Physics and English undergraduate and translator Aisha Down (L); Cambodian writer, poet and former Nou Hach literary project editor Tararith Kho (R). Photograph supplied
Japanese cuisine is great on the palate, if not the wallet. In the past month I have twice excused myself from Japanese restaurants after I sat down and saw the prices. In one awkward case, my party of six had already dirtied the wet washcloths that were so neatly wrapped for us.
Momo izakaya, however, provides a much needed exception to Phnom Penh’s otherwise pricey Japanese food scene. On Street 23 near the corner of 172, Momo is cheap and delicious, with no single entree costing more than $6.50. Portions are as generous as they are delicious, with a soup, salad and entree typically costing less than $5 altogether.
The tamagotoji egg udon noodle soup ($4.99) is a favourite of mine, with wholesome udon noodles and a graceful broth that resembles dashi. The karaage fried chicken don ($3.50), with its lightly deep-fried meat similar to tempura, also has an elegant taste and feel. In contrast, the Katsu curry ($3.80) is reminiscent of a hearty English beef stew with a bit more spice than usual.
In case anyone thinks the menu sounds a tad Western, rest assured that chicken gizzard ($1.60) and grilled salmon head ($4.50) are also offered.
Momo also has generous group platters, with the Set A platter for two ($11.99) offering edamame, iidako octopus, the yakitori combo set, salad, miso soup and steamed rice. Want a full-blown feast? Try the Set C for four ($24.99) that offers the yakitori combo set, yakitori wing, yakitori corn, Japanese beef pear salad, spicy chicken, grilled sanma fish, grilled salmon head, mini salad, miso soup and steamed rice.
The drinks menu offers several varieties of sake, ranging from the Shochikubai house sake ($7) to the Shirakabegura Kimoto ($41). Sake fruit cocktails ($2.80), which are a bit like the Japanese version of sangria, are also on the menu in pineapple, mango, lychee, passion fruit and orange flavours.
The dessert menu is simple, with parfait ($3.50) and ice cream ($1.50) the only options.
One omission on the menu is worth mentioning: neither sushi or sashimi is to be found. It is not necessarily a problem given what Momo gets right, but diners hankering for raw fish should look elsewhere.
With such good food offered at low prices, Momo is a great place for anyone on a budget. Simple, elegant, satisfying.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bennett Murray at [email protected]