Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is one of the restaurants you always hear good stuff about; it is very well loved by critics, chefs (like Anthony Bourdain), foodies, and locals. Yet for all its success and fame, the restaurant still maintains that very basic, no-frills quality that is ubiquitous in ordinary Chinese restaurants. It's located at the edge of Chinatown, next to a few Chinese grocery stores, and the exterior is very plain and non-descript. You could easily walk on by and miss it entirely. Inside is no better, with a large room with light coloured walls and plain grey tables. Very basic.

For this visit, we decide on the fried squid with lemon pepper sauce ($7.50 for a half portion). This is basically the squid version of their famous chicken wings. The squid was pretty tender and the lemon dipping sauce gave a great tang and cut the greasy element quite a bit. However, I confess I'm one of the rare ones that finds this dish (and indeed the chicken wings) not too likable. I mean, it's okay, but to me there seems to be something sprinkled on the batter that I just don't like. There's this strong tasting crystal that's on there --- so I think I have a good idea about what that is, but that would just be speculation. Anyway, many people seem to love this batter on the wings and squid. To each his own.

Shane got the beef Luc Lac ($8.85). This was thinly sliced beef fried in a sort of peppery, slightly sweet gravy. This was really good and savoury, especially with rice. It reminded me a lot of the kind of food you could get on every street corner in Thailand.

I was hankering for something soupy, so I decided to get the Phnom Penh Beef Noodle in Soup ($6.95). This looked really good--there was a nice clear brown colour to the broth, and there was plenty of cilantro and fried onion oil. However, the broth was really bland, and there was barely any beef taste. I had to add a ton of soy sauce to this to make it taste like something. On the other hand, the beef balls were fantastic (just like in Thailand!), and so was the rare beef in the soup. Overall, a huge disappointment.

We've eaten here a couple of times, and despite some disappointments, we would come here again, if only to explore more of their voluminous menu.

Phnom Penh on Urbanspoon


  1. i've always wondered about this place. good review. thx.

  2. it's definitely worth a try -- I know of a bunch of people who think their chicken wings are one of the best in the city

  3. Thanks a lot, your post has gotten me really hungry! :D

  4. Thank, Katrina--by the way, I love your blog, it's one of my favorites!