Phnom Penh’s Korean restaurants grow increasingly numerous each month. Not a surprise, given that 411,491 South Koreans visited the Kingdom last year according to official records, making it Cambodia’s second largest source of foreign visitors after Vietnam. Nonetheless, finding anything new at a Korean restaurant here is tricky.
Last spring, a new Korean place opened on Street 63 near the corner of Mao Tse Toung Boulevard called Doo.re. The place has a minimalist atmosphere with simple cream-coloured walls and rectangular lamps hanging from the ceiling, while potted plants decorate the storefront.
Doo.re’s menu makes no attempt at being extravagant, with about 15 menu options. Some are just minor variations of other dishes, leaving even fewer unique dishes on the menu. But when it comes to restaurants, sometimes it is best not to reinvent the wheel.
The sun du bu jigae ($5) was a stand-out. This stew is made of uncurdled tofu, vegetables and chili. Although considered a stew, its watery composition would qualify it as a thick soup in most Western contexts. Despite the presence of chili in the stew (it is among Korea’s spicier offerings) my Southeast Asian-trained sensibilities found it quite mild. A dish of kimchi and plain rice is also included.
Dolsot bibimbap ($6) was another winner. Among Korea’s most internationally known dishes, it is a simple rice dish with mixed vegetables and diced beef. A raw egg is the final ingredient; added just as it arrives to the table, it sizzles in the hot stone bowl as the customer digs in.
After my main course, I tried the hae mul pa jeon ($5). With its batter of eggs and flour, it is often described as a pancake, but is perhaps more reminiscent of a flat European omelette.
Given the triangular slices that divide the hae mul pa jeon, comparisons to a pizza would not be far off either. Pieces of shrimp and squid are present among scallions and egg, making for a filling, if perhaps cholesterol-filled, experience.
The drinks menu is simple, with the usual draft beer ($1.50) and soft drinks ($2). There is also soju ($3.50), a vodka-like rice liquor that can be ordered in green tea ($4).
The fare at Doo.re is simple yet scrumptious, and the prices are reasonable, with the typical individual dish costing no more than $7. Does it offer enough to stand out in the capital’s crowded Korean cuisine scene? Not particularly, but if you are new to Korean food and want a good place to start, Doo.re gets the job done.
Doo.re can be found at #245 Street 63.