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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Needa pad thai? The clue’s in the name with this smart Thai place that screams for patrons

The pad thai at Needa: gloriously sticky but fresh.
The pad thai at Needa: gloriously sticky but fresh. Charlotte Pert

Needa pad thai? The clue’s in the name with this smart Thai place that screams for patrons

For a few weeks before I finally approached it, I thought Needa was an office block. Having just transformed from the construction site I’d see every morning on my way to work, the building’s almost wall-to-wall glass exterior and lack of discernable labelling as a restaurant meant that it was only when I saw people dining through the glass that I made enquiries.

With a small plaque outside bearing the restaurant’s name and nothing on the building itself, other potential diners might well assume the same thing.

When I dined at the Thai eatery on a recent evening, I was drawn by the lush foliage and bubbling water pond outside. The inside of the restaurant lived up to the promise: welcome air conditioning, spotlessly laid tables and a perfumed smell. The staff had that rare combination: attentive but not pushy.

What came as an annoying surprise was the music, an odd combination (Whitney Houston followed by Gangnam Style followed by which blasted in our ears the entire evening, making conversation difficult. This, however, would be my only complaint.

My dining partner and I ordered drinks first: one glass of Sauvignon Blanc and one glass of red Oxford Landing, each at $4.75. Both were completely decent, and there were plenty of bottles on option for $23 upwards too.

To eat, we firstly shared two appetisers: Thai fishcakes, and papaya salad. The fishcakes, which came with a bowl of sweet chili sauce, were delicious, though the sauce gave them a strong spicy kick. On reflection, I doubt they were worth $7.95, especially considering that most of the main courses were around the $5-6 mark. The papaya salad, at $6, was also well received, though we could perhaps have done with more than two cucumber sticks to neutralise the spice.

I ordered larb moo for my main course, which was served as a salad, on a bed of lettuce. It was flavoured just like the traditional Thai dish should be: with plenty of lime, fresh mint and chili. Mixed with the minced pork was added insides of the pig, the origin of which the waiters couldn’t tell me in English. My only complaint was that, for a main dish, it wasn’t very big, especially as it didn’t come with rice: I had to ask for a serving, which I wasn’t charged extra for.

My dining partner enjoyed a hefty portion of the classic pad thai ($4.50): gloriously sticky noodles and beansprouts with a peanutty yet fresh flavour, mixed with chicken and prawns. It was served on a hot plate and decorated with fresh chili on one side, salt on the other, and a fresh lime.

Though it’s marketed as a Thai and Khmer restaurant, I only counted four Khmer dishes on Needa’s menu, and none of them what you might expect: all some kind of soup at $6.50 each.

I’ve tasted Thai food in different settings: from fiery hot seafood on the islands, to pad thai served up fresh on the streets of Bangkok, to homemade fare in the kitchens of ordinary people.

I’d recommend this restaurant as somewhere with flavoursome and, despite one or two discrepancies, reasonably priced Thai food in a pleasant setting. Needa presents an opportunity to try out Thai food that is just as good, if not better, than what you might find across the border.

Needa Restaurant is located on the corner of Streets 51 and 360.



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