Eat and meet
Kompong ThomEating options in Kompong Thom seem fairly limited upon first glance but with some exploring it's a fun place to let your taste buds do some exploring. Both Stung Sen Royal and Arunras hotels have adjacent restaurants, with Arunras constantly bustling and Stung Sen's totally deserted when we visited. Both are set inside mammoth rooms, with large wooden tables and straightback chairs. The menus have a range of Khmer dishes and some basic Western options, too. There's also an assortment of pastries on display, including a gelatinous cake that tastes like brown sugar and sesame and isn't half-bad.
Popcorn vendors line up along the riverside park in the afternoons and a range of fruit and sandwich stands set up shop in front of Kompong Thom market from about 17:00 to 22:00. In addition to mystery meat on baguette, they'll make mixed fruit smoothies combined with sweetened condense milk and ice. There's also a section for soup vendors inside the market, just south of the bridge and identified by a huge sign. In our experience, these stands are best visited in the early mornings, when they're full of customers and the ingredients are freshest.
For fancy cocktails and high-end Western food, Sambor Village has a nice menu with an even nicer setting. Dishes include a range of steaks, pastas, and some Vietnamese dishes.
We also recommend The American Ice Cream Parlor &Hamburger Restaurant, a little place around the corner from Arunras just west of the bus stop. Run by an American, Larry, and his Cambodian wife, Sophea, their attention to detail is superb. As Larry explains, while he can save money by using cheap, local Ketchup, a hamburger isn't a hamburger without Heinz. From its red-and-green checked floor to the decorative lights on the bar, to the descriptive menu explaining from where all the ingredients are imported (ricotta cheese-Italy, beef-Australia, extra virgin olive oil-Spain, cheddar-United States), it's clear the owners are characters. Burgers and pastas, as well as some Khmer dishes that must be pre-ordered are the specialties. They also specialise in margaritas and fresh-squeezed juices, with several odd indulgences, like frozen Snickers bars and shots of good vodka. We most enjoyed the homemade ice cream in a homemade waffle cone -- a treat we didn't expect to encounter in Kompong Thom. Dishes range from $2.50 up to $10 for specialty pizzas. There's a Khmer-style bistro next door, owned by the same couple, but offering cheaper food and a place for local teenagers to hang out.
Another standout dining spot in town is Jamnorch Beoung. Located off an unmarked side street about one-half kilometre north of the bridge, it lacks an English sign and is well hidden, so get your concierge or a motodop to help you find it. The restaurant consists of several thatched bungalows sticking out on stilts from a lily pad-covered lake and connected by wooden walkways. It only serves Khmer BBQ, but unlike previous experiences, the meat provided is tender and lean, with fresh vegetables. It's do-it-yourself cooking, with a grill on the table, but the employees there will come assist you if you ring the buzzer provided. Warning: the sauce provided is not for dipping the meat after it's cooked, it's a marinade with raw eggs that you dip the meat in before placing it on the grill. We realized after generously dipping several pieces of meat in it like it were hot sauce.
Arunras Restaurant: Next to the hotel and the bus stop. T: (062) 961 294 ; (012) 836 107. Open daily.
Jamnorch Beung: On the lake just north of the bridge. T: (097) 871 2191. Open daily 09:00 to 24:00.
Sambor Village: Democrat Street, 600 metres from National Road 6. T: (017) 924 612 ; (0162) 961 391. Open daily. www.samborvillage.com
Stung Sen Restaurant: Just southeast of the bridge, next to same-name hotel. T: (012) 309 495 ; (062) 961 228. Open daily.
The American: Behing Arunras on Sereipheap St. T: (092) 579 410. Open daily, 07:00 to 20:00. www.americanrk.com
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