Eating in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh has a cracking selection of restaurants that showcase the best of Khmer cuisine, as well as offering a healthy hitlist of international food’ that includes Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai and French. Visitors to Phnom Penh are quite literally spoilt for choice these days. Most local restaurants open around 6.30am and serve food until 9pm or so. International restaurants stay open later, until 11pm or so, but some close between breakfast and lunch or between lunch and dinner.
The best bet for budget dining in Phnom Penh is to head to one of the city’s many markets. The dining areas may not be the most sophisticated in the world, but the food is tasty and cheap.
If the markets arc just too hot or too claustrophobic for your taste then look out for the mobile street sellers carrying their wares on their shoulders or wheeling it around in small carter.
Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC)
Local hole-in-the-wall restaurants are slightly more civilized but still very cheap. Many of the international restaurants around town, and there are plenty of them, are expensive by local standards, but compared with dining in the West, the prices are still absurdly reasonable.
Several of the guesthouses around town have popular restaurants and some tasty food, but with so much good grub available in Phnom Penh it seems a shame to get into the habit of chowing down at the nearest terrace.
Most of the big hotels have in-house restaurants with multinational menus, but prices tend to be high and tax and service is extra adding up to a multinational-sized bill.
Scattered around town are numerous Khmer restaurants that set up outdoor tables and chairs in the evenings. These places rarely have English signs and are as much about drinking beer as about eating, but they’re lively places for an inexpensive meal and the food is usually very good.
Add: 292 Ph 214, Phnom pleung – Price: US$3, mains US$2-5
Just off the main Monivong drag, this is the most popular cook-it-yourself restaurant in Phnom Penh, heaving with Khmers every night, and a lively ot to pass an evening as an amateur chef.
Chaay Heng Restaurant
Add: Corner Ph 125 & Sihanouk Blvb – Price: mains 6000r
A long-running local restaurant, this place offers a good selection classic Cambodian cuisine. Be prepared to be ambushed by ‘beer girls’ as soon as you sit down, with almost as many drink promoters as dishes on the menu.
Goldfish River Restaurant
Add: Sisowath Quay – Price: mains US$2-4
Perched on stilts over Tonle Sap, opposite Ph 106, this is a good Cambodia restaurant for authentic flavors and a cooling breeze. Crab with black pepper is a light, but there is something for everyone on the extensive menu. Save some space for e tasty banana flamebees.
Sa Em Restaurant
Add: 379 Sisowath Quay – Price: mains US$ 1-3
More of a spit-and-sawdust place than some, this atmospheric little diner on the riverfront is great value for the location. Simple dishes like fried rice and noodles are cheap and filling, and large Angkor beers are just US$1
Add: 2 Ph 278 – Main: mains US$3-6
Amoc Café is under the same ownership as Khmer Surin, with a similar theme, and is named in honor of one of Cambodia’s national dishes. It serves delicious amoc (fish coconut curry in a banana leaf), as well as a maze of Khmer and Thai favourites.
Add: 19 Ph240 – Tel: 220956
One of the newer venues on fashionable Ph 240, this lovely little restaurant-bar offers authentic Khmer flavours in refined surroundings. Warm up downstairs with a drink before heading up to the balcony for a memorable meat.
There are numerous Chinese restaurants around Phnom Penh, many offering an authentic taste of the Middle Kingdom. There are several real-deal Chinese restaurants along Ph 136, opposite the Phnom Penh Public Transport bus station, with names like Peking and Shanghai. These are the perfect place for a meal before or after a long bus ride.
Chong Qing Restaurant
Add: 727 Monivong Blvd – Price: mains US$1-5
This restaurant is popular with Chinese residents Phnom Penh always a good sights and specialties in Sichuan soup cooked at your table. For the uninitiated, the dining table has built-in pots shaped like Yin and Yang; one side is fiery chilli soup, the other a light broth, and ingredients can be dunked in either side.B
Tel: 364005 – Add: 753 Monivong Blvd – Price: mains US$5 & up, up, up
This place is a heavyweight Chinese dining experience, including delicacies such as goose webs and abalone. But meals here are very expensive by local standards.
