Though Kompong Chhnang has good accommodation, great sights and wonderful scenery, nowhere’s perfect and it’s in the eat and drink department that this spot unfortunately drops the ball. The choice is, to say the least, uninspiring. There is however quantity, and you’ll see a whole bunch of similar looking places in town, particularly south along National Route 5. We didn’t try every joint, so maybe you'll dig out a hidden hotspot, but following are the best spots we managed to find.
Every local’s tip -- and one of the few spots in the town centre that we could honestly describe as good -- is longstanding Sok San Restaurant, next to the taxi station. It might not look much from the outside but it has an English-language sign and menu and serves up an array of reasonably priced, and tasty enough, Khmer classics, from early morning to mid-evening. Their Khmer or Vietnamese soups plus fried rice or noodles are all excellent at around $2 each. Beers and local coffees are also served.
Directly opposite Sok San, just down from the Acleda Bank, is Phnom Meas Bakery, which offers local-style cakes, pastries and even pizza slices, some of which go down well with a local coffee in Phsar Leu just around the corner. The main central market is also a good spot to seek out some fried noodles or a soup, particularly earlier in the day.
Also often suggested by residents is popular Angkor Thmey Restaurant. This is probably the best of a strip of similar looking joints lining National Route 5 south of town. Find it at around the two-kilometre mark. They also have a menu in English offering a wide selection of standard Khmer and Sino-Khmer fare of decent quality and at reasonable rates. Prices are $2 for simple fried noodles or rice, and up to $4 for fried beef with ginger or spicy fried chicken. With a high number of passing customers the restaurant also offers plenty of jars and bags of dried, pickled and preserved local specialities to take away. Kompong Chhnang is renowned for its largely fish based produce and though it may not look very tempting to the average foreigner, if you have Khmer friends in Phnom Penh they’d be delighted to receive some.
A bit further down the highway and on the same side you’ll find Neang Puon’s Kitchen, in the guesthouseof the same name, and home to Kompong Chhnang’s smartest dining area. Set down a short lane off the main road, there’s pleasant outdoor seating opposite a garden and pool. The usual range of Khmer classics is served, though with a more Western touch than usual, and there are even a few simple foreign offerings such as steak and chips. Despite food quality and setting prices are the same price as anywhere else in town, so starting at $2 for simple fried rice or noodles and rising up to $4 for more elaborate main courses. Their bar and coffee shop also serves up a decent brew and has a wider drinks list than most spots in town.
Back down the highway towards town, Sovannphum Hotel’s restaurant isn’t much to look at but does get decent reviews and, used to serving passing aid workers, has an English menu with standard Asian dishes plus a few simple Western options. As with most places in town it does close at 20:00, so don't leave eating too late.
Opening slightly later and conveniently situated in the same street as Garden Guesthouse are a few more restaurants worth considering. Indeed right next door and staying open until the ungodly hour (by Kompong Chhnang standards) of 23:00 is smart looking Paris Restaurant. It opened in mid-2016 and offers a large, air-con interior room with, presumably, and hopefully, a few dry season outside options in their large yard. It looks upmarket, with ironed tablecloths, heavy wooden furniture and peach curtains, and there’s a reasonably extensive English menu with the emphasis on fish. Sadly food quality doesn’t live up to efforts made with the decor, and most dishes we tried were disappointing and used poor quality ingredients. Surprisingly though, given the location, they did offer some excellent wine with a range of French vintages between a bargain $10 and $15. Perhaps stick to some simpler, harder to get wrong dishes, washed down with a 2010 Corbieres at $12? Main courses go for an average of $4 or so.
For the more budget conscious, just across the road is Vann Sokleap Restaurant, with a simple, open-sided, roofed eating area, a distinct lack of a wine list and food at half the price of Paris. If you can forgo the air-con and Bordeaux, then this is a good alternative and frankly most dishes we tried were just as good as over the road.
Finally, if you’re more happy just to nibble and down a couple of cold ones, then the waterfront promenade around Phsar Krom provides a host of opportunities. While many unidentifiable fried things or barbecued boiled eggs may not be too tempting, you ought to find something palatable to snack on while you take in the end of day waterfront action from a footpath stall.
Angkor Thmey Restaurant: National Route 5, 3 kms southeast of Kompong Chhnang centre; T: (12) 961 037, (011) 961 037; open daily 06:00-21:00.
Neang Puon’s Kitchen: National Route 5, 3 kms southeast of Kompong Chhnang centre; T: (012) 808 789, (097) 577 7821; open daily 07:30-21:00.
Paris Restaurant: C418 Psa Dam Rong St, Monbarang, Pha-e district; T: (026) 777 788; open daily 05:30-14:00, 16:30-22:00.
Phnom Meas Bakery: National Route 5, opposite Sok San, by Acleda Bank; T: (097) 860 8199; open daily 06:00-21:00.
Phsar Leu: Centre of town, to the east of junction of National Route 5 and Phsar Krom Rd; open daily 04:00/05:00 onwards until dusk.
Phsar Krom: Phsar Krom Rd and along the waterfront; open daily 04:00/05:00-20:00 (approximately). Sok San Restaurant:: National Route 5, next to taxi park, close to Acleda Bank); T: (012) 388 513, (016) 380 678, (026) 668 9000; open daily 06:00-20:00.
Sovann Phum Restaurant: National Route 5, just south of the hospital; T: (012) 812 459, (015) 812 459; open daily 07:00-20:00.
Vann Sokleap Restaurant: Phsar Dam Rong St, Monbarang, Pha-e district; T: (089) 614 098; open daily 08:00-21:00.