This city serves up fine food from all over the world in its many international restaurants. What is less common, however, is an outlet that can produce both Khmer and Western food of an outstanding quality. That was before Street 63 came along.
When I visited the restaurant on a muggy evening a few months after its opening in April, my first discovery was its extensive drinks list. From non-alcoholic juices to classic cocktails such as Mojitos and Daiquiris and unfamiliar blends, it’s impressive – and cheap. I tasted my friend’s fresh juice, Camcogo: a delectable blend of coconut, mango and vanilla. Personally, I couldn’t resist a glass of the draught beer, which was just 50 cents.
Two people have said to me that they don’t expect Street 63’s prices to be this good for long. And it’s probably only due to lack of publicity that there aren’t queues – of Cambodians and expats alike – out of the door and along the road.
But the restaurant staff told me that they intend to keep prices low to suit local budgets.
Before the praise, a couple of caveats.
At number 178 on the long road after which it is named – my tuktuk driver took a while to find it – Street 63 suffers from limited space. Tables spill out almost into the road and, as a Brit in tropical climes, I struggled without a fan.
Drinking a beer meant that a trip to the toilet was needed before the food arrived, and it has to be said that its condition rather let the place down.
But we were there for the food. The fresh spring rolls we started with did a decent job of whetting appetites. We then shared beef lok lak, succulent and soaked in the traditional lime and pepper sauce; eggplant with pork, the smokiness of the eggplant complementing the salty pork; and, saving best until last, chha kdao: tender chicken in a spicy lemongrass sauce. The spices from the chilli and lemongrass in this last dish recalled Thai food and gave a flavoursome kick that lasted through until dessert.
This was just as well because the service was disappointingly slow. Still, food is sourced fresh from the local market, cooked on-site and, according to a trusted local friend, the service is quicker than it used to be. We shared a pumpkin creme brulee and – to get at least a glimpse of the western influence on Street 63’s food – an apple pie. I learned that the former wasn’t to my taste, though my fellow diners relished it. The apple pie was as good as any I’ve tasted in Europe.
The relaxed service is manageable, as long as you’re in good company. Both food and drink are excellent, and at remarkable prices: the main dishes we shared cost $2.50 each. The only thing I’d say Street 63 needs to do to improve is invest in a toilet seat.