Considering the town's size, eating options in Kompong Thom are reasonable, with a fine night market, some decent local cafes and a couple of slightly more upmarket ones, plus a choice of two excellent spots offering Western dishes. The town even boasts no fewer than two cocktail bars!
Arunras Hotel has a large downstairs restaurant and is constantly bustling from the passing bus trade. The menu has a range of Khmer dishes and some basic Western options, with fried rice or noodles from around $2 upwards, other main dishes around $3 to $5, including Western-style burgers and sandwiches. The Stung Sen Restaurant on the north side of the highway opposite the market is another popular bus stopover with a very similar layout, menu, quality and prices.
Around the corner, down impractically named Bracheathepatay Street, is the Chinese-Khmer Phum Bayon, which offers similar Khmer dishes, but dealing as they do with local trade rather than bus passengers, prices are slightly cheaper.
Another well-located option is Kompong Thom Restaurant on the riverbank immediately to the right before crossing the bridge. This has an outdoor seating area plus an air-con room, though views of the adjacent river are somewhat obscured by vegetation. The Kompong Thom has certain pretensions and while offerings are slightly more sophisticated than at Arunras, prices are also slightly higher. Indeed you’d probably only eat here if you couldn’t be bothered to walk the extra 600 metres down to Sambor Village, but it does have cold beers and a full bar, so is a good spot for a drink. Main dishes are $4 to $6, with a frozen margarita $3.
A rather good night market sets up in front of Kompong Thom market from late afternoon, offering simple rice and noodle dishes as well as grilled chicken and brochettes, and excellent local-style sandwiches. Beers, soft drinks and fruit juices are also available though note these are rarely chilled and you may want to be careful of the local ice. A section for soup vendors is tucked inside the market, just south of the bridge and identified by a huge sign. In our experience, these stands are best visited in the early mornings, when they’re full of customers and ingredients are freshest.
For fancy cocktails and high-end Western food, Sambor Village has a solid menu offered in a very pleasant setting. Dishes include a range of steaks, pastas and some imaginative Khmer dishes at remarkably reasonable prices.
Another find is Kiwi-owned Run Amok Restaurant and Cafe, a two-minute walk down Democracy Street to the north of the main highway. This isn’t just an “expat marries local woman and can’t think of anything better to do than open a cafe” — owner Rich is a trained chef by trade. Food includes classic Khmer dishes, some imaginative fusion dishes plus burgers, pizzas and sandwiches all at very reasonable prices. Plenty of cold beers and good conversation from the friendly owner and staff are thrown in as well. They also do packed lunches worth considering if you’re heading off for a day trip in the surrounding area.
Arunras Restaurant National Route 6: T: (062) 961 294, (012) 836 107; open daily 07:00-20:30.
Kompong Thom Restaurant: National Route 6; T: (012) 324 355; open daily 07:00-21:00.
Phum Bayon: Bracheathepatay St; open daily early morning to mid evening.
Run Amok Restaurant and Cafe: Democrat St; T: (017) 916 219; open Mon-Sat 15:00-21:00.
Sambor Village: Democrat St; 600m from National Route 6; T: (017) 924 612, (062) 961 391; open daily 06:30-22:00.
Stung Sen Restaurant: Just southeast of the bridge, next to hotel of same name; T: (012) 309 495; (062) 961 228; open daily 07:00-20:30.