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Phnom Penh's Latest Crop of Eateries


Phnom Penh's trendiest new cafés and bolt-hole diners are serving up recipes in settings that pull colonial charm into modern-day style. By MERRITT GURLEY.

Published on Oct 30, 2017

 

A LOCAL-CUISINE CRAZE IS RAGING in Phnom Penh. That Cambodian food is popular in Cambodia might not seem like news, but as more money flows into the capital, it is noteworthy that up-and-coming talent is embracing its heritage rather than looking abroad for inspiration. The most buzzy eateries showcase Khmer and indigenous home cooking. "In the five years I have been here," says Bernard Cohen of MAADS, a hospitality operation company, "they have gone from the tackiest food-and-beverage scene you can imagine to some of the coolest restaurants in the region."

Phka Slaa Khmer Restaurant
This airy Khmer eatery offers a breezy experience, with fans replacing air conditioners and verandas spilling out to the street. The blackboard-and-chalk-doodle wall, wooden tables, mosaic floors and hanging-light fixtures ooze Europe, while the menu is a collection of Cambodian classics, like beef noodles, and chicken rice. Try the lunch set (US$6), an assortment of appetizers and mains that rotates daily, and might include pumpkin-flower salad, pork-rib stew, morning glory and tofu, and fresh fruit. fb.com/phkaslaa; mains US$4–$10.

Phka Slaa
Outside the breezy Phka Slaa. Courtesy of Phka Slaa Khmer Restaurant.

Nesat Seafood House
The seafood here is delivered daily from Kampot and Kep. Order the Nesat Madness platter, a medley of Kampot-pepper crab, barbecue seafood and tom yum soup with white clams. Co-owner and designer Sophal Thim is behind the lush plantscape and rustic look that invites diners to pull a stool up to a shared wooden table. fb.com/nesatseafood; mains US$3–$12.

Nesat Seafood House
Oysters at Nesat Seafood House. Courtesy of Nesat Seafood House.

Chun Cheat Doeum
Yun Mane, owner of this bolt-hole, is on a mission to protect the indigenous cultures in Cambodia by offering a tangible taste of their rural communities. The menu boasts dishes like janang, a pork soup with bamboo shoots and eggplant, which is a staple for Kreung and Tumpuon groups in Ratanakkiri. If you feel daring, order pi-pea, a Phong soup with beef entrails, wild ginger, lemongrass and garlic, or the samlor bok with pumpkin and chicken bones. fb.com/iprestaurantkh; mains US$2–$12.

Chun Cheat Doeum
Janang soup with noodles at Chun Cheat Doeum. Courtesy of Chun Cheat Doeum.

Labaab Restaurant
Its name means "soil of the Mekong" in Khmer, representing the bounty along its banks, and the restaurant juxtaposes traditional rural cooking with urban views of Vattanac Capital Tower. Try the fish amok, a toothsome take on the signature curry dish, and the prahok ktis, a blend of fermented-fish paste, coconut milk and minced pork. fb.com/labaabresto; mains US$6–$8.

Labaab
Inside the Battambang-style Labaab. Courtesy of Labaab Restaurant.

 



TWO MORE TO TRY

+ Kraya Angkor (fb.com/krayaangkor. restaurant; mains US$5–$25) showcases largely forgotten royal Khmer cuisine dating back hundreds of years. That means grilled frog with vermicelli noodles and na tang, deep-fried sticky rice served with pork sauce.

+ Cafe Dei (20 Street 590; mains US$5–$20) in Tuol Kork, goes old-school when it comes to cooking (fish grilled in bamboo tubes, chicken smoked in a clay jar) but stays modern on the design front—the three-story space is covered in contemporary art.

 

 

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Fish amok.​ Courtesy of Labaab Restaurant.
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