What we say:
The rest of the world may be coming late to Siem Reap, but this town hasn’t stinted when it comes to serving up top quality food from almost every corner of the globe and you can travel the world from here, provided you’re happy to use a plate instead of a magic carpet. We are still missing out on one continent, and hopefully we may see some African food here one day soon, but for the rest, well, there’s plenty from the world’s menus to satisfy everyone’s appetite.
Starting off in the near region, you can find good value, dependable, if not necessarily hugely exciting, Vietnamese food at The Soup Dragon on Pub Street, while Paris Saigon offers a romantic mix of Vietnamese and French classics in a very stylish, white tablecloth setting. For some excellent Burmese food check out The Mandalay Inn, a backpacker guesthouse that consistently receives high praise for the quality of its food and service.
It is freakishly difficult to think of a place that serves a proper menu of quality Thai food, which is weird as it’s one of the most popular cuisines in the world, just not in Siem Reap it would seem. For fans, most of the restaurants on and around Pub Street will serve something on the menu that is recognisably Thai, but if you like yours spicy, you may need to say so.
Heading further afield, fans of Japanese are very well catered to, though I regret to say that I have yet to really explore this culinary area. I have heard very positive reports from Japanese and non-Japanese friends alike on The Hashi, a beautiful and stylish restaurant that has just opened on Sivatha Boulevard, and serious sushi and sashimi fans are strongly advised to make their way to Sokha Angkor Resort, where they’ll find the best in town, albeit at a price. Cafe Moi Moi is in a very pretty location on Charles de Gaulle Avenue (don’t be put off by the surroundings, once you’re in the garden, it’s lovely). The menu is a mix of Japanese and Khmer, offering simple dishes done well. In town, the Yokohama restaurant on The Alley (beside Miss Wong) is a cool and kooky little hangout with a friendly, open atmosphere and delicious, good value food.
On the east side of the river, you’ll also find Moloppor Restaurant with a great riverside location and a menu that features an extensive list of good value small plates, including Japanese barbecue and dumplings. The restaurant is small, and the atmosphere usually pretty lively as it’s a popular hangout. The plates are cheap, and also small, but it’s fun to order lots and share.
For a little Chinese, you can head next door to the newly expanded Miss Wong, complete with a fresh and expanded menu. They’ve been working for months on getting the tastes just right on a small but fantastic menu that features sliders with duck or barbequed pork, lion head beef balls or delicious dim sum, and more, all perfect accompaniments to Miss Wong’s famous cocktails. Hungry devotees of sticky dumplings should head to The Loft where an extensive Chinese and Cambodian menu offers a large plate of the most delicious dumplings that are incredibly good value. You can also find here a great selection of Chinese soups, noodles and stir-fries.
Fans of Italian food are truly spoiled for choice as well. Out of town, there is the long-running l’Oasi, with their lovely garden setting and delicious in-house cheeses and cured meats. Further in town, Mammashop is in a quiet, but growing, street near Central Market and sells a fantastic selection of cheeses, meats and other Italian treats. There is a cosy, air-conditioned dining area upstairs where you can tuck into some of Rosa’s delicious home-made pastas and sauces, baked dishes such as lasagne and melanzane, salads, desserts and, of course, a great selection of Italian wine. Just off Pub Street, Il Forno is a fabulous little spot that has, rightly, been immensely popular from the very first day they opened their doors. Their menu includes all the classics, but they also serve up specials such as a divine roast pork belly (a real treat), or a selection of tasty lunchtime sandwiches to get you over the midday hump if pizza or a pasta are a little too much for hot stomachs.
If you’re in need of some air-con relief then The Indian is definitely your stop — do not forget to order the garlic nan, which will render you kiss-proof for days. The menu is slightly more expensive here, they have to pay for the air-conditioning somehow, but the food is great and beautifully served. The set-up is much more simple at Maharajah, but they probably offer the best food at the best value in town, with generous portions and delicious, beautifully balanced dishes. If you’re visiting the night markets (the original, good ones off Sivatha Boulevard, opposite Street 7), then Ababa Curry House is a great spot for a scrumptious curry and a beer. The sauces are perfectly prepared, and it’s a great spot for taking in the surrounding atmosphere as well.
