Eat and meet
Phnom PenhEating for a cause
Friends on Street 13, part of the Mith Samlanh NGO, trains and employs former street youth and serves up a delicious array of drinks and tapas. The food is healthy and varied, the drinks refreshing -- try anything with soursop -- and prices slightly upmarket but not beyond most backpackers' reach. The fun, colourful atmosphere and amiable staff make this spot worth going out of your way for, and of course, when you get the bill, just think of the children. It's very close to the National Museum, so you could tie in a visit to a rejuvenating break here.
Also part of Mith Samlanh,Romdeng on Street 278 just near the Independence Monument also trains former street youth and serves up traditional Khmer cuisine from the provinces. The menu features almost 40 dishes and the portions are generous. Pleasant staff serve tables inside and out, where plenty of fans make eating comfortable.
Le Rits, on Street 310 just off Norodom Boulevard has both outdoor garden and indoor air-con seating. The food is a good mix of European and Asian, with a reasonable value set menu for lunch. Service is prompt and friendly. An attached store sells everything from organza curtains to jewellery made by women trained by the NGO NYEMO, which also runs the restaurant. NYEMO offers services to about 800 'at-risk' women every year, teaching them various skills and they also take care of about 700 orphaned or abandoned children every year.
The Lazy Gecko on Street 258 offers a large selection of tasty, reasonably-priced Western dishes served in a comfortable environment. In addition to offering general travel advice, they run a bus to a local orphanage for those who want to give back to Phnom Penh's poor without being taken advantage of. They also provide tours to Phnom Tamao, a local wildlife refuge.
Friends - 215 St 13, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 802 072. http://www.streetfriends.org
Romdeng - 21 St 278, Phnom Penh. T: (092) 219 565. http://www.streetfriends.org
The Lazy Gecko - St 258, Phnom Penh.
Le Rits - 14 St 310, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 213 160. http://www.nyemo.com
Coffee shops, bakeries, delis
Jars of Clay, located near the energy-sapping Russian Market, is an expat-oriented coffee and lunch place where the food is reasonable and the setting peaceful. Scone fans will be surprised: Yes, someone actually makes scones in Phnom Penh and they serve them up here. They also bake cakes and pies to order, in case you wind up in Phnom Penh on Thanksgiving or someone's birthday. The homemade sugar cookies at Christmas-time taste just like mum's.
Check out Cafe Fresco, a trendy coffee shop and deli, below the FCC and run by the same people, for a cool smoothy and sandwich in air-con comfort or an early morning java on the patio. They have a second location at the intersection of Streets 306 and 51 in BKK 1. They offer a large selection of hot and cold beverages, and great toasted submarine-style sandwiches. A 50% discount applies to baked goods between 17:00 and 20:00.
Java Cafe and Gallery is a funky, airy place overlooking Sihanouk Boulevard -- it has an excellent breakfast menu with generous portions but somewhat high prices. Still, it's the only place in town where you can get a half-way decent bagel, and the eggs Florentine is sublime. Service, particularly at lunch, can be glacial pace -- but you don't come to Java if you're in a hurry. The interior has air-con and always displays local or foreign art shows.
Living room cafe and function space is identified by a small sign and a huge white gate. Inside, this three-floor, airy villa is filled with foreigners sipping lattes on lounge chairs and typing away on their laptops. There are side rooms for clubs and meetings, and the cafe is often the site of NGO parties and art exhibit launches. The walls double as a rotating photo gallery, and on the corkboard downstairs you can find everything from a vacant apartment to a French tutor. The fresh bread is to die for, and the coffees and teas worth the $2.00-plus price tag.
The Kiwi Bakery on Sisowath Quay is a good place to head for baked goods, as well as Western dishes and meat pies. At night, it doesn't have the best atmosphere of the riverside places, so head here for breakfast or lunch.
Cafe Poste, across the street from Phnom Penh's mammoth yellow colonial-era post office, is strikingly modern in comparison, with mirrored columns that resemble disco balls, and white tile floors that match the white pleather seating. The food is mediocre and the pastries are often stale, but it's a fine place to stop in for a caffeine boost before braving the Kafka-esque Cambodian mail system.
Jars of Clay - 39b Street 155, Phnom Penh.
Cafe Fresco - 361 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh; Street 306 corner of Street 51, Phnom Penh; #58 Street 53 at Central Market T: (012) 235 222, (023) 217 041. Closed Mondays.
Cafe Poste – 9 Street 13, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 388 020. Open daily, 06:30 to 21:30.
Java Cafe and Gallery - 56 E1 Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 833 512, (012) 833 512. Open Tues-Sun, 07:00 to 22:00.
Kiwi Bakery and Restaurant - Corner of Sisowath Boulevard and Street 130, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 215 784, (012) 218 284.
Living Room – 9 Street 306, Phnom Penh. T: (092) 311 500, (023) 726 139. cafelivingroom.com.kh. Open 07:00 to 20:30, last orders at 20:00.
