Jan 29 2013
If you’re travelling around Asia for a while, the time comes when fish sauce, rice and curries lose their novelty, and your mouth starts craving new taste sensations. Fortunately, Phnom Penh has a world of cuisine available at reasonable prices, so there’s no need to tame your tongue. Near the Post Office Square at the quieter end of riverside is the bustling Beirut Resto-Cafe — no prizes for guessing the origin of this menu! Beirut is perfect for halal eaters, lamb lovers, and those addicted to hummus.
Having never visited Lebanon, I’m hard pushed to say whether pink walls, black tiles and ‘pleather’ chairs is standard decor for eateries, but there’s nothing shy about the inside of this diner. The dark wooden tables seat two to six people in a slightly steamy atmosphere due to the proximity of the kitchen. Upstairs, the low tables and bedouin cushions are designed for larger groups to lounge under the gaze of aristocratic looking men peering down from portraits. The shishas dotted around are not just for decoration — the 16:00 to 20:00 happy hour gets you a shisha and mint tea for US$8.
If this kind of food is new to you, the menu carefully explains the basics of Lebanese cookery, as well as listing some Lebanese food world records. Choose from wraps, salads such as tabbouleh and fatoush, cold and warm mezze and shawarma stuffed to bursting with meat, fries, vegetables and garlic sauce. If you’re eating with friends then a table full of mezze, with hummus and minced lamb, stuffed vine leaves, falafel, smoked potatoes and skewered cubes of melt in the mouth meat, can keep you fuelled for hours of conversation and shisha puffing.
As the ingredients used aren’t common in Asian cooking, prices here are surprisingly reasonable. A set of mezze runs from US$8 to US$14, salads are around US$4.50 and a large manoushi pizza comes in at US$6. The approach is friendly, filling food rather than fine dining, and the good value for money reflects that.
If you’re staying in the BKK area but still fancy some Middle Eastern cuisine, The Village on Street 360 serves up Lebanese and fusion food with live music performances. If it’s the shisha you’re after, you might also like to try Harem, a more ostentatious lounge bar closer to the main riverside action.
Beirut Resto-Cafe and Shisha Lounge
117 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
T: (023) 720 011
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