Jan 23 2013
We’re busy traversing the world via Siem Reap’s food… we’ve covered half of it, so now we’re moving on: It is a dazzling reverse-curse that Siem Reap’s Indian restaurants are all fantastic and so it feels terribly wrong having to choose among them. If you’re in need of some air-con relief then The Indian is definitely your stop — do not forget to order the garlic nan, which will render you kiss-proof for days. The menu is slightly more expensive here, they have to pay for the air-conditioning somehow, but the food is great and beautifully served. The set-up is much more simple at Maharajah, but they probably offer the best food at the best value in town, with generous portions and delicious, beautifully balanced dishes. If you’re visiting the night markets (the original, good ones off Sivatha Boulevard, opposite Street 7), then Ababa Curry House is a great spot for a scrumptious curry and a beer. The sauces are perfectly prepared, and it’s a great spot for taking in the surrounding atmosphere as well.
Heading further west, the fabulous Mezze Bar just off of Pub Street serves up a truly delicious range of authentic Middle-Eastern dishes that is really amazing value too. This is by a long mile one of the coolest bars in the Pub Street area, and they also host regular salsa classes if you fancy brushing up on your moves. Check with them for details. Mezze Bar is a definite on my list of top ten bars and/or restaurants in Siem Reap.
Of course, Cambodia was once a French protectorate and then colony, so it’s not hard to detect a distinct Gallic influence in the restaurant scene, and it’s not just the enticing wafts of garlic wending their way down the street (someone once remarked that the beginning and ending of happiness can be found within the borders of those places that liberally use garlic in their cooking, which is a thoroughly reasonable assessment in my view). One of the all-time favourites is Barrio, which recently relocated to a larger premises on Wat Bo Road. They serve good, every day French food, not the fancified version you find in most French restaurants, relying on simple ingredients properly prepared and the results are delicious. The garden-restaurant has been created in a soft-Mediterranean style, and is immensely popular with expats and visitors alike. We’ve written about some other great French restaurants before.
I have a theory about British food which posits that the cuisine from the soggy isles may once have rivalled that of its continental cousins, and in fact been more varied, creative and flavourful than the cuisine of the Jeannie Come Latelies across the water. I can back it up too if you fancy hanging around after picking yourself up from the floor.
In the midst of the deep perversion which saw them lose so much of that splendid culture, the Brits did manage to hang on to a few good things though, the traditional Sunday roast being one, and you can find an excellent example at Molly Malone’s each weekend, complete with all the trimmings. For a more Australian-style approach to this weekly treat, check out the Angkor Bodhi Tree Riverside Cafe. Any Brits missing their Mum’s sandwiches would do well to head for The Warehouse, where a steady secret supply of Branston pickle tickles the palate.
Heading across the Atlantic you may find a debate about the true origins of the hamburger, but you’ll find few dissenters in Siem Reap about the best places to find one in this town. Top of the list is Abacus with a superb example of the famous sandwich, served in their beautiful garden or air-conditioned restaurant. Possibly sharing poll position, the burgers at Cafe de la Paix will melt the strongest of wills, including the option of beetroot for the Aussies. For those who prefer a vegetarian take (if that’s not too much of a heresy to include in the same paragraph), then the pumpkin burgers at Haven are a must. I don’t know if it can striclty be counted as American, or really know which part of the world the recipe comes from, but it’s seriously darned good.
Oh, I forgot to mention the Mexicans!
2 Thnou Street
T: (017) 928 471
T: (092) 506 622
Ababa Curry House
Angkor Night Market
T: (012) 630 402
Pub Street Area
T: (077) 417 997
Wat Bo Road
End of Pub Street
T: (0)63 963533
Angkor Bodhi Tree Riverside Cafe
Riverside (just north of Old Market)
T: (088) 606 5906
T: (012) 530 227
Off Route 6 (Airport Road)
T: (063) 763 660
Cafe de la Paix
T: (063) 966 009
Sok San Street (20m behind X-Bar)
T: (078) 342 404
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