I am not an adventurous eater, so Phnom Penh’s famous street foods are off limits for me. But somehow, when we were in Phnom Penh twice last time, we had such a blast eating away their delicious local foods. As anyone would tell you, Phnom Penh is a capital in rapid transition. From a quick ‘in-and-out’ place where people come in, get their business done, and leave as soon as they can, PNH is becoming a destination on its own. And that I am glad, because I’m kinda fond of the place for its unique charms, and that increasing popularity of the capital is being proven by the increasing numbers of cool places to eat, too.
Labaab is a new restaurant recommended to us by our good friend at Raffles Hotel Le Royal (click for full review). They serve Khmer and lower Mekong dishes in a comfy and nice ambience on the second floor of Pharmacie de la Gare building near the Railway Station and opposite the glassy and modern Vattanac Tower. For a city where most ‘modern’ and ‘hip’ foods are western, Labaab, serving local tastes, is a gem. The menu here is an eclectic of Khmer, Vietnam and Thai. Really nice.
We ordered their national fish soup or ‘Samlor Machou Youn which here is made from fresh river fish, aromatic herbs and sweetened with fresh chunky pineapple. Super refreshing. Along with the fish and fresh veggie we have on the table is ‘Bok Kror Sang’ (⬆︎circled in the first top picture⬆︎) or pounded Krasang seed – a sour and staple condiment on Khmer table when fish and veggies are served. We also had a plate of spring rolls – served here with thick peanut sauce. Mild, but creamy, going quite well with the spring rolls.
We also had the banana blossom salad with dried fish (or shredded chicken) and served with rice crackers. A bit too sweet for our tastes, but not too bad. The fish amok here is made from chunky fresh river fish. The curry base is not too pungent as we found in other places. Quite well-rounded taste that I like, and went perfectly with steamed rice.
There’re also stir-fried pumpkin sprouts with beef and grilled beef with chaplu (wild betel) leaves, served with rice paper, green mango and herbs. All are delish according to all my dining mates. And if you are looking for a comfort chow, they also had ‘pineapple fried rice,’ served all too familiarly in a carved-out pineapple. With shrimps and cashew nuts – just like home.
Labaab is comfy and beautiful, good for lunch and dinner. The place also offers happy hour from 16.30-18.30 during which food and drinks are 20% off. For all those dishes we had for lunch (hence regular prices), we ended up paying less than US$50 for three of us, including non-alcoholic drinks.
Labaab Restaurant (click for map): 81 E2 Preah Monivong Blvd (93), Duan Penh District, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Daily: 11.00- 22.00 Hrs. T: +855 99 335 666. www.facebook.com/labaabresto.
Le Broken Plate – run and own by Narith Plong – can be Phnom Penh’s hottest table right now. Ask any locals, especially the girls, and you will hear the unanimous consensus (that this place is an absolute must) for which you have to be there to know why. We got to chat a little with Narith last time when researching for Fah Thai Magazine and found that he is a Cambodian-born, Canadian-raised Khmer who decided to bring home his cooking/restauranting experiences from abroad and settled down with his own place run by his passion. The result is this super cool yet intimate place where one can dine superbly with dishes after dishes prepared at the table by the chef himself.
From the look of it, you might think that Le Broken Plate is a Japanese joint. It looks as if, with its sliding doors and Japanese sake lineups, but the food is eclectic from clear miso soup with lime and cchilliesof river prawns and Sihanouk Ville’s seafood and banana blossom salad to Khmer-inspired sushi in which loads of condiments are served along with the beautifully cut and laid down fishes and seafood. “Khmers love lots of condiments,” Narith explained while piling up condiment after condiment and garnish after garnish onto our sushi plate.
The menu is ‘Omakase’ in which you can choose from three tiers: US$30 for 6 courses, US$40 for 7 and US$50 for 9. Allow me to send out a warning: each portion is huge and filling. We thought we each could easily manage the US$30, but we were stuffed at the plate no. 3. 😀 Also, leave a room for dessert. They are quite similar to Thai desserts, and we had the baby pumpkin egg custard. Homemade and not too sweet. Très delish!
Le Broken Plate (Click for map), No. 108, Street 13, Sangkat Phsar Kandal, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Daily (closed tuesdays): 18.30 – 22.30. T: +855 78 903 335. www.facebook.com/lebrokenplate.
Elephant Bar, Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh
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