Casual Japanese dining in Phnom Penh

What we say: 3.5 stars

There’s much more to Japanese cuisine than just sushi, and there’s no better place to find out than Cambodia. In Phnom Penh a number of restaurants have recently been opened by Japanese expats that specialise in Japanese casual dining — simple, cooked meals and rice bowls that are made just the way they are in Japan to appeal to homesick expatriates.

Try to say okonomiyaki five times fast.

Serving up Japanese comfort food, Spring Vale opened in March in a tiny space near Russian Market. Run by a friendly Japanese family from Hokkaido who speak excellent English, the restaurant is open for lunches and dinners on Friday and Saturday.

The perfect spot for a post-shopping break near Russian Market.

The Spring Vale menu consists of donburis such as oyakodon, butadon and katsudon as well as other Japanese favourites like curry, croquettes, tempura, udon and tofu prepared in a variety of ways. Perhaps most exciting to see on the menu in Cambodia is okonomiyaki, a Japanese savoury pancake topped with mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce, which is similar to Worcestershire sauce but more delicious. They also have some rice bowls with raw fish that are good value.

27 St 450, at St 135, near Russian Market, Phnom Penh. T: (089) 343 597
Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 – 15:00, Friday and Saturday 11:30 to 19:00. Closed Sundays.

Oh ramen, how do I love thee?

Furusato on St 278 is a casual Japanese restaurant serving up donburis, ramen and variety of classic Japanese appetisers and cooked dishes. The owner moved to Cambodia last year from Japan and worked in Phnom Penh as a Japanese teacher. Six months later he opened this small restaurant, hiring his (Khmer) Japanese students as the waitstaff. The rice bowls are good but the ramen is better — they import the flour from Japan and make their own noodles on-site. Ramen purists will claim that it’s not the same as what you’ll get in Japan and while that’s true, it’s still delicious. The tantanmen, ramen noodles in a sweet sesame seed broth with spicy pork, is particularly tasty. Mains cost between $3.50 and $5. Japanese beer and sake is also on the menu.

3BEo St 278, Phnom Penh. T: (092) 123 191
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 17:30 – 22:30.

Just like mamma would have made!

Opened in August, Nagomi is the newest Japanese restaurant in town, with perhaps the smallest menu. Chef Yoshitaka Miyamoto serves up just a few items such as croquettes, karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and gyudon, a beef and rice bowl. Nagomi is going to appeal to those looking for an authentic, home-cooked Japanese meal. Diners are given the option of choosing Cambodian rice or paying a dollar extra for Japanese rice. Whichever you choose, the dishes are in inexpensive — between $3 and $5 — and the portions are large. Nagomi is part of the same group that runs Marine House, in fact, the restaurant is the other half of the Japanese goods store run by the marine industry organisation with a new wall erected to separate the two.

25 Mao Tse Tung Blvd, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 222 608
Open daily 7:00 – 10:00, 11:00 – 14:00.

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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