This is my third post on Siem Reap, you might like to read the other posts here.
Before our Siem Reap trip, we didn’t research much about restaurants, and I was only armed with a few recommendations from some friends. We didn’t realise that they even have a restaurant, Cuisine Wat Damnak, which is on the San Pellegrino’s Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants list. Little ol’ Siem Reap? Certainly not what we were expecting! Of course we were unable to make a booking on the day we arrived. Oops!
Anyhow, the first evening, shortly after we landed and consulted TripAdvisor, we headed to Damnak Lounge Fine Dining, located in the White Lotus hotel. It is currently #3 on the Tripadvisor list of restaurants. We thought the food was extremely good value for money, and the service was quite impeccable. We liked the western degustation menu better than their Khmer option. But that was our first real encounter with Cambodian food. The atmosphere though, was a little cheesily typical of a developing country trying to go upscale if you know what I mean. We left impressed by the value and service, but were also wowed by other places we subsequently went to.
The next day, between our temple visits, we asked the guide for a recommendation for lunch. It was a mistake. She brought us to a place which I later found was like #4059384609345 on the TripAdvisor list (ok, maybe I’m exaggerating). The reviews on TripAdvisor were spot on – the food was overpriced and nothing special. It was our most regrettable meal, and I can’t even remember the name, although it was a welcome break from all the walking. So if a tour guide wants to recommend a place to you, it might be good to seek a second opinion (aka TripAdvisor).
Later, a Malaysian working at the Le Meridien shared that Cambodian cuisine isn’t quite so suited to our tastebuds. It was a little surprising given how flavourful Thai and Vietnamese food is. Although I hate to be that tourist that brings around his own sambal, the good news is that at most restaurants there often will serve up cut chili padi upon request for us to accompany our food to give it an extra kick.
We had the impression that Pub Street would be somewhat like Bangkok’s Khao San Road or Patpong in Phuket – catered to backpackers with sleazy bars, dirty roads and filled with obnoxious tourists. I was apprehensive about hanging out where all tourists hang out. Although the roads were typically dirty, and there are many tourists here, some of which look like your typical backpacker, we also found a few classy hipster joints that were open from breakfast, and even some families venturing around during the day. And some of the side streets were actually quite quaint and picturesque.
We spent some time shopping, having breakfast, and getting really sub standard foot massages at Temple Massage, which for USD $6 for 60minutes was worth it only if you consider it included a cold drink and a comfy lounge bed, since a coffee and no lounge bed would probably cost $2-4. We needed a break from all that walking and the ATV tour in the morning.
Pub Street is also next to the Old Market where you can find souvenirs and quite a local market area. It is also where I saw most of these funnies below. I’m not laughing at anyone, ok??
Beer at Pub Street starts from USD$0.50 for half a pint, and on one of the nights the husbands went to one of the joints for soccer and beer. My husband was surprised that the majority of patrons at that hour (past 11pm) were mostly well to do Cambodian youth.
Not far from Pub Street is Kandal Village, a small enclave with a few interesting shops and also home to Little Red Fox, a wonderful cafe with amazing breakfast and coffee. It is Australia owned but Cambodian run, and was just featured in Silkair’s Silkwinds March 2016 magazine. I really loved my beetroot quinoa bowl!
From Little Red Fox we crossed the road to Weaves, a non profit organization located in the local Angkor Children’s Hospital.
We also tried Georges Rhumerie Restaurant , a creole restaurant, it was fun and interesting, I’ve never been to a creole joint before, so I can’t quite comment on the food. But the atmosphere was very homely, and the food was good. I loved the coconut pineapple jam there. What is a rhumerie? It is a bar that sells rum, and Georges makes their own. So, yes, please eat here if you want some amazing drinks.
Our absolute favorite dinner of the trip was at L’Annexe. Homely French food managed by friendly host Trina and helmed by her husband who is the most smiley chef ever. Food tastes a billion times better when you know it’s being prepared by people who are enjoying themselves, doesn’t it? The food was really value for money and so well executed. It’s clear to see why they are one of the top ten on TripAdvisor although I think it should be #1, and we would definitely return. It is fine dining but the vibe is casual.
Our last lunch before our flight home was at Mie Cafe, a short walk from Le Meridien. The decor is pretty interesting, and the local foods here were lovely, a lot more tasty than what we’d had at other places.
And that ends my series on Siem Reap. I’ve left so many temples uncovered and so many restaurants still yet to try. We certainly can’t wait to be back!
We travelled to Siem Reap in January 2017.