Lori’s Guide to Good Eats in Siem Reap

Lori anad Ponheary talking with one of the 2400 students the foundation supports at the opening day of the 2009 school year

Siem Reap has an incredible selection of restaurants both in terms of variety, price class and of course quality. Here’s a list of favorites from Lori Carlson who is one of my favorite people in Siem Reap. Lori is the co-founder and President of the Ponheary Ly Foundation, one of Siem Reap’s finest small and innovative NGO’s. For more about the great work of the foundation you can check out my personal account of some time I spent with the incredible Ponheary Ly.

Lori’s picks span the price range from cheap to expensive. Some of her picks are in the Wat Bo area of town where Seven Candles Guesthouse is located. Seven Candles is the Ly family home annex wonderful guesthouse annex foundation headquarters.

At the bottom find a link to download the whole list in pdf format so you can easily take it with you!

Lori’s Guide to Good Eats

You can eat anything at these places without gastronomical consequences. They are tried and true. Eat the meat, eat the vegetables even if they are raw, try the frogs, have a shake, chomp the ice, it’s all good. Most of the food in Siem Reap is pretty safe these days; the days of amoebic dysentery for lunch are almost behind us. Your own dirty hands are probably your biggest threat.

Be patient with the staff, especially in the local places. They will bring the menu and then stand there, bored and impatient, until you’re ready to order. Just take your time. They will not bring the food all at once. They will bring it one dish at a time, so either eat Cambodian (family) style or don’t wait for your dining companions to get their food before digging into yours. In local places, once they bring your food, they will never come to your table again until you call them. If you need some- thing and can’t catch their eye, just raise your arm and sort of flap your hand around until they come. If you want your bill, you can make the universal gesture for “the check” or say “kut luey” and they will come collect.

Don’t be freaked out by lots of trash lying underfoot. Locals throw their napkins, chicken bones, empty beer bottles, etc under the table for clean up later. Big piles of trash = lots of people eat there = the food is probably good.

Everybody does “take away” and is happy to deliver for an extra buck or so.

Price per person without drinks:
$ less than $5
$$ $5-10
$$$ $10-15
$$$$ over $15
* signifies in the neighborhood of Seven Candles

Irrawaddi
*Perfect Burmese food. Really good, simple and very flavorful. This is my current favorite Hole-In-the-Wall. Whatever you have, make sure you also try the Tea Leaf Salad. Just about everything on the menu is less than $2 a plate, so try a few different things. The owner ChoCho, has been in Cambodia for 6 years and is a warm and engaging hostess. If you’re not sure what to order, just tell her to “bring you something good”. She’ll fix you right up. Take out also available.

Home Cocktail
$*A wide range of inexpensive Cambodian and Western food including set menus. Really good western breakfast including cappuccino! Home Cocktail does great takeaway if you want to eat at home. It’s room service, Cambodian style. Home Cocktail is also an excellent place to just relax with a cool drink, they’ve got the coldest, cheapest beer in the hood.. 012 682 385 6:30 am -late

Selantra
$-$$
* On Wat Bo Road, just down the street from the swarm of tour buses at Viroth’s. (Sorry, Viroths has fallen off my list). Coffee presses and cappuccino, ahhh. Paninis, organic salads, a mile long list of “lite bites” to be shared. For dinner, pasta dishes compete with Brazilian steak and Duck, fish dishes and local specialties. The amok her is my favorite in the city, but it takes about 15 minutes to prepare it soe have an appetizer and wait it out. It’s worth it. Everything well prepared and very fresh, lovely atmosphere, attentive service, which is a novelty here. Imagina- tive wine list, good cocktails, interesting shake selections, excellent happy hour deals. I can’t push this place hard enough.

Touich Restaurant
$-$$
Quickly becoming a fave. The pork chop is stupidly good. To save me a lot of typing, just read this review

Picasso’s
$-$$ A couple of expat restaurateurs have joined forces to bring a true tapas bar to the Passage. It’s up near Samot between the video store and an excellent new shop called Poetry. A cozy little spot with a big horseshoe shaped bar; everyone bellies up making the conversation easy. Great house wines and cavas, sangria and an excellent selection of adult beverages. The Picasso plate, for $6 can be shared by two, warm crispy bread with sausage, jamon, goat cheese, olives. SO civilized. Cigars, good music, perfect service, lively conversation. Not a restaurant, but such a great place to pop in for a libation and snacks on a rainy afternoon, especially if you’ve got a jones for some warm bread and cheese with a nice glass of red.

