Fresh business ventures can crop up overnight in Siem Reap, and a plethora of new restaurants have done just that. Over the past few months tables have been set, ovens turned on and doors opened.
Heading the list is Element’s, where Comptoire d’Asie used to be, at 170 Pia Thnou Street. The enthusiastic owner is Bunthik Pov, former F&B manager at La Residence d’Angkor, ex Raffles, Sofitel, and Le Meridien. The food here is really well priced, with set menus starting at $9.
Eats range from Khmer classics to fine western fare, with the New Zealand lamb rack and Oz rib eye standing out. Elements is already building popularity with its regular bar shows, its central location and its discerning décor.
The bustling Tigre de Papier empire has been busy expanding with enterprises in the trendy offshoot areas near Pub St.
Little Italy, in Alley West next to Picasso Bar is a charming, rustic eatery dishing out an array of pizzas and pasta, and the Bamboo Restaurant, in The Passage, has an almost identical menu to parent restaurant Paper Tiger, but with one added extra: bamboo. The restaurant serves Khmer dishes based on bamboo ingredients, and the place is packed to the rafters with the stuff, lending a tropical dining ambience.
A few restaurants have cropped up around the up-and-coming Street 7 area. Old House Restaurant, opposite the entrance of Siem Reap Referral Hospital, is a simple yet stylish bistro. Owned by Thavy, the restaurant is regularly packed and serves up a tasty blend of Khmer favourites with western grub.
Avatar Palate is a quirkily named spot that has taken over almost overnight from the pool hall on Street 7. Attentive staff will almost fall over each other to help you from the moment you walk in, and serve up everything from foie gras or Bolognese, to a Philly cheese steak or Tonle Sap fish.
Avatar sells itself as a wine and food “pairings” restaurant, so if you’re a wine buff, test your skills here.
Across the street is the newly opened Old Town Khmer Restaurant, cheap and cheerful. This may not be a good choice for date night, but will do the job for Khmer nosh with no frills.
Anyone who lived in Siem Reap in days of yore (aka, last year) will remember Dead Fish Tower, a love it or loathe it hodgepodge of a bar. Following its closure, the good folks at The Loft have moved in. A bright, airy make-over makes The Loft a calmer, more aesthetically pleasing establishment. Food is an array of Khmer and Asian favourites. While marginally pricier than other Asian grub nearby, you get what you pay for.
The spot is already a hit with locals, with the Chinese dumplings, sweet and sour pork and braised chicken all recommended.
And finally, Purple Elephant, several blocks past X Bar on what is loosely known as Soksan Road, is the fledgling enterprise of Tom England and Achara Tavisut. What initially looks like a plastic-chaired, fried-noodle street-side joint is in fact a fun restaurant with buckets of character.
Achara, originally from Cambodia, lived for several years in Thailand where she developed a love for the local street food. When she returned to Siem Reap, she put her kitchen skills to good use, serving up Thai eats you won’t get anywhere else in town, with crying tiger beef skewers a house special. Knockdown prices are the restaurant’s biggest selling point.
The Sunday night barbeque at Purple Elephant is a hot ticket with all-you-can-eat barbecue for $5 with all you can eat, wings, ribs, beef, seafood and salads.