Khmer and Thai
Khmer Surin is generally the first Khmer place to be recommended to visitors, hence the touristy feel to the place. The restaurant doubled in size in late 2008, and you can now enter via the original restaurant or at the "South Gate." They claim authentic Khmer cuisine and their menu is exhaustive, though leaves out market standards. The ambience resembles that of a high-class restaurant, but the prices are budget, with most mains costing about $3.50. The upstairs area features soft cushions on the floor for the comfort of Western bums. Service can be a little indifferent (when we visited, our meal came in reverse order: main, appetizer, then drinks), but if you're wary of street meat, it's a safe place to sample Khmer cuisine.
Good for lunch or dinner, Khmer Kitchen is a similar setup to Khmer Surin with reasonably priced Thai and Khmer food. The restaurants are owned by the same couple: The wife works for the World Health Organization and the husband does environmental research. The food is slightly more authentic than Khmer Surin's, and the ambience a bit more casual. The restaurant relocated to another, strikingly similar building down the street from the original in early 2009. You can eat inside or out and it's a comfortable spot – we prefer it for lunch over dinner. Service can be sleepy. Free delivery.
Khmer Saravan is the place tourists who have just arrived can visit to try their first, reliably good Khmer dish in a comfortable, expat-oriented setting. The restaurant is known for its tasty amok, and scribbled placemats and notes from customers testifying to that and other highlights are plastered all over the restaurant. The beef lok laak is tasty and the pitchers of cheap Angkor beer a bargain.
Set just across the road from the Top Banana Guesthouse, Setsara Thai Restaurant is one of our fave Thai spots. With a comfortable outdoor area and good tunes playing, Setsara will satisfy that Thai crave in style. Service is prompt and comes with a smile and the reasonable prices will leave you smiling as well. One catch--there can be a high proportion of rats scurrying around the many plants on the outdoor patio at night. This is no fault of the restaurant's as rats are a fact of life in Phnom Penh, especially in restaurant districts. If you're wary though, dine inside.
Strolling along the riverside, you're bound to notice the big sign for Chiang Mai Riverside Restaurant. Don't be put off by the menu alarmingly full of photos as the Thai food here is excellent. It's spiced down somewhat for the foreign tongue so ask for spicy if that's the way you like it. Great tofu larb.
Directly opposite the Rising Sun, Fortune Pho does indeed dish out good pho, and at $2.00 a bowl, this is one of Sisowath Quay's cheaper barang-oriented spots. Meals even come with free dessert, even if it's only sliced bananas. It's a simple, brief menu -- in fact we've never got past the pho. Friendly, dog-loving owners.
Frizz Restaurant, now situated along the upscale, tree-lined Street 240, offers a great selection of tasty Khmer food -- some of it really is top notch. Service is excellent and the English-speaking staff very friendly. They host popular day-long, $20 cooking classes with an English-speaking Khmer chef. Prepare to grind chillies in stone pots and create intricate dishes.
Don't overlook Taboo, which offers similar fare at similar low prices, and attracts a lot of locals as well as travellers. We found the atmosphere a bit livelier here and it's one of the few places along the river that actually makes you feel like you're in Cambodia.
Toward the Wat Phnom end of Sisowath Quay, Hope and Anchor does huge portions of barang and Khmer staples. Food is delicious, staff friendly and the beers ice cold. Their lok lak is enough to fill you up for a day. The setting is good too -- it's one of the few well-shaded restaurants along the riverside -- and it includes a reasonably popular bar with a pool table.
The Lemongrass is a beautiful little staple Thai food joint -- one reader wrote to tell us that the food here is 'absolutely fabulous'. We'd say the same about the atmosphere and the decor, and we're definitely impressed by the reasonable prices. The relatively new restaurant is quickly becoming the go-to place for Thai on the riverside.
Cafe Rendez-vous offers reasonably-priced Khmer and Western food, which isn't all that French despite the name. It's in a colourful corner location great for people watching and views of the river. On hot days they turn on the mist-sprayers.
Amok Restaurant &Cafe - 2 Street 278, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 912 319
Chiang Mai Riverside - 227Eo Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 832 369, (011) 811 456, (011) 872 858. Open daily, 10:00 to 22:00
Cafe Rendez-vous - Corner Sisowath Quay and Street 108, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 986 466, (092) 729 797. email@example.com
Fortune Pho - Street 178, Phnom Penh T: (017) 866 672, (011) 848 656
Frizz Restaurant - 67 Street 240, Phnom Penh T: (023) 220 953, (012) 524 801 www.frizz-restaurant.com
Hope and Anchor - 213 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 991 190, (012) 261 167 www.hopeandanchor-cambodia.com
Khmer Saravan – 16 Eo Sothearos. T: (012) 845 679, (011) 883 875. Vuthy_vann@yahoo.com
Khmer Kitchen - 25Eo Street 310, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 712 541
Khmer Surin - 9 St 57, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 363 050, (012) 887 320. Open daily, 11:00 to 21:00.
Lemongrass Restaurant - 14 Street 130, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 222 705, (012) 996 707. Open daily, 10:00 to 22:00
Laughing Fat Man - Street 178, Phnom Penh.
Setsara Thai Restaurant - 3D Street 278, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 191 1328. Open daily, 11:00 to 23:00. firstname.lastname@example.org
Taboo Bar &Restaurant - 331 Sisaowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 864 997. email@example.com
Indian and other Asian
The Boengkak Lake area has half a dozen Indian restaurants, most of which are holes-in-the-wall, but don't let the ambience put you off -- several of them offer all-you-can-eat thali feasts for about US$2, which are consistently filling and delicious. We tried out South India Restaurant and Bar and weren't disappointed.