Chiang Mai Riverside
Add: 227 Sisowath Quay – Price: mains US$2-5
The name gives away the prime riverfront location of this popular Thai restaurant, which serves the true taste of Thailand. On offer are tasty fish cakes and a good range of curries.
Tel: 362991 – Add: 2 Ph 306 – Price: mains US$3-5
The name, Thai House, might not rate as highly original, but the setting is, housed within a classic Khmer house. It offers a choice of traditional floor seating or tables and chairs, and there is a lunchtime canteen downstairs for those eating on the cheap.
Boat noodle restaurant
Add: Ph 294 – Price: mains 2500 – 10,000r
Still the cheapest Thai restaurant in town, this place draws Cambodians, Thais and tourists in search of memorable meal. Soups and noodles are a bargain, but nothing will break the bank.
Add: Ph 310 – Price: mains US$1-3
Twice located in the last few years, who is to say it won’t move again! This is a long-running Thai eatery with a good selection of US$1 specials for a quick snack.
Add: Sihanouk Blvd – Price: mains 3000r
For cheap and delicious pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup), try this local restaurant on the corner of Sihanouk Blvd and Ph 21. It does genuine pho with all the accompaniments. A bowl costs just 3000r
Tel: 212460 – Add: 118 Sandech Sothearoi Blvd – Price: mains US$2-5
Currently the classiest Vietnamese restaurant in town, An Nam has a good range of dishes from central Vietnam and beyond. It looks more like a diner that a refined restaurant in la Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.
Tel: 982211 – Add: 379 Sisowath Quay – Price: main US$2-4
Bringing a bit of Bali to the river- front of Phnom -Penh, this huge upstairs restaurant has a serious selection of Indonesian food. All the favorites are found here from nasi goreng; (fried rice) to gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce) there are some special set menus.
Tel: 362349 – Add: 345 Sisowath Quay – Price: mains from US$4
This is a Phnom Penh institution thanks to its special pizzas. The non-marijuana pizzas are equally good and don’t mess with the mind.
Nike’s pizza house
Add: 160 Ph 63 – Price: mains US$4
Definitely one of the better pizza houses in town, contrary to what you might k looking from the outside. There are nearly 50 variations to choose from and menu includes pastas, side salads and gnocchi. Free delivery.
Add: 371 Sisowath Quay – Price: US$2-6
Blink and you’ll miss it, but this teeny tiny café authentic Italian cooking with the Mekong River as a backdrop. Soups, pastas and regional dishes make up the small menu.
Add: 6C Ph 29 – Tel 220895 – Price: mains US$4-10
The capital’s newest Italian eatery is housed in a beautiful building with a lush tropical garden. The outdoor kitchen fires up. The most authentic pizzas in town and indoors is a sophisticated restaurant with a huge walk-in wine cellar. Already hugely popular in Hanoi, it looks set for success in Cambodia.
As is the case almost everywhere, Japanese food in Phnom Penh is expensive.
Add: 88 Samdech Sothearos Blvd – Price: set menus US$6-15
The best-value Japanese restaurant in town, this little place is full of character thanks to the charismatic owner. Set menus include the cracking-value origami set (US$6), beautifully presented sushi, sashimi (US$15) and tempura sets, and there is a small Japanese-style tatami (women matting) dining area.
Tel: 218394 – Add: 39 Sihanouk Blvd – Price: mains US$5-15
The ambience is authentic; the individual rooms are decorated with tatami for group dining. The food has a good reputation, but there’s something galling about paying Tokyo prices for a meal in Phnom Penh.
