Sushi in Phnom Penh

What we say: 3.5 stars

Despite the large number of Japenese expats in Phnom Penh, good sushi is harder to come by than you’d think, with most of the Japanese restaurants in town serving up primarily donburis and other Japanese home-cooking.

Oh sashimi, how do I love thee?

In the name of research, I’ve been hunting for the best sushi in Phnom Penh. Here are some of my favourites.

Origami

The oldest name in sushi in Phnom Penh, Origami flies their fish in from Japan, and has the prices to prove it. Origami is an elegant restaurant with as immaculate-as-you’ll-get-in-Cambodia service. The clientele is made up mostly of Japanese expats, leading me to believe that it’s one of the more authentic restaurants that this crazy town has to offer.

Fish flown in from Japan, you'll feel like you've flown out of Cambodia.

Sushi sets run up to $25, but they also have good lunch specials for under $15. It’s expensive by local standards, but you’d probably pay as much in the West, so it’s actually not a bad deal and the fish is pretty good. Bentos are better value but contain less actual sushi — the $12 Origami special contains sashimi, tempura and a variety of appetisers and comes with rice and miso soup, making it an excellent choice.

88 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: (012) 968 095

restaurant-origami.com

Fusion Sushi

Fusion Sushi is located inside the Cara Hotel, and is a lovely respite away from the honking tuk tuks and their excessively communicative drivers. The restaurant is Japanese and Korean fusion, with dishes from both cuisines offered, although the focus is on sushi. If you’re looking for luxury, try their $40 per person sashimi set — they say to plan for two hours of dining as they bring you course after course of sashimi, tempura, Korean soup and various other delicacies.

I was so excited to see these that my hands were shaking and the resulting photo is blurry.

If you’re not up for spending a fortune, there are more affordable choices as well. I liked the $8 salmon sashimi bibimbap — raw salmon on top of a bed of vegetables with a spicy Korean sauce and served with rice. The fish has obviously been frozen but is still quite good. They have sushi sets for $10 and other rolls including tuna, unagi, tamago, octopus and Korean kimbap. Handrolls are good value at $3 for two.

The interior is also quite nice — and fulfills my requirement that if I’m spending more than $15 for a meal, I want to pretend I’m not in Cambodia. Private rooms, bamboo curtains, soft lighting and even some of those tables where you pretend to sit on the ground but your feet are actually in a hole — couldn’t ask for more.

#18 Street 47 at Street 84, Phnom Penh
T: (023) 986 114
hotelcara.com/Fusion

Le Quay Cafe

With four types of rolls and seven types of nigiri, Le Quay Cafe isn’t going to win any awards for selection, but what they do have is tasty and reasonably priced.

Nigiri, please!

They’re owned by the same people that run Fusion Sushi, so my review of their fish is pretty much the same. That said, they’re a little bit less expensive, with nigiri priced at $1.50 each and rolls between $4.50 and $6. Their sushi and sashimi sets are also good value at $6.50 and $12, respectively.

The real standout at Le Quay Cafe is not the sushi, but the cocktail specials. From 17:00 until 20:00 they have a happy hour special — half off all cocktails which are already quite reasonably priced between $3 and $5. So while it may not be the place you go for a full Japanese dinner, it’s a nice place to stop and have a drink and a few pieces of sushi to soak up the booze.

Corner of St 110 and Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
T: (012) 673 783

Rahu

Newcomer to the sushi scene and sister restaurant to Metro, Rahu has taken the NGO population by storm and you’ll find the place filled every night with locals and expats trying to pretend they are in Miami in the 90s. (One recent review referred to their “determinedly elegant setting”).

The one thing all sushi restaurants in Phnom Penh have in common is terrible lighting.

I’ve got a number of gripes about Rahu: their overly attentive yet negligent service, freezing cold interior and perhaps the worst of all — the fish is sometimes half-frozen when it arrives on your plate. On occasion, I’ve had orders take 45 minutes to arrive in an empty restaurant because the staff were trying to figure out how to defrost the mackerel.

That said, the sushi is actually pretty good and remarkably cheap for Phnom Penh. Rolls cost around $5 and even more mind-blowing is the fact that all sushi is 50% off after 23:00 (they’re open until 02:00). Many of the sushi choices are not traditionally Japanese — they have a Korean pork and kimchi roll and a Khmer fusion option that is made of beef with fire ants, but they do also have more standard sushi choices like hamachi with scallion or the aforementioned mackerel.

10 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
T: (023) 215 179

Suzume

Suzume is a traditional sushi restaurant, with no less than 17 types of nigiri and a plethora of rolls and sushi sets. Although not as chic as the other places I’ve reviewed, Suzume has an air of authenticity that is only bolstered by the groups of Japanese expats who choose to dine here.

They say that life abroad is filled with tough choices: this is one of them.

Unlike at Rahu and Le Quay/Fusion, where the fish is just barely defrosted, the fish at Suzume is an appropriate room temperature and generally quite fresh, although I’ll admit to having been disappointed with their scallop sashimi. And as disappointed as I was with the not quite-fresh-enough scallops, I was still impressed that they bothered to serve a thing like scallop sashimi — we are in Cambodia, after all. And this is Suzume’s main draw, their wide selection. Rolls cost between $1.50 and $8 and sushi sets range from $9 to $18 for an eleven-piece set.

In addition to the many types of sushi they offer, their extensive menu also has many cooked options including ramen, udon, teriyaki and bento boxes as well as a variety of yummy appetizers.

14Eo Street 51, Phnom Penh
T: (012) 800 367

About the author
Previously, Lina has been based in Oakland, California, New York City, Dublin and London. Lina spends most of her time thinking about food, travel and synthpop. She's currently based in Siem Reap.

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