Siem Reap restaurants serve 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. If you’ve got the time though, heading to the Purple Elephant will yield delicious and authentic results. Otherwise, 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.
Heading further afield, fans of Japanese are very well catered to. We have heard very positive reports from Japanese and non-Japanese friends alike on The Hashi, a beautiful and stylish restaurant 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, as once you’re in the garden, it’s lovely). The menu is a mix of Japanese and Khmer, offering simple dishes done well.
On the east side of the river, you’ll also find Moloppor with a great riverside location and a menu that features an extensive list of good value small plates, including Japanese barbecue and dumplings.
For a little Chinese, you can head to the expanded Miss Wong, complete with a fresh and expanded menu, while hungry devotees of pot sticker 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 Simone’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 is, rightly, immensely popular. Their menu includes all the classics, but they also serve up specials such as a divine roast pork belly, 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 small but 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 are also a nightclub/lounge playing some seriously cool tunes for those who like to dance, but are less keen on tripping over backpackers. 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 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. One of the all-time favourites is Barrio, which recently relocated to a larger premises on Wat Bo Road. They serve good, everyday 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 popular with expats and visitors alike. We’ve written about some other great French restaurants before.
The British are frequently, and wrongly, mocked for their culinary efforts, but they do have a reputation for knocking up stonking breakfasts, particularly among those prone to hangovers, and the traditional British Sunday roast is hard to beat. You’ll not likely find any bread sauce in town, but you’ll find a hearty and filling example at Molly Malone’s each weekend, complete with all the trimmings.
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. For those who prefer a vegetarian take, then the pumpkin burgers at Haven are a must. I don’t know if it can strictly be counted as American, or really know which part of the world the recipe comes from, but it’s seriously darned good.
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Siem Reap