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Where to Eat Now in Siem Reap

04/05/2010


Temples aside, there’s a burgeoning dining scene in this lively town. Here, T+L picks four new palate pleasers. By NAOMI LINDT; Photographed by NANA CHEN

Published on May 4, 2010

+ CAFÉ CENTRAL
This spacious, breezy restaurant–café–bar is the kind of place that transitions seamlessly from day to night. Mornings see patrons sipping cappuccinos—the Lavazza brews are among Siem Reap’s best—and sampling dishes like pesto-and-Parmesan scrambled eggs and cinnamon French toast, with sunlight pouring in through the huge wood-framed windows that face the street. Come lunchtime, it’s hearty sandwiches—beef and beetroot, chicken BLT’s—and creative salads. As night falls, the cylindrical lamps that dangle over the bar’s shiny metal countertop provide ambient lighting for dinner, where main courses include pizzas and pastas with toppings like prawns, chorizo and roast pumpkin, and a handful of Khmer classics. Guests can lounge in rattan armchairs or dine at one of the mismatched wooden tables, seated beneath Central’s high ceilings and exposed brick walls. The spacious layout is very family-friendly; there’s even a kids’ menu.

Northwest corner of the Old Market; +855 17 692 997

+ EL CAMINO
Good Mexican food is hard to find in Cambodia, so this funky little taqueria is a welcome addition. Located on the narrow, bustling lane known as The Alley and alongside the popular Linga Bar, El Camino’s terrace is a prime spot to people-watch and sip frozen margaritas. The look is rustic Latin chic, with sage-colored walls, garlic and chili garlands, and a sombrero-shaped chandelier fashioned from rusted iron and orange light bulbs. Lining the weathered wood and metal bar are colorful glass jars containing spices like cumin and cayenne pepper, and baskets spilling over with shallots, tomatoes and peppers—the essential ingredients to the fresh Mexican cuisine that emerges from the open-air kitchen. Five varieties of homemade salsa accompany the tacos, burritos and corn chips; more sophisticated dishes include carne asada—chargrilled beef served with roasted red peppers and garlic—and sizzling hot plates of chicken and beef fajitas, accompanied by mushrooms, onions and potatoes. Wash it all down with an ice-cold Corona or a US$3 shot of tequila.

The Alley; +855 12 718 632


+ ABACUS
For years, French bistro Abacus and its charming owner, Renaud Fichet, have been known around town for fantastic cuisine, great cocktails and an amiable atmosphere. Facing an expiring lease, Fichet decided to take the restaurant to the next level, partnering with a new chef, Pascal Schmit (formerly of La Résidence d’Angkor), and moving to a larger space. Abacus’s lush grounds feature a stylish, glassed-in dining room that uses a minimalist palette of red, white and black; a casual open-air bar; and several outdoor tables set among flickering tiki torches and silk lamps. The new menu, whose daily offerings are written on a large blackboard, ranges from classic French dishes like goat cheese salad, roasted lamb leg and duck breast, to creative Khmer fare, such as fish fillet with tamarind sauce. Make sure to save room for dessert: the chocolate truffle cake with passion fruit coulis is divine.

Airport Road, +855 12 644 286; abacuscafe.com

+ SAMOT
Stepping into this intimate spot, whose name means sea in Khmer, is as close as one gets to an aquatic atmosphere in central Cambodia: the walls are baby blue, and brown and white seashells dangle from the ceiling. Owner and chef Patrick Guerry, meanwhile, has concocted a creative menu that includes artfully presented plates like a puff pastry tart with scallops, shrimp, chicken and truffle flecked cheese, served with pesto, shrimp bisque and a balsamic reduction. The macaroon generously filled with chestnut cream and pear sherbert, courtesy of the popular Blue Pumpkin bakery, is worth every luscious bite. Guerry treats drinks with equal seriousness: each dish is listed with a suggested wine pairing (check out the impressive cellar in back). Meals are served at small tables adorned with white linens and vases containing wild flowers—for the optimal treatment, go for the 10-course set menu.

The Alley; +855 92 410 400

 

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