For more fair prices, head to Sher-e-punjab Indian Restaurant. The Tandoori BBQ dishes are some of the best Indian we've tasted, and everything else is reliably top-notch, especially for the low price tag. The restaurant now has a second location on Sothearos.
In a class all by itself is Le Seoul Korean Restaurant, located between Le Royal and the Phnom Penh Hotel, and it's probably only in your price range if you can afford to stay at the former. The interior is exquisite and prices high -- you'll easily pay US$50 per person to enjoy a meal here. But it does seem to offer authentic Korean kalbi and other traditional favourites. The extensive French wine list partly explains the 'Le' in 'Le Seoul.'
Japanese food is limited in Phnom Penh, but for sushi check out reasonably-priced Origami. We found even better value and some great food at Suzume Japanese Kitchen and Pub on Street 51. It's a clean, sleekly-designed place with some Asian-style seating and sit-down tables. The menu offers Japansese favourites like donburis, yakitoris, and soba noodles from US$3 to 14, with most meals in the $6 or $7 range. Sushi's a bit more pricey with platters going from US$8-20. This place is very popular with Japanese tourists, which is always a good sign, and the owner is Japanese as well.
Laid back Balinese style permeates Bali Cafe on Sisowath Quay, creating a relaxing respite from the heat. Although it doesn't make quite as good a use of its location as the nearby FCC, this is still a reasonable spot and the food and drinks good too.
Warung Bali is a fantastic Indonesian restaurant right near the riverside, across from forgettable, overpriced Cafe 33. The decor doesn't look like much, but the place is regularly crowded with locals--a sure bet that it's good. Try the traditional fried rice. The eggplant with chilli and the tofu dishes are also both delicious.
Ebony Apsara is a small restaurant that doubles as a clothing shop. Young people lounge around on low-slung padded benches playing board games. The $3.25 breakfast special, which comes with coffee and orange juice, is a great deal.
Given the proximity of Phnom Penh to Saigon and the number of Vietnamese living here, you'd think the town would be full of great Vietnamese food. In fact, it's hard to come by, but one great place is worth checking out. An Nam is an excellent air-con spot that does great pho along with some super-tasty beef rolls, a fantastic veggie pancake thing and some phenomenal noodle dishes. The atmosphere is rather kindergarten-like, with straight-backed chairs in pastel colours. A friend once commented that it feels like being trapped inside an Easter egg. Prices are high, but the service is prompt. Don't expect to leave feeling full without spending at least $10 to $15 per person.
The newish Maxim Saigon has an extensive menu of reasonably-priced, authentic, southern Vietnamese style eats. Since An Nam is way down on the southern riverside, this is the place to head if you're staying further north. The owner of Maxim's is Vietnamese, but spent many years living in Brooklyn so speaks English like he still roots for the Dodgers.
Dosa Corner, next door to Herb Cafe and some of the more forgettable barang spots near the Golden guesthouses, features some of the best Indian in town. Grab one of the two patio tables to avoid the stifling heat inside this shoebox-size restaurants. Children are usually running around this family-owned place, and it feels a bit as if you're dining at the home of a friendly Indian family. Everything's good here. We found the fixed price lunch a bit overpriced and under-filling but order a la carte and you will be pleased.
We're actually hesitant to publicize this place because we're greedy and want to keep it to ourselves. But Chinese Noodle Restaurant, near the corner of Street 288 on Monivong Boulevard, might be Phnom Penh's best-kept secret. Outside, nightly, you can watch young men transform a ball of wheat dough into thin, perfectly round noodles, slicing and stretching, with precision and flair. The noodle soups are incredible, as are the dumplings. The woman who runs the place is surly to the point of comedy. We like to think of her as Phnom Penh's Soup Nazi (Seinfeld anyone?) and wholeheartedly agree that anyone who makes soup this good can treat their customers however they please.
An Nam - #118 Sothearos, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 212 460 . Open daily, 07:30 to 22:30
Bali Cafe Restaurant - 379 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 982 211, (012) 967 480 F: (023) 218 671. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chinese Noodle Restaurant – 551 -553 Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 937 805
Dosa Corner – 5E Street 51, Phnom Penh. Open daily, 08:30 to 14:00, 17:00 to 22:00
Ebony Apsara – 42 Street 178, T: (012) 549 373
'Le Seoul' Korean Restaurant - 62 Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 427 000, (092) 411 700, (016) 578 288. Open daily, 11:00 to 14:30, 17:00 to 23:00.
Maxim Saigon - 4 Street 130, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 868 531. Open daily, 08:30 to 21:30
Origami - 88 Southearos, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 968-095
Sher-e-punjab Indian Restaurant - 16Eo Street 130, Phnom Penh. T: (092) 992 901, (092) 261 270, (023) 992 901. Open daily, 08:00 to 23:00. email@example.com
Sher-e-punjnab II - No 72 Sothearos, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 985 844, (012) 215 578. Open daily, 08:00 to 23:00
South India Restaurant and Bar - A1 Street 93, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 316 370, (011) 638 574
Suzume Japanese Restaurant and Bar - 14Eo Street 51, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 800 367. Open for lunch and dinner, closed 14:00-17:00.