Heading further west, the fabulous Mezze Bar just off of Pub Street serves up a truly delicious range of authentic Middle-Eastern dishes that is really amazing value too. This is by a long mile one of the coolest bars in the Pub Street area, and they also host regular salsa classes if you fancy brushing up on your moves. Check with them for details. Mezze Bar is a definite on my list of top ten bars and/or restaurants in Siem Reap.
Of course, Cambodia was once a French protectorate and then colony, so it’s not hard to detect a distinct Gallic influence in the restaurant scene, and it’s not just the enticing wafts of garlic wending their way down the street (someone once remarked that the beginning and ending of happiness can be found within the borders of those places that liberally use garlic in their cooking, which is a thoroughly reasonable assessment in my view). One of the all-time favourites is Barrio, which recently relocated to a larger premises on Wat Bo Road. They serve good, every day French food, not the fancified version you find in most French restaurants, relying on simple ingredients properly prepared and the results are delicious. The garden-restaurant has been created in a soft-Mediterranean style, and is immensely popular with expats and visitors alike. We’ve written about some other great French restaurants before.
I have a theory about British food which posits that the cuisine from the soggy isles may once have rivalled that of its continental cousins, and in fact been more varied, creative and flavourful than the cuisine of the Jeannie Come Latelies across the water. I can back it up too if you fancy hanging around after picking yourself up from the floor.
In the midst of the deep perversion which saw them lose so much of that splendid culture, the Brits did manage to hang on to a few good things though, the traditional Sunday roast being one, and you can find an excellent example at Molly Malone’s each weekend, complete with all the trimmings. For a more Australian-style approach to this weekly treat, check out the Angkor Bodhi Tree Riverside Cafe. Any Brits missing their Mum’s sandwiches would do well to head for The Warehouse, where a steady secret supply of Branston pickle tickles the palate.
Heading across the Atlantic you may find a debate about the true origins of the hamburger, but you’ll find few dissenters in Siem Reap about the best places to find one in this town. Top of the list is Abacus with a superb example of the famous sandwich, served in their beautiful garden or air-conditioned restaurant. Possibly sharing poll position, the burgers at Cafe de la Paix will melt the strongest of wills, including the option of beetroot for the Aussies. For those who prefer a vegetarian take (if that’s not too much of a heresy to include in the same paragraph), then the pumpkin burgers at Haven are a must. I don’t know if it can striclty be counted as American, or really know which part of the world the recipe comes from, but it’s seriously darned good.
Oh, I forgot to mention the Mexicans!
The Soup Dragon
T: (063) 964 933
Samdech Tep Vong St
(Off East River Road)
T: (012) 605 780
Psar Khroung St
T: (063) 761 622
Sivatha Blvd (Opposite Lucky Mall)
T: (077) 641 499
Sokha Angkor Resort
Junction of Route 6 and Sivatha Blvd
T: (063) 969 999
The Lane (beside Pub St)
T: (092) 637 053
The Lane (beside Pub St)
T: (092) 428 332
East River Rd
T: (092) 418 917
636 Hadgang St
T: (012) 833 985
Off Pub St
T: (078) 208 174
2 Thnou Street
T: (017) 928 471
T: (092) 506 622
Ababa Curry House
Angkor Night Market
T: (012) 630 402
Pub Street Area
T: (077) 417 997
Wat Bo Road
End of Pub Street
T: (0)63 963533
Angkor Bodhi Tree Riverside Cafe
Riverside (just north of Old Market)
T: (088) 606 5906
T: (012) 530 227
Off Route 6 (Airport Road)
T: (063) 763 660
Cafe de la Paix
T: (063) 966 009
Sok San Street (20m behind X-Bar)
T: (078) 342 404
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