Apr 14 2013
Settling into one of Tangram Garden’s palm-roofed cabanas, each with its very own call light for attracting the attention of your server, makes you feel a little bit special. The friendly and efficient – yet not overly formal – service, and reliable, slightly quirky food just add to the appeal of this quiet and relaxing garden restaurant in Siem Reap.
Tangram Garden is located on a newly resurfaced street less than a kilometre from the Old Market in the Wat Damnak area. However, the confusing warren of dusty roads you have to negotiate to reach Tangram Garden’s lovely new stretch of tarmac makes it difficult for most tuk tuk drivers to find it at their first attempt. So taking advantage of the restaurant’s offer to pick you up from your hotel is probably a good idea.
Once you arrive one of the staff escorts you through the lush gardens dotted with old ox carts, dug-out canoes and ceramic pots to your cabana where they explain how the call light works, flick on your fan and leave you to choose from their food, cocktail and wine menus.
Many of the cabanas house just one table, making them perfect for softly lit romantic private dining, and although some cater to more than one table at a time it is rarely busy enough for you to have to share. If romance is not on the cards and instead you are dining en famille, you can still enjoy a bit of peace and quiet by sending the children off to the playground until their meals arrive.
Starters are on the light and refreshing side and include a tasty pumpkin soup, a healthy pomelo and apple salad and a lovely hot and sour prawn soup with Thai basil, Cambodian mint (subtler than western mint) and juicy tiger prawns in a lightly spiced garlicky broth.
Mains are mostly in the $6-$8 range and are a choice of Khmer-with-a-twist and barbecue-grilled meats, fish and seafood. The fried fish with lemongrass changes according to what is available at market. When I tried it I enjoyed a fillet of tilapia, which unlike its rather sad British counterparts, was firm and tasty and came with its crisp seasoned skin still on. They also offer fried tilapia fillet with creamed aubergine, tamarind chutney, salad and mash or fries which is very good too.
For meat lovers I can highly recommend the braised ribs with palm sugar and the imported New Zealand fillet steak with red wine sauce. If ribs are your thing then try to go on a Sunday evening when you can have as many ribs as you can eat for $8.75.
Vegetarians are also catered for with a good selection of dishes such as tofu lok lak, aubergine with feta, and Tangram curry with mushrooms.
At busy periods the kitchen can slow down a bit but the staff are prompt with drinks service and the manager makes an effort to chat to his guests while keeping them up to date with their order. In fairness, if you’re not looking for a relaxing evening and aren’t prepared to chill out you might be better off with fast food and 50 cent beers on Pub Street.
There is a good value cocktail list and house wines, although not cheap at $17.50 a bottle, are also worth considering if you want to make a special occasion of your visit. The house white is a light and not-too-grassy Chilean sauvignon blanc and the house red a Chilean cabernet sauvignon. All other a la carte wines – of which there are around 10 are priced at $19.50 except for the Spanish Torres Sangre de Torre which tops the list at $24.50. House wines by the glass are a reasonable $2.75.
Desserts include caramelized pineapple, tropical fruit cocktail and sweet mango with sticky rice. All are priced between $1 and $3.
If the setting, service and food aren’t enough to have you beating a path towards Tangram Garden’s gate then their commitment to the helping their local community might just tip the scales. Locally sourced materials were used to construct the restaurant, and local produce is used wherever possible on the menu. Five percent of all profits go to two local charities supporting youth development and the restaurant also hosts monthly lunches for underprivileged children.
Tangram Garden Restaurant
Wat Damnak Village
T: (097) 726 1110
Open Wednesdays to Mondays, 11:30-14:30 and 17:30-22:00
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