When I invited a friend to eat at K’Nyay a couple of weeks ago, his reaction was, “Oh yeah, that place near Riverside.” Luckily he had me on hand to inform him that in September last year, the restaurant, whose name means “ginger” in Khmer, moved to the hotel The Terrace on 95, not far from Tuol Sleng prison.
A long-standing haunt of Phnom Penh’s vegetarian and vegan community, its previous landlord decided to carry out building work right next door, so the owner David Hunt and his team decided to move. “Most of our loyal customers have found us at our new home at The Terrace,” he said.
However, on two recent trips to the restaurant, I found the place pretty empty. I hope the reason for this is that people had the same thoughts as my friend – that K’Nyay was somewhere on Riverside (just off Sothearos Boulevard, to be precise). Because the restaurant still serves up inexpensive and interesting food and drink that, if you’re a fan of Cambodian cuisine, is worth returning for.
Located on the corner of Streets 95 and 348, the terrace is a peaceful spot to enjoy a meal or a drink, and the interior’s homey atmosphere makes you feel as if you’re stepping into somebody’s living room. This is hammered home by the obligatory taking off of shoes at the top of the steps, the vibrant paintings on the walls and the comfy sofas and cushions.
However, having only arrived in Phnom Penh just as the restaurant changed location, I am slightly bemused by what is new on the menu, which is almost unchanged apart from the addition of a couple of western items.
No matter – both food and drink are good. On a recent Saturday, a big group of friends and I sipped happily on Firefinch Sauvignon Blanc ($19), though the restaurant ran out after two bottles. Another friend was disappointed when he ordered a mojito to hear that there was a mint shortage, which the waiter put down to markets being closed for Chinese New Year. Instead he ordered a passionfruit martini, which was well-received.
Fancying something cheesy, I ordered the curried chicken quesadillas, which went so far as to satisfy my craving. But K’Nyay is famous for its curries, so I went back a week later. This time, my friends and I were off the booze. We experimented with K’Nyay’s juices and shakes, and were impressed: I relished the fresh zest of my mango and passionfruit smoothie, while another enjoyed a banana and peanut butter smoothie.
To start, we shared sweet potato fries ($3): succulent and flavoursome, particularly with our hummus dip, which was the most deliciously garlicky hummus I’ve had in Phnom Penh. The chips were heavy: I was almost too full for my main course, the Cambodian green curry with chicken ($6). The option of eating it with baguette rather than rice was welcome.
With K’Nyay’s move, the restaurant is gradually branching out in new directions, including the delivery of vegan lunch boxes, and a range of dairy-free ice creams and sorbets. Judging from the scarcity of other diners, the new location may not yet have secured the popularity it deserves. In the meantime, embrace the solitude. K’Nyay, #43, Street 95. Closed Mondays.