Phnom Penh has a startling variety of restaurants to choose from, with something for every taste and budget. But in a city where new restaurants can open and close within a matter of months a small handful of dining destinations have distinguished themselves by standing the test of time. Moeun Nhean, the Post’s special reports editor, takes a look at some of Phnom Penh’s most famous restaurants and their contributions to the capital’s culinary landscape.
Topaz has been offering the highest standard of service and fine dining for over 20 years and is consistently billed as the city’s top restaurant, hosting diplomats, ministers, businessmen and royalty. Having relocated to a new space in 2016 the larger venue retains the stylish decor and elegant ambiance of the original, but adds more private rooms and outdoor seating in a lush courtyard beneath an ancient banyan tree.
The sophisticated menu of French haute cuisine builds on classic Gallic recipes, which are prepared using only top-quality ingredients and whose exquisite presentations never surpass the combination of amazing flavours. Topaz also boasts one of the city’s biggest wine cellars and a knowledgeable sommelier to guide you through its impressive selection.
Prices are as sumptuous as the setting, but reasonable given the gastronomic talent – and its three-course business lunch set is an exceptional value.
162 Preah Norodom Blvd.
023 221 622
Worth a visit just for its gorgeous architecture and vintage-chic décor, Chinese House also offers reliably good food and a chic cocktail bar. The landmark eatery occupies a restored historic building near the capital’s port that incorporates both French and Chinese elements and exudes a timeless charm. The dining room is an aesthetic feast of ornate floor tiles, grainy wooden beams and soft-hued walls.
The constantly-evolving menu is inventive and eclectic, with fusion fare that includes gastronomic samplings from Asia to Africa and South America. Dishes include char siu glazed duck and a Kampot pepper crusted wagyu beef tenderloin, as well as more exotic offerings such as South African springbok tenderloin.
At night the downstairs bar pulses to life, with its master mixologist doling out craft cocktails to its smartly dressed clientele.
#45 Sisowath Quay (corner Street 84)
092 553 330
Quite possibly Cambodia’s most famous restaurant, Malis is universally known by locals and expats, and appears in every travel guidebook’s must-visit list. Set in a lush garden courtyard, Malis is the embodiment of master chef Luu Meng’s vision to put traditional Khmer cuisine on the international radar.
The menu of “living Cambodian cuisine” draws inspiration from classic Khmer home cooking, reinventing traditional dishes with bold and flavourful ingredients that elevate them to another level. Signature dishes include a masterfully prepared fish amok and hidden chreav duck, a traditional Siem Reap recipe of slow-roasted duck marinated in lemongrass.
Meng and his protégés are continually elevating the level of Khmer cuisine, and while Malis attracts its share of elites and celebrities, it remains unpretentious and affordable.
#136 Preah Norodom Blvd.
015 814 888
Housed in a beautiful colonial villa with seating in the garden and beside a small pool, Romdeng is especially popular with tourists for its winning combo of good food, good prices and a good cause.
The no-holds-barred menu covers the full spectrum of traditional Khmer and regional cuisine, from hearty dishes such as a Muslim beef cheek curry and a spicy basil chicken stirfry, to deep-fried tarantulas for the more adventurous palate.
The food is prepared and delivered to the tables by local hospitality students – though you might not realise this if we didn’t tell you as the food and service is invariably top notch. All profits from the restaurant go to local NGO Mith Samlanh, which invests in building the futures of former street children.
The drinks menu, like the food, puts emphasis on local ingredients, with tempting and imaginative concoctions that include a lemongrass and galangal cordial soda, and a turmeric and lime daiquiri.
#74 Street 174
070 519 565
Set in one of the city’s grandest colonial buildings, Van’s exudes an air of opulence with a spacious and sumptuously appointed dining room that hearkens back to a bygone era. It also has two private salons for intimate dining and a garden café for more casual affairs.
For nearly a decade, French chef Nicolas Malherbe has been tantalising palates with his creative blending of Asian flavours and French haute cuisine. His influence is evident in everything from the meticulous sourcing of highest-quality ingredients to the artistic plating and impressively executed dishes.
The wine list is extensive and the desserts are divine, including a chocolate fondant with a heavenly caramel filling. Fittingly, it is all too easy to rack up a hefty bill here, but the business lunch and fixed price menus offer excellent value for tighter budgets.
#5 Street 102
023 722 067
Here are some other well-known venues that put out consistently good food in a memorable atmosphere and look destined to join the ranks of the capital’s iconic eateries.
Restaurant Le Royal
Restaurant Le Royal, the most elegant dining venue of the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, is as charming and refined as the landmark colonial building in which it is set. The spacious dining room oozes grandeur with its fine upholstery, grand chandeliers and intricately hand-painted ceiling. And the menu, which highlights the culinary traditions of French fine dining and authentic Khmer royal cuisine, is as exquisitely executed as it is presented.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal 92 Rukhak Vithei
023 981 888
Khéma’s two outlets stand out for making fine dining affordable, offering the same calibre of gastronomy you might expect from an upscale French restaurant, but without the hit on your wallet. The sophisticated menu offers classic French cuisine and European dishes, meticulously prepared and served in a refined yet relaxed setting. There is also an in-house bakery and delicatessen offering gourmet imported and housemade goods for takeaway. Prices are surprisingly affordable and the daily free-flow breakfast is one of the city’s best values.
Arunreas Hotel, #163 Street 51
023 213 969
Khéma La Poste:
#41 Street 13 (corner Street 98)
015 841 888
The understated entrance of Kravanh conceals a stylish Khmer restaurant with chic traditional decor and an elegant yet relaxed setting. Kravanh celebrates Cambodian cuisine and offers artfully prepared Khmer royal cuisine and traditional favourites, as well as some lesser known regional culinary gems. The food is authentic and finely prepared using only the freshest local ingredients, and is certain to leave a lasting impression.
112 Sothearos Blvd, near Sihanouk Blvd
012 539 977
#67 Street 450, near the Russian Market
012 319 111
Authenticity is at the heart of every dish served at Do Forni, which is regarded by many as the capital’s best Italian restaurant. The menu has been crafted by an Italian chef and celebrates the regional and seasonal specialties of his native country. The dishes are prepared using the freshest ingredients, executed perfectly and served in an elegant dining venue with an open kitchen and a glass wall affording views of the pool. The wine list is of a calibre to match the food, featuring more than 60 wines including the finest Italian labels.
Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra Hotel
26 Sothearos Blvd 023 999 200
With two outlets in the capital, Tonle Bassac is a long-running and insanely popular buffet restaurant offering a mindboggling array of tasty Asian specialty dishes, some 200 at last count. Even with seating for hundreds this Phnom Penh institution is routinely packed with groups and families devouring the grilled meats, seafood and vegetarian fare on offer. Prices are quite reasonable given the quality and volume of food.
177 Mao Tse Toung Blvd
023 210 019
534 Preah Monivong Blvd
081 913 888