Boat Noodles Restaurant:We found this place on our first night, wanting a sit-down restaurant with something non-breaded on the menu. It’s a fairly large place that’s open to the elements, like a room without walls. There’s even a mini fountain out front, the sound of which kept making me think it was raining. B ordered a beef and vegetable dish that was delicious: the sauce was kind of sweet, but not overly so. I ordered the papaya salad, which turned out to be papaya and crab. The fruit was delicious, and seasoned in a way that made it almost savory, but the crab was done Cambodian-style. What that seems to mean is that shells and bones are considered edible parts of meats and fishes; in other words, my crab legs were in shells, but they were too small to crack and open. Our host here said that they routinely crush the bones along with the chicken too. That is a bit too much crunch for me, so I didn’t enjoy my food as much as B did.
Roadside stand — Preah Monivong Blvd: This was part of a market. We pointed to one dish each from a stand that had six or seven options, and we got rice and water. B ordered a pork dish with bok choy, and I had a cabbage dish with some kind of meat that I made him eat; after our host’s chicken bones story, I have gone pescatarian here. Passable and cheap.
Warung Bali: This place was recommended on a numberof Phnom Penh guides, and I think rightfully so. I can’t judge if the food is authentic Indonesian, but it is certainly delicious. I ordered a beef and vegetable dish, in violation of my aforementioned meat rule (which I decided only applied to Cambodian food). The beef was very tender, almost like delicious osso bucco! B had chicken satay skewers and a lettuce, tofu, egg, and peanut sauce Indonesian salad. Bonus: it’s right next to the Royal Palace and National Museum tourist sites, so it’s convenient. Recommended!
Artillery Cafe: Our host recommended this cafe, which is known for being lactose-free, gluten-free, and otherwise geared to annoyingly hipster Westerners. B got a raw ‘pizza,’ which was tomatoes, pickles, sundried tomatoes, nut butter and lettuce on a nut crust. Though that description sounds like nothing special, it was delicious because of the freshness of the ingredients and the flavor mix. Our desserts were less successful: my nut-mousse ‘cheesecake’ and cashew crust tasted like ‘health food,’ though at least the passionfruit sauce on top just tasted like the fruit. B liked his key lime pie better, and we both thought their shakes (mango/passion for me, spinach/cacao/apple for B) were decent. So, recommended for everything but dessert. [I actually thought their key lime pie was very good, especially considering that it was sugar- and gluten-free. -B]
Yi Sang – Chaktomuk: The draw of this place, aside from our rumbling stomachs, was its position on the river. The breeze was indeed very nice, especially on a hot day. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t as successful. Their entire noodle menu was unavailable, leaving only dumplings. We ordered chicken dumplings and spinach dumplings, but instead, we got two sets of dumplings made of shrimp. Now I know that dim sum skews to pork and shrimp, but then why would you even list other types of dumplings on the menu? Anyway, grab a drink and a gander at the view here and then leave – unless shrimp is your favorite food.
Fishmonger’s: I read a review about this spot in the local (English-language) paper, and I was so very glad that we went. The decor is nautical, the menu is limited, and you sit on little stools with no backs: it’s a no-frills atmosphere. But everything is clean, and the quality of the fish they selected plus the flavors they got were amazing. B had the pan-grilled barracuda, and I got the pan-grilled tuna, both with a delicious tartar-style sauce. We also split a tomato, cucumber, carrot, and avocado salad. The whole thing tasted very ‘Western,’ but most importantly, like something I would try to cook at home, though likely with less success. Highly recommended!
The Blue Pumpkin: This place is known for their ice cream/sorbet/gelato. B’s cinnamon and spices scoop was decent, though my vanilla with brownie specks was nothing to write home about. He also got a scoop of chocolate praline hazelnut, which tasted like none of those things; I would skip that flavor. The baked goods looked mediocre, though the fact that they’re 30-50% off after 8 pm was a point in their favor. Not a must-do, in my opinion, despite others’ reviews.
Phsar Kabko: We were ravenous, so we popped into this place. B liked his fried mushroom chicken, and my fried vegetables were decent.
Sovanna: This is a chain that serves Cambodian BBQ; it was so popular here that they increased the size of several locations over the past few years. We ate family style with our host and her boyfriend, and everything was delicious. We had grilled pork and beef, which were perfectly prepared, and which we dipped in a self-made ‘sauce’ of black pepper and lime. We also got grilled corn, veggie fried rice, and a broccolini-style green vegetable in a delicious, sweet sauce – with ant eggs in it. For those who are saying ‘gross,’ the sauce was so sweet and so good, that I would have eaten pretty much anything in it. On our second visit, we tried fried morning glory, mostly because it seems to be forbidden in the US. It pretty much tasted like the same sweet sauce that the ant eggs were cooked in, so I was a fan. The BBQ steak wasn’t as good as the beef pieces from the previous night, but still a solidly-done rare steak. Recommended!
Luna: As much as I liked Fishmonger’s (above), I just couldn’t get into Luna, which is both next door and owned by the same guy. The prices are pretty close to US ones, which means that they are vastly over-priced for here. The menu could be that of any Italian-leaning US restaurant, from pasta and pizza to ‘mocktails’ and osso bucco. I ordered the beet, cheese, greens, and walnut salad, which was exactly as expected. B had the pork shoulder, which came with an apple-butter-like puree. The outdoor garden is indeed very nice, making the atmosphere pretty worthwhile. But I had trouble getting over a salad for $7.50, when I’ve had entire meat and veggie dinners here for $3.
Food stand — Kenu Street market: We ate the same thing here twice! We got two types of the signature Cambodian noodles ‘nom banchok.’ It’s a rice noodle served with bean sprouts, cucumbers, scallions, peanuts, in a sauce of coconut milk with either sweet red curry or savory green curry – the latter with the quintessential Cambodian fish paste, prahok. The sweet one was divine, the savory one passable, and the owner lady very nice.
Food stand — Russian Market: B honed in on this place immediately, and we happily got another type of Cambodian noodle. This kind had a lighter coconut milk without the curry, a few more vegetables, a cut-up spring roll, and pork for B. Recommended – though I couldn’t tell you how to identify the particular booth in question.
Gong Cha: We’ve had bubble tea or slushies in Phnom Penh as often as we had gelato in Italy. (It’s just so warm, and you need so much hydration!) We visited this place twice because of its excellent air conditioning and internet. B tried the matcha iced tea, the peach iced tea, and the lemon green tea with tapioca; I tried the honey milk tea with jelly pieces, the caramel milk tea with tapioca, and the taro slushie.