Warung Bali – 25Eo Stree. 178 T: (012) 831 528
French and European
Fancy French dining can be found at Atmosphere, though at a glance and on a quiet day it looks to be a little lacking in what it is called. The place however really grows on you and it successfully draws a regular crowd of expats and tourists alike. The food is excellent -- particularly their white/dark chocolate mousse. While it's one of the pricier restaurants in town, it's still not quite as expensive as Topaz. An outstanding French restaurant, this place disappoints only if you're vegetarian. They'll promise to whip you up something but in our case, it came in an obviously seafood stock. Meat eaters, however, could think they've died and gone to heaven with a huge range of dishes, including succulent steaks. Their creme brulee is wonderful as well. While expensive by Phnom Penh standards, it's outstanding value compared to overseas. Very professional service.
Comme a la Maison Delicatessen is a pleasant, hidden away eatery set in a garden terrace and has a laid-back but stylish French feel. The steaks offer good value, pizzas are scrummy and their salad Nicoise superb. The ice-cream desserts alone make the trip worth it. You can expect professional, warm service. They also have a great little bakery inside, with excellent croissants, and rillettes which get good reviews from our French pals.
Rega Hotel and Restaurant is a little hole-in-the-wall French and Khmer restaurant offering rock bottom prices for fabulous simple French food -- you'll pay ten times the price in the fancier digs in town. Excellent staff, though not all speak English -- French speakers will feel right at home.
Another great deal for French food is La Marmite. It has a cosy, relaxed ambience despite the plastic chairs. Very well priced, simple fare, with mains around US$4 to 6. Great Toulouse sausages with lentils.
Toward the river,La Croisette offers affordable and decent dishes. It has a good corner location and a lot of potted plants to separate you from the confusion of the streets. It is owned by Tassilo Brinzer, editor-in-chief and publisher of Southeastern Globe, a glossy monthly magazine in town. Most weekend nights Brinzer brings in German techno and house DJs, hosts theme parties, or shows movies.
Attached to the same-named small hotel, Lyon D'Or does reasonable French food and has a good, not too expensive wine list. Service is prompt and friendly. The air-con portion of the restaurant opens onto the hotel bar which can be very noisy and distracting -- particularly when combined with the funny acoustics in the restaurant. If you're after an intimate, romantic splash-out meal, this probably isn't the place for you, but if it's French food with a moderately priced bottle of wine, Lyon D'Or may fit the bill.
Though French cuisine dominates Phnom Pehn's upscale food market (for obvious reasons), the Spanish flag is well-planted here as well. Del Gusto is a charming, tucked away guesthouse and restaurant set in a lovely house with friendly staff serving salads, tapas and pita sandwiches. They stop serving breakfast at noon, and are strict on this policy, so if you want the eggs Benedict, come early. Del Gusto's only drawback is that it's a little out of the way, though most of the tuk tuk drivers know where it is, if you use the correct mispronunciation of the name, "De-goo-toh". If there's any confusion, just tell them to take you to Tuol Sleng, then make the first left after the entrance, and the restaurant is at the end of the street. Be sure to get there early to grab the best-positioned veranda table (unless we beat you to it) and snag one of the few standing fans. The music here is often lousy (think: Pussycat Dolls on full blast) but the staff is usually responsive if you ask them to turn it down or change the tunes.
Pacharan Spanish Restaurant opened in 2006 and is run by the folks from the FCC. It has tasty tapas, though servings get pricey, so check out their special which lets you sample a wide variety of menu items and includes a glass of sangria. Be sure to finish the evening with a coffee or espresso -- their machine must be worth more than most Cambodians make in a year.
Le Safran opened in January 2009. The French owner paid attention to detail here. Everything from the bright, hanging lights to the modern art hanging on the wall is ultra stylish. There's a huge patio and swanky lounge music is always playing. Its signature dish, "Le Safran,” is seafood fried in saffron sauce, served over black rice. They also serve a range of French-prepared seafood and meat dishes, as well Khmer Fondue -- a spruced-up version of the streetside soup stands, along with a dessert special that changes nightly.
Le Wok, on Street 178 near the riverside, is a bit like a miniature FCC. Its colours, like many of its colonial-style counterparts, are taupe and burgundy. The French cuisine is top-notch. Go for a fixed-price meal for $9, including three courses and an espresso. The wine list is extensive.
