May 12 2012
Update: Villa Khmer is closed.
A short stroll from Independence Monument, Villa Khmer is situated on a leafy side street off Norodom Boulevard. The red and black décor adds a chic touch which emphasises that this isn’t just another cheap eatery. There’s a choice of seating in the airy bamboo courtyard, including a cabana with a low table for relaxed group dining. Upstairs offers more secluded eating areas, including a private dining room which can be booked in advance.
The restaurant specialises in north Cambodian folk cuisine and it’s the perfect place to explore Khmer food beyond amok and lok lak. To help you on your way, the menu includes an explanation of some of the key ingredients. We’d recommend the salads (from US$2) to get your taste buds tingling with papaya, shrimps, banana flower and green mango, plus lashings of fish sauce. Other specialities include a choice of 12 soups, roasted frogs (US$8.75 for a large plate) and deep fried whole fish (US$9.50). The plates are generously portioned: a small dish with rice is ample for a single diner. To finish off, the selection of one dollar desserts – love cake, palm fruit with sticky rice, banana and coconut tapioca, Kapok tree resin – is just begging for a tasting session.
The biggest draw here, however, is the lunchtime buffet from 11:30 to 14:00, which is excellent value for money at US$2.75. A typical grazing includes a choice of steamed and fried rice, ground pork with aubergine, curried vegetables, omelette, lotus shoot salad and pork soup, plus a sticky sweet potato with coconut dessert and fresh fruit. As in any good Asian restaurant, the tea is free.
Villa Khmer is bustling with Cambodian and foreign office workers at lunchtime, and is a favourite with groups of friends and couples daytime and evening. If you want a food adventure, but with real cutlery and the option of a bottle of wine, this place is for you.
Thanks to the number of tables, you generally won’t have to wait to be seated. If you do need an immediate alternative, Sweet restaurant nestled in a 1960s villa next door should satisfy your Khmer food cravings. If you’re not as concerned about ambiance, nearby Sovanna is justifiably popular for its wide-ranging menu of local fare, but hearing yourself talk can be a struggle.
#21B Street 294, Phnom Penh
T: (097) 898 5539
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