The BBQ places behind Wat Damnak
$For the adventurous eater: Any tuk tuk driver will know where this place is, but be sure to say “BeeBeeQue” No one knows the term BARBeeQue. It’s on the east river road, behind Wat Damnak. There’s a row of outdoor stands grilling meat. At night, you can smell the searing flesh from 500 meters so that helps make it easy to find. Among the stalls is a proper restaurant. I have no idea what the name of it is, but it’s the only place that looks like a restaurant, rather than a food stall. The menu is lengthy and full of things that you might not find edible, but the grilled beef with some steamed rice and all the magnificent sauces is just perfect and so cheap. Chances are good you’ll be the only foreigner there, but they do have two menus in English. Just reading the menu is worth the visit. Last trip there I had the “Cow gender with red ant sauce”. I thought “perhaps it’s a bad translation”, but no, that’s exactly what it was. And it was tasty.

Abacus
$$-$$$ This is one of my top three places in town. Really nicely done French/ Khmer fusion and possibly the best burger on the planet which can easily be shared. Highly recommend the duck dish and the creme brulée, well it’s worth your airfare to Cambodia. Very well manicured wine list. Lunch and dinner are served in air conditioned comfort. Well trained wait staff. At dinner, the outdoor candlelit garden is particularly enjoy- able with nice lighting, comfortable seating and mosquito coils. Expats routinely solving all the world’s problems in the garden bar. In a new-ish new location off Road 6; it’s not on the map~have a tuk tuk driver take you there and wait for you. 012-644-286

Sugar Palm
$-$$ Nice surroundings in a traditional wooden stilt house. Very fresh and innovative Khmer food is presented quite nicely. Traditional dishes, with a twist. If you’re not familiar with Khmer food, this is a good pick as the wait staff here actually know how to make a recommendation. Don’t miss the pomelo salad and for sure order the crispy spring rolls.

For Life
$ A new place in the alley near Miss Wong’s. The food is made with great care and it is all excellent, fresh and very affordable. The kitchen can be a bit slow as mom insists on cooking all the food herself, but well worth the wait. Have a drink and relax. 012-545-426

Miss Wong’s
Siem Reap’s best drinking hole, in a quiet alley behind pub street. See the map. Good house wines by the glass. Inquire about the infused vodka.

Heng An
*Just down the street, serving local authentic Khmer food. They have some western things on the menu, but do not eat them, especially at breakfast. But you can’t beat the noodle soup or grilled pork with rice in the morning. They have excellent Vietnamese iced coffee with milk. Tasty fried fish with spicy mango dipping sauce, good frogs if they are in season, excellent curries, vegetable dishes, etc. Beer is served Cambodian style, warm over ice so skip it if that’s not your thing.

Star Rise Cheese Sandwich.
$* I’m not sure if they actually have cheese sandwiches here. I only eat breakfast at Star Rise. The crepes are terrific, although some of the savory flavors are kind weird, for instance the “ham” crepe has hot dogs in it. The banana and nutella crepe with a couple of scrambled eggs and some coffee will set you straight. No one speaks English except the charming 12 year old waiter, but the menu is in English. Cheapest western breakfast on the street; they open around 6am.

Kulen II
Our pick for the best apsara dancing in town. $12 per person includes dinner, which fills the belly but is otherwise unremarkable. The danc- ing however is great. We are happy to call and reserve a table for you to make sure you get a good seat.

Hawaii Pizza
$ • Just around the corner on the dirt road that runs next to the Apsara Market. The pizza is just okay but the khmer food is excellent as is the fish burger and tuna melt smothered in mozzarella. On the way back to the house, stop at the lady making banana fritters on the street.

Loris Guide to Good Eats – download (you may need to use the ‘right-click – save as’ option), print out and take with you!

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services and all the handy information available on our website Angkortuktuk).

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~ by Leonard on September 26, 2010.

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