Atmosphere - 141C Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 994 224
Comme a la Maison Delicatessen - 13, Street 57, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 360 801, (012) 951 869. Open daily, 06:00 to 22:30. www.comealamaison-delicatessen.com
The Boddhi Tree--Del Gusto - 43 Street 95, Phnom Penh. T: (016) 865 445, (011) 854 430, (012) 565 509. www.boddhitree.com
Le Wok – 35 Eo Street 178, Phhom Penh. T: (092) 821 857
La Croisette - 241 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 220 554, (092) 971 204. firstname.lastname@example.org
La Marmite - 80 Street 108, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 391 746. Open daily, 11:00 to 14:00, 18:00 to 22:00
Lyon D'Or - 12 Street 110, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 224 298. F: (023) 217 710. www.lyondorkh.com
Pacharan - 389E1 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 224 394. pacharan.fcccambodia.com
Rega Guest House and Restaurant - 08 Street 75, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 986 251, (012) 897 205, (012) 882 810. email@example.com
Topaz Restaurant and Piano Bar - 100 Sothearos Boulegvard, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 211 054. firstname.lastname@example.org
Le Safran – 18 Street 306, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 217 646
A green oasis in a dusty city, the Garden Center Cafe is popular with expats and travellers. The menu will satisfy both carnivores and herbivores, and their yoghurt is the best in Cambodia. The atmosphere is casual and the staff friendly. We highly recommend their quiches, healthy salads, and spinach cream enchiladas -- although in our opinion their burgers are mediocre (others swear by them). They have two locations on Street 57, and Garden Center Cafe One offers free home delivery for orders over US$3 between 07:30 and 21:00.
The Shop serves up the best light Western fare on St 240, if not all of Phnom Penh, with an ever-changing menu of delicious salads, sandwiches and imaginative drinks. Only gripe here is that the lovely staff don't give table service, when in such a small place it would actually be easier for all if they did. The Shop transforms you to a brunch cafe in New York's Lower East Side. The bright bakery lists its daily dishes on the huge chalkboards lining the wall, and stacks of freshly baked breads, croissants, and pastries fill a wooden cabinet. The food is a bit cheaper than Java and some of the other competitors in the area, and the food is superior. Two doors down is Chocolate by The Shop, a small Belgian chocolate shop.
Opposite Tuol Sleng, The Boddhi Tree is an excellent garden cafe and guesthouse with a superb healthy menu, featuring mostly Western dishes with a smattering of Cambodian and Asian selections as well, plus imaginative specials. Service is prompt and friendly and the setting is very pleasant. It's worth a trip across town to get here, or at the very least, stop here for a meal before or after visiting the museum.
If you're staying in the area of the Capitol Guesthouse, don't miss out on a great, cheap meal at Mama's -- rock-bottom prices for dishes like shepherd's pie and roast chicken.
Pizza is widely available all over Phnom Penh, and the quality is generally quite good. When it comes to real, stringy, gooey-delicious mozzarella cheese, Cambodia seems to have diverted all the shipments here and left the rest of the countries in the region to fend for themselves.
Wagon Wheel has some of the best pizza in town, as well as an extensive menu of Western and European meals. Its Toul Kork location is far from the centre of town, but don't let the distance deter you. Not only do they deliver, the German owner is always grateful for an order, and often delivers the pizzas himself -- in hand-made pizza boxes wrapped in newspaper!
Luna d'Autunno promises the moon -- and delivers. The owners have spared no expense in the garden area, building a huge outdoor kitchen and renovating the house interior. The staff are friendly and attentive, and they can easily accommodate large groups.
Le Duo on Street 322 is a good spot if you can get past the 1980s-style apricot-fanned napkins in the wine glasses. The pizzas are very good -- particularly with aubergine -- and are cooked with a flourish in a wood-fired pizza forming the restaurant's focal point. Staff are attentive and the friendly hosts drift between tables making sure everything is up to scratch. Specialising in French, Italian and Sicilian dishes, the latter two seem to be what this place is about -- the osso bucco special sounds tempting. Be wary of their Calzones, however: they include the insides of your choice, but also an obligatory raw egg.
There ain't a lot of Mexican food in Cambodia, but rumour has it airline pilots fly in from Bangkok just to eat at Cantina and it's easy to see why. Despite its simple decor and plastic tables and chairs Cantina is a welcome distraction from the string of nearby happy pizza joints. A jovial atmosphere and a favourite of local hacks, Cantina has good prices and service with a smile. Look for the owner eating and drinking out front with his guests.
Freebird Cafe and Grill transports you from Phnom Penh back to the developed world. Their delicious menu includes Western mains, tex-mex, pizzas, Asian dishes, an extensive drink menu, as well as arguably the best burgers in Phnom Penh (order them well done to avoid eating raw beef.) This is a great place to eat or chill -- check out their free chilli every first Saturday of the month from 14:00 to 16:00.
Given that the town conspicuously features a 'Russian Market,' you might expect a good selection of Russian restaurants to match. While the Russians are long gone, they did leave behind Irina Russian Restaurant, which offers a wide selection of solid dishes, all of which will leave you stuffed like a Cossack. Potatoes are the main ingredient in just about everything on the menu. We recommend trying the seliodka with a few shots of their home-made vodka -- excellent. They also deliver.Kandal House is a real stand-out along the river for a great atmosphere and good Western food. Daily specials, such as pork chops and mashed potatoes, come with a glass of the drinkable house wine. The pizzas here are very good and there's always a canister of grated parmesan on the table.
If you're hankering for a juicy steak, several places along the river will oblige you, usually for about US$14 for a 200g steak. For a Texas-sized feed, head to K-West Steakhouse in the lobby of the Amanjaya Hotel -- the place is never very full or very lively, but the decor is sleek and appealing and it does offer big, thick steaks up to 400g in size. You'll pay up to US$33 for a 360g tenderloin. The rest of the menu offers standard Western favourites reasonably priced in the US$6-16 range. Free WiFi is available and it's a favourite hangout for the laptop crowd.
