In salubrious surrounds, the Krahom Noodle Bar treats diners to a colourful take on traditional Khmer staples
Served in a large earth-coloured ceramic bowl, the Krahom Noodle Bar’s “Signature Krahom Noodle Soup” is a thing of beauty. In translucent and slightly oily orange-brown broth, among neatly chopped bean sprouts, sits a hulking meatball impregnated with peppercorns and carrot bits, half a soft-boiled egg (orange yolk still gooey), crispy bok choi, chunks of tender, fatty braised beef and a vibrant green spring onion as garnish.
A little fishing around reveals the new restaurant’s speciality: red noodles (