Phnom Penh probably has one of the greatest reviews (in terms of number and quality) on Urbanspoon. Considering it’s location (yes, it’s in Chinatown, but it is also where DTES is), it is surprisingly busy…like all the time. It is a cute little restaurant on East Georgia that serves a fusion of Vietmanese and Cambodian food (although with strong Cantonese influences at times) – a very small street with many ancient Chinese stores nearby as well. It is probably the only restaurant on the street, with huge line ups starting from inside to outside. You can’t possibly miss it considering how many people line up to have a taste of their famous butter beef and chicken wings. In case you do, look for a big yellow sign. There is no free parking but there are some meters on the streets. If you decide to park at that lot ran by Impark close by, be careful. They close early. You do not want to get locked in.
Phnom Penh doesn’t do reservations or call in reservations. So if you want to try some of their excellent goodies, you really have to go yourself and wait. The wait can be extremely painful at times (1 hour won’t be a big surprise and it’s really bad for big groups, except for groups over a certain number, you can reserve), but we think it is worth the wait! The staff there mostly speak Cantonese but considering how many people visit there (tourists included), their English is superb. The menu is also bilingual with some really good translations. The staff there are plentiful and really good at trying to get people out as fast as possible – I guess there’s a good and bad side to that if you are slow eaters like us.
The only thing we didn’t try here were the chicken eggs. Everyone raves about their chicken wings and we have had it before. It was good, don’t get us wrong, but we didn’t find it to be jaw dropping exceptional. Just our two cents. We know everyone orders it there.
The Guy Score:
Food: 8/10 (it used to a lot better)
Ambiance (considering it is for dates): 5/10
Spendable Time: They will try to move you as soon as you are done.
Price Range: $15-$20 per person
Comments: Phonm Penh is one of my favourite places for Asian cuisine (not including Japanese). The only thing I hate about it is the wait – which doesn’t seem like it is going down anytime soon. The service is fairly average for Chinese cuisine type places where they just take the order, give you the food, and leave you there. I used to like Phonm Penh a lot more. For some reason, I think there food tasted a lot better than what we tried today. Hopefully, it’s just a one-off or maybe I am just getting used to the taste since this was my third time being there…
Luc Lac Beef Rice with Egg - $9.95 (not 100% sure about price)
Guy Food Score: 7.5/10
Recommended to Order: It used to be better..
Guy Comments: Last time we came here, we had this and absolutely loved it. I mean, it’s still good. But it used to be spectacular. There used to be more beef and overall, the beef used to be less tough. I think both the beef and egg were slightly overdone and felt a bit dry. I was a bit disappointed considering how good it was last time we came here and had it. The sauce they have, which is hard to describe but very savoury (very strong Asian influence) and delicious, is still great, I just hoped there’d be more of it. I do appreciate having vegetables in the rice though – really, not a lot of places nowadays emphasize the food triangle. I also heard that you can get the rice fried instead of plain – I’d definitely want to try that next time. By the way, you want to eat it with that egg – it tastes better mixed.
Fried Oyster Pancake – $14.50
Guy Food Score: 8.5/10
Recommended to Order: It’s good! You should try it!
Guy Comments: Like I have mentioned before, I have never been a big fan of oysters. But this is an exception – even I’d eat this dish. There’s just something magical about what eggs and pancakes do to make something you don’t really like, really good doesn’t it? The fried oyster pancake is very different than the ones you get in the Cantonese places and the Korean one. This one tastes exceptional with that sour sauce they have (I am guessing the base of it is fish sauce). Also, if you like the taste of cilantro and spring onions mixed with an egg-based pancake and a sour sauce (it’s that orange thing in the picture below…I absolutely love this sauce), this is the thing for you. I do admit it is a bit oily (just a tad too much) but it has a very unique texture where it is crispy on the outside, but still very soft on the inside. I recommend this!
Marinated Butter Beef – $13.25
Guy Food Score: 8/10
Recommended to Order: Yes!
Guy Comments: Now yet again, this is something I usually do not have. Raw beef is something I tried to stay away from, but then my beautiful girlfriend has been secretly converting me over this time. The beef we had at Phonm Penh this time was slightly under average from what they gave us last time. It just seems a bit overdone (yet again). I mean, it’s not raw…as you can tell. The sauce is still superb and it comes with spring onions, cilantro, and fried garlic. Where does the butter of butter beef come from? Not 100% sure, because the sauce and the overall taste of it is a good balance of sourness and saltiness. If you do not like sour food, I am not sure if this dish is for you but almost everyone orders the butter beef. Don’t get me wrong, this is probably the best “raw beef” I have had ever but this time around, it just seemed under par. I do recommend the dish, however.
Considering how everyone beef related was overdone, I wonder if Phonm Penh recently got food inspected and it was deemed that their food might be a safety hazard? Just a thought….it could be a one-off thing too. Overall though, I did enjoy Phonm Penh but it is definitely not a restaurant you can go to everyday. Despite the wait, it is a heavy meal (quite oily for some things and mixed with the sourness, a bit too much) and not something my belly can handle consistently.
Phnom Penh Information:
244 East Georgia Street