Located just south of the FCC, the long and narrow Pop Cafe has some of the finest Italian food in Phnom Penh. Because of its small size, a server is never far away, though it can be hard to get a table during the supper rush. Expect to spend US$7-$10 a person including a drink -- a bit steep, but worth the price.
Just off the river, down the road from the FCC, the Rising Sun does standard pub-grub -- if you're after comfort food, you could do a lot worse than here. Particularly friendly staff are a big asset along with good prices. There's a country and western music night on Fridays--so visit or avoid accordingly. The Trainspotting and blood-smeared Marlon Brando Apocolypse Now posters add to the ambience. Breakfasts here make for a good morning after a long night.
It's not much to look at, but the pizzas at Veiyo Tonle Pizza are possibly the best in town, particularly their vegetarian spread. Their carbonara is great too. A huge menu and a good position on Sisowath make this a difficult place to beat if you have a pizza craving, although it is a little more expensive than the standard backpacker places.
The Tamarind is a popular restaurant with friendly staff, one of the many great eateries lining Street 240. Specialising in Moroccan cuisine, their tagines are good value and their pastas delicious as well. Don't stop at the comfy streetside seating, but head upstairs to their terrace. It's one of the best terraces in town, breezy with groups of people lounging on pillowed sitting areas, surrounded by billowing silk curtains. The food isn't cheap, but pretty much in line with similar quality places elsewhere in town. Happy hours are from 15:00 to 19:00 daily, cocktails 50% off. This is one of the few places in town that rents hookah pipes too. We recommend the apple-flavoured sheesha.
Le Cedre restaurant is the only place to find Lebanese cuisine in town.The portions are small and overpriced, but may be worth it if you have a craving for a good chawarma. It has two locations, one in a charming villa in BKK 1, and another on the riverside just south of the FCC. The second location is a bit cheaper, although the food is slightly inferior, as is the decor. The platters are pricey at about $10, but the $4 pitas are an okay deal.
Saffron Cafe and Bar opened in 2007. This Pakastani-owned Middle Eastern restaurant is super stylish, with silk chandeliers and modern wicker chairs, and an extensive list of wines priced between $19 and $33 per bottle. Drinks are fairly priced too, at about $3 for a cocktail. The best part is the complimentary sheesha for anyone who orders a meal. We like their apple and mint.
The Riverside Bistro is in a pink colonial house with green shutters on the corner of Street 148 and Sisowath. Its menu boasts 1,015 items covering Khmer, Asian, Italian and German food.
You can do much worse on the river than The Riverhouse Lounge toward the north end of Sisowath Quay. Downstairs is fine dining while upstairs is laid back, including private balconies and live jazz. Don't let the bow-tied waiters throw you off: The food here is not only very good, it's reasonably-priced, though the drinks are overpriced.
And don't confuse either of these similar names with River Street Bar &Restaurant, on the corner of Sisowath and Street 178. This is another fine choice right near the FCC. The food is much cheaper and the number of pizza choices astounding.
Chocolate by The Shop – 35 Street 240, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 998 638
Cantina - 347 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
Freebird Cafe and Grill - 69 Street 240, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 224 712. Freebird_bar@yahoo.com
Garden Center Cafe One - 60-61 Street 108, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 997 850, (092) 429 968 . Closed Mondays.
Garden Center Cafe Two - 4 BEo Street 57, Phnom Penh. T: (092) 206 582, (023) 363 002. Closed Tuesdays
Irina Russian Restaurant - 15 Street 352, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 833 524. Open daily, 12:00 until latewww.rus-cambodia.narod.ru
K-West Steakhouse - 1 Street 154, Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 214 747. F: (053) 219 545
Le Duo - 41 Street 322, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 991 906, (012) 342 921
Le Cedre – 1 Street 360, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 997 965, (012) 810 731 (1st branch). 383 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 990 301 (2nd branch). www.lecererestaurant.com. email@example.com
Luna d'Autunno - #6c Street 29, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 220 895. Open daily, 11:30 to 14:00, 17:30 to 22:00
Mama's - 10CEo Street 111, Phnom Penh
Pop Cafe - 371 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
Rising Sun - 20 Street 178, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 970 719, (012) 970 718. Open 07:00 to 24:00
Riverside Bistro - Corner of Sisowath Quay and 148 Street, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 213 898, (012) 277 882 www.riverside-bistro.com
The Boddhi Tree - 50 Street 113, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 211 397 www.boddhitree.com
The Kandal House - 239 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 525 612
The Riverhouse Lounge - 6 Street 110, corner of Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 212 302 www.riverhousecambodia.com
River Street Bar &Restaurant – 357 – 359 Sisowath Quay. T: (092) 968 456
Saffron Cafe and Bar – 11 Street 278, Phnom Penh T: (012) 247 832. Yvette@online.com.kh Open 11:00-22:00
The Shop - 39 Street 240, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 986 964. Open Mon-Sat 07:00 to 19:00, Sun 07:00 to 15:00 Theshop.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tamarind - 31 Street 240, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 830 139. www.tamarindrestaurant.biz
Veiyo Tonle Pizza - 237 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 847 419
Wagon Wheel - #46 Street 353, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 363 600-1, (012) 873 341
Bars and pubs
Girls, don that little black dress you've got stuffed somewhere in your backpack, and guys, get out your sharpest-looking, least-wrinkled shirt and head over to happy hour (18:00-20:00) at The Elephant Bar, at the elegant Le Royal, where two fabulous Femme Fatale champagne cocktails will set you back US$8. Friday nights are most popular with the expat crowd.
