What we say:
Phnom Penh has always been ahead of the curve with a wide range of international cuisine for a city of its size. So it was no surprise to learn that a specialist Japanese restaurant had recently been added to the mix. What did take me aback was the reaction when I mentioned the Uraetei Yakiniku Japanese barbecue restaurant. Those friends in the know said, “Oh, the one where they shout at you?” Let’s be clear — being shouted at enthusiastically in a language I don’t understand is not my preferred way to be welcomed to any restaurant, but it is an unavoidable part of the Uraetei experience.
A short ride from Independence Monument and Boeung Keng Kang market, the restaurant’s villa appears to have been lifted straight from an Osaka suburb and plonked in BKK1, the quiet residential area of Phnom Penh favoured by expats and international schools. From the footpath lights and the tuk tuk parked outside, to the toothpick wrappers and the lampshades, no opportunity for branding has been missed.
Once you’ve run the gauntlet of staff clearly on some kind of performance-related shouting bonus, there’s a choice of seating. Downstairs are curtained booths that seat up to four, with group dining and private rooms upstairs. Carefully selected Japanese-looking art in black wooden frames lines the walls. For those who like little touches, the finger bowl, cold towel and waiter call-button are pleasingly bona fide. Cleverly arranged low cream leatherette couches allow you to sit authentically cross-legged or with legs under the table for those with dodgy knees.
Each table comes with a central brazier for the DIY meal options — yakiniku grilled over coals with a choice of beef cuts and offal, plus sides of vegetables. If you prefer someone else to do the cooking, the menu includes grilled skewers, noodle soups and deliciously comforting Korean cheese pancakes. The set lunches (teishoku style) are good value from $5.50, typically including noodle, miso soup, pickles and free rice refills. If you’re not fluent in Japanese cuisine, the pictures in the menu will guide you through.
Due to its location, Uraetei attracts colleagues having lunch, businesspeople entertaining clients and family groups working on the theory that the family that slurps together stays together. Definitely a restaurant for grown-ups, Uraetei Yakiniku is the perfect antidote to generic Western food or endless coconut curries. For less formal Japanese dining with no shouting, try Spring Vale eatery or get some fusion at Yumi on Street 288.
Contact details5 Street 360, Boeung Keng Kang 1, Phnom Penh
T: (023) 218 037
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