the open seating on the ground floor.
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
20 Street 302, Phnom Penh
T: 023 726 438; 023 726 439
Poki Poke Sushi Restaurant
Poki Poke in Phnom Penh explains itself by appending “a sushi restaurant” to its name, but that’s just to try and make the unfamiliar a little less frightening to Cambodia denizens. Poke is a dish of Japanese and Hawaiian roots that consists of raw fish, soy sauce, seaweed, and chili, as well as various other optional toppings. Poki Poke serves poke bowls, poke over rice, which they bill as “sushi in a bowl.” A poke bowl at Poki Poke costs just $2.50, or $3.50 for a large. Considering what you get — salmon or tuna sashimi — the restaurant offers excellent value for money. Read our full review of Poki Poke restaurant.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
71 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 017 570 923
This decidedly-not-hip Korean restaurant seems out of place on trendy Streets 29 and 308. The menu is traditional Korean fare, with (relatively) inexpensive soups and stews, braised meats and seafood, and pricier meat menu that can be grilled at the table. But the highlight is what’s not on the menu — Korean fried chicken and beer, a combination that is all the rage in Korea and served and specialty restaurants called “hofs.” At Sura you can get an entire chicken that will satisfy several people for $15. The fried chicken comes in four styles: original, spicy, soy sauce, and garlic. Served with a side of sweet marinated radish to cut through the spice, the spicy fried chicken is deliciously fiery. Pitchers of Angkor beer make the perfect accompaniment for $3.
30A Street 29, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 993 733; 077 848 707; 086 500 500
The Mexican joint in town that everyone raves about deserves all of the accolades it’s getting. The Alma Cafe’s chef, Berna, was brought straight from Mexico, and she brought her recipes with her. As a result, the menu is more authentically Mexican than any of the other places in town (most of which are Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex) and, according to its fans, more delicious.
The menu is small, offering just a few items for breakfast and lunch each day (they do not serve dinner). For breakfast, try the huevos rancheros or chorizo hash, which both get rave reviews. The lunch menu changes daily, with a daily special such as enchiladas, tortilla soup, flautas, or Mexican meatballs. Most dishes are priced at $4. Get there early, because the place is always packed.
Open daily for breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
#43A Street 123 at the corner of Street 454, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 096 438 6334
Housed in an unassuming shophouse on Street 288, Mexicano, a new BKK1 restaurant, is taking Phnom Penh Mexican food to the next level. Headed by Mario Galan Ibarra, a chef who originally hails from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the restaurant serves refreshingly authentic Mexican fare, prepared by Ibarra himself. The tacos are served on home-made corn tortillas with simple toppings, just the way it’s supposed to be. The carnitas is sensational: slow-cooked fatty pork, finished by crisping the edges so it has the traditional soft yet slightly crunchy texture. The al pastor is just as good — pork marinated with dried chili, spices, achiote, and pineapple juice. Read our full review of Mexicano.
Open Mondays 6 to 11 p.m. and Tuesday through Sunday 12 to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m.
29 Street 288 (between streets 57 and 63), BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 096 861 2353
Middle Eastern restaurants
I.R.F. Restaurant, also called ‘Taste of the Middle East’ is a small, family-run restaurant that serves up home-style Iraqi cuisine. With the matriarch of the family in the kitchen and her teenage sons acting as waiters, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting a real Iraqi home-cooked meal! Middle Eastern favorites including falafel, shawarma, and kebabs, but also lesser-known Iraqi specialities. Maqluba is rice and eggplant casserole with lamb or chicken baked and served upside-down. Kofta are meatballs, here served in two variations, one in a thick yogurt sauce, another cooked with tomatoes. Both are delicious, and like everything at I.R.F., are relatively inexpensive — most dishes are priced between $3 and $7. Flatbread and dips, including baba ghanoush and hummus are a nice addition to the meal. Finish it off with a delicate middle eastern dessert, dripping with honey and chopped pistachio nuts.
35Eo Street 19 (near Street 118) Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 098 713 443; 012 452 314
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