Maxine's Bar on the River is almost never called Maxine's. It's Snowy's to the expats in Phnom Penh, after the friendly owner, an Australian who moved here a decade ago. The Phnom Penh institution is across the Tonle Sap from the main part of the city, so it can be difficult to access, but many motos know it. You can also grab a ferry ride across the river, though these stop at about 21:15. Snowy's old wooden walls are covered with ageing posters, the drinks are cheap, and the music is always good. The best part is the porch, which practically hangs over the river and offers spectacular sunset views.
Phnom Penh's most infamous bar and club, the Heart of Darkness, was closed for a while after a guest was shot dead in 2005 but is now up and running again. It's become a bit of a tourist trap since, capitalising on its notoriety to keep pulling in locals, expats and travellers. Some embassies warn their nationals not to come here, but to put things in perspective, a tourist was shot to death after an altercation at Hippies Bar on Ko Phi Phi in Thailand in 2006, and no one seems to be too fussed about that. Six armed guards hovered at the entrance when we visited and everyone was well frisked and searched. Once inside, we found more guards, and the place was packed with a friendly crowd of travellers and locals getting jiggy on the dance floor. We felt a lot safer here than out on the street dodging tuk tuks, but the rumour is the 'gangstas' get to skip the search at the door, and you best tread lightly if you encounter one of the 'guys' looking for trouble.
Nearby you'll also find borderline pick-up joint Howie's Bar, which doesn't really get going till after midnight, but if you feel like getting thrashed at Connect-4 by the friendly staff, you're welcome any time after 19:00.
Along similar lines, Walkabout, on the corner of streets 51 and 174, would be a homey Australian pub, but the atmosphere is brought down by the annoying throngs of white men looking to buy sex and the women who sell to them standing around at the pool table. It's a shame as the bar food is good and drinks are cheap. It's sleazy during the day but gets even sleazier as the night goes on, so pop in early for a quick one. Walkabout is open 24 hours and attracts a loyal crowd of regulars.
Next door, Zeppelin Cafe, known by locals as "Rock Bar," is sleaze-free. There's an impressive selection of vinyl records in the back of the bar, played every night by a DJ who's meticulous about playing good tunes. He encourages you to leaf through the collection and make requests. The beers here are cheaper than those nearby--a bottle of ice-cold Beer Laos is $1.50. The food is tasty and well-priced too. Try the $1.50 platter of steamed dumplings.
Another also-ran in the same category is Sharky Bar -- a large bar with a bunch of pool tables and a spacious upstairs veranda great for watching the street below. Drinks are cheap, but things start to get sleazy pretty early in the day, and it only gets worse as the night rolls on. You might check it out for the Tex-Mex take-away and delivery.
Malis is an upscale Khmer restaurant in a beautiful setting, complete with ponds and coloured rocks. It's a restaurant but we're listing it as a 'bar' because the best reason to show up here is for a drink in the evenings. Upstairs has air-con (and what are surely the most stylish bathrooms in Phnom Penh) and we found the couches outside near the bar to be a great place to kick back with a libation. The food is nothing special so try this place for a pre-night-on-the-town drink.
Gym Bar is a sports bar with two huge projector screen TVs and a satellite hook-up that gets plenty of Australian and European sports. They show mainly football and rugby, but the owner will tape and replay events at your request. They also have a decent menu, and a back-up generator to keep the on-screen action going during Phnom Penh's frequent power outages. While they excel in screens, suds and snacks, they lack air-con. Tuesdays are Pub Quiz nights, and for $1 you can answer English-oriented questions for the chance to win a $30 bar tab. It's a popular event for the activity-starved expat crowd.
Equinox is a small, open-air bar near Top Banana Guesthouse. Its draft beer specials are always a bargain. The bar features rotating photo exhibits . On any given weekend night, expect to find about half of Phnom Penh's Spanish expat community huddled around the bar. The place is often a Who's Who of other notable locals, with journalists and interns and staffers from the Khmer Rouge tribunals relaxing after a long week.
Everyone showing up in Phnom Penh seems to want to check out the famed Foreign Correspondents Club. Truth be told, this place is a tourist trap trading on its historic reputation -- it's not even a correspondent's club. On any given night you'll find tourists looking around at each other, eagerly trying to figure out what the big deal about the place is, and everyone wondering if everyone else might be one of those mysterious and elusive 'foreign correspondents'. These once-cushy postings are now held mainly by freelancers, and you're more likely to catch them at the cheaper bars off the main drag (like Snowy's or Rock Bar). However, the FCC is still a common meeting place for aid groups and local political clubs and the Phnom Penh Post staff regularly hangs out here. Nevertheless, the club is housed in a magnificent building on Sisowath Quay, with two levels of open-air terrace seating. Service can be very hit and miss, and the prices, with no entree less than $10, are definitely targeted to bilk the looky-loos, not to please local expats. The trick is to come for the atmosphere and the views, and give up on the idea of running into a stringer for Time.