Comme a la Maison
Add: 13 Ph S7 – Tel: 360801 – Price: mains US$3
Just like the name suggests, it’s like eating at home, although you’d be lucky if you ate this well every night. Succulent steaks, healthy salads and plenty of provincial French dishes make this a worth-while detour for those seeking the Gallic touch.
Add: Ph 94 – Tel: 012 371227 – Price: mains US$4-8
The accent is predominantly French, with a menu of steaks and salads. Located on the northern side of Wat Phnom, it is often heaving with well-heeled expats.
Add: 1A Ph 102 – Tel: 990880 – Price: mains US$6-20+
If Cambodia awarded Michelin stars, this place would be near the front of the queue thanks to indulgent flavors such as scallops flambéed in brandy and imported Chateaubriand. Expect a Parisienne-sized bill though.
The number of international restaurants in Phnom Penh is multiplying by the year as tourism really takes off and between them they offer a tantalizing array of cuisines.
Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC)
Add: 363 Sisowath Quay – Tel: 724014 – Price: mains US$5-10, set menus US$10
The F, as expats like to call it, is housed in a grand old colonial-era building. It has a popular restaurant and bar on the 3rd floor with impeccable views of the Tonle Sap river to the east and the National Moseum to the west. Dishes come from all corners of the globe and the daily set menus are a good option for the undecided. There are also a couple of rooms to stay.
Add: 1 Ph 184; mains US$4-12
Occupying the cutest little colonial-era building in town, this small restaurant has a rooftop terrace for cool breezes and a classic view of the Royal Palace. Dishes are predominantly French and include a good selection of imported cuts as well as innovative entrees.
Mekonq River Restaurant
Tel: 911150 – Add: corner Ph 118 & Sisowath Quay – Price: mains US$2-9
A relative newcomer on the riverfront, the US$6 thrt colirse set menus are great value and include several Asian and international choise. There is also tapas for inveterate snackers.
All Asian food is fast, but here we are talking about the sort of places that do burgers, French fries and the sort. The good news is that at present none of the big fast-food chains grace Phnom Penh, just a few copy- cats including Lucky Burger, part of Lucky Supermarket.
More popular than these copycats are the Khmer burger joints opening around town that pull in students between and after classes. There is a whole strip of them on Samdech Sothearos Blvd south of the Royal Palace, including Mondo Burger. Don’t expect McDonalds, but at least the food has flavour.
California 2 Guesthouse
Tel: 9892182 – Add: 317 Sisowath Quay – Price: mains US$2-4
A popular stop for bikers, Cambodia’s very own biker cafe even, this place has a small menu of burgers, steaks and Mexican favorites. Very, very cheap beer!
Tel: 1360535 – Add: 116 Norodom Blvd – Price: mains US$1.50-4
The restaurant has had a serious atmosphere by-pass in recent years, but the takeaway menu (free delivery) may be an option if you want to eat Mexican.
Garden Center Café
Add: 23 Ph 57 – Price: mains US$3-6
Excessively popular with expats for its massive breakfasts and home-cooked lunches and dinners the portions here are huge, and most meals include a side salad. The menu includes a lot of Western food, superb Sunday roasts, a selection of Thai dishes and some great desserts.
Tel: 987420 – Add: 56 Sihanouk BIvd – Price: mains US$2-5
It is easy to while away time on the breezy balcony here thanks to a creative menu of salads and sandwiches, innovative and wholesome burgers and daily specials. Drinks are a speciality, including – surprise, surprise – coffee from several continents and great shakes.
Add: 39 Ph 40 – Price: mains US$2-5
Anyone who loves delis back home will enjoy a visit to this little eatery. There is a daily selection of sandwiches and salads) plus some superb pasties if you leave the space. Don’t forget the lively shakes such as banana, date and molasses.
Chit Chat Café
Tel: 221535 – Add: 146 Sihanouk Blvd – Price: bubble tea 5000r.
The Mondulkiri Café
Add: 4 Ph 63 – Price: bubble tea 5000r.