Well away from the bulk of the riverside places, Green Vespa has a comfortable homey atmosphere and a well stocked bar with pool table and sports TV. Staff are chatty and a small library of guidebooks is on offer inside. Food and bar snacks are available, with limited streetside seating. They were having an unusual special on our last visit: buy three lunches, get the fourth free.
Jungle Bar distinguishes itself from its riverfront neighbours with its fast, laptop-friendly internet access priced at just $1 per hour -- if you spend more than $4 on food and drinks then the access is free. As you won't be sharing the connection with a dozen other netizens, the speed is fast and the relaxing tunes are a vast improvement on the moaning tourists that fill many of Phnom Penh's other internet cafes. Staff are cheery and the mostly Western menu affordable. They run a generous happy hour from 16:00 to 20:00. Unfortunately, this place is on the sexpat circuit, with caddish customers and flirtatious waitresses sometimes threatening to ruin our appetites.
The Metro has a sleek black modern interior that doesn't seem inviting to us but remains popular with well-heeled locals. We were impressed by the interesting Khmer-style bar food. It's basically an upscale version of one of those 'down joints' you see Cambodians eating and drinking at along Street 51.
Look for the bright green shamrock down on Street 178, a short walk from the riverfront, and you'll find Rory's Pub, operating under the stewardship of Dubliner Rory. Staff are chatty and friendly. Over time Rory's has developed into a popular spot for more than just a couple of drinks -- the collection of Irish whiskeys is a big asset. The pub fare is also popular and true to its roots -- Scottish pie and schnitzel are both on the menu. Accommodation is also available. All rooms come with A/C, cable and hot water. A single is $11; a double room with a balcony is $30.
Rubies is a unique little wine bar serving up a good selection of the nectar. The restaurant has changed hands three times in the past six years, says its Khmer bartender, and his current boss is an Englishman named Rob. The prices for wine here are competitive with what you'd be charged elsewhere -- their pizzas are excellent and inexpensive as well. Rubies has long been a popular expat hangout partially because this is one place you're guaranteed not to run into any ladies of the night. It also has a free wine tasting with discount bottles the third Friday of every month. The house wine, a reliable standard, is only $3.
Dodo Rhum House, which opened in 2006, is Phnom Penh's specialty rum bar. Its French owner makes specialty rums and his wife cooks up Carribbean food.
Green Mango has one of the best happy hours in town. Draft Anchors are 3,000 riel between 16:00 and 20:00, and other beers are $1 to $2. Its breezy, open-air seating is always welcoming, as are the many Nigerian footballers who hang out here regularly. The WiFi is always fast, and the food is good and cheap. Pizzas, wraps, and a few tasty amok dishes are on the menu.
If you're looking for a standard sports bar experience on the riverside, check out Woolly Rhino Bar &Guesthouse. It has cheap food, pool tables and an air-con reliably spits out cold air. The proximity to the bus station and boat docks makes this place appealing to visitors.
Elephant Bar, Le Royal - Street 110, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 981 888. F: (023) 981 168. phnompenh.raffles.com
Dodo Rhum House - 42c Street 178, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 549 373, email@example.com. Open 17:00-late
Green Mango – 170 Eo Street 63 (corner Street 278), Phnom Penh. T: (023) 720 470. Open 08:00-midnight.
Equinox – 3A Street 278, Phnom Penh. T: (092) 791 958. Open 07:00 until late. www.equinox-cambodia.com
Foreign Correspondents Club - 363 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 210 142, (023) 724 014, (092) 680 664. F: (023) 724 014. www.fcccambodia.com
Green Vespa - 95 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 887 228. www.greenvespa.com
Heart of Darkness - 38 Street 51, Phnom Penh. Open 19:00-late
Howie's Bar - 32 Street 51, Phnom Penh. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jungle Bar - 273B Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 474 230, (012) 994 936. www.jungle-bar.com
Zeppelin Cafe – Street 51, Phnom Penh
Malis - 136 Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 221 022. F: (023) 221 121. www.malis-restaurant.com
Maxine's Bar on the River – Tonle Sap Road. T: (012) 200 617
Metro - 271 Street 148, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 222 275, (012) 906 706. F: (023) 222 276. email@example.com
Rory's Pub - 33 Street 178, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 425 702, (012) 984 702. Open 07:00-24:00. www.rorysirishbar.com
Rubies - 13 Street 240, Phnom Penh. T: (017) 37 23 81. www.rubieswinebar.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharky Bar - 126 Street 130, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 211 825. www.sharkysofcambodia.com
The Gym Sportsbar - 42 Street 178, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 815 884. email@example.com
Walkabout - Corner of Street 51 &174, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 211 715. Open 24 hours. www.walkabouthotel.com
Woolly Rhino - 79 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 712 892, (023) 992 367. Open 19:00- late. www.woollyrhino.com
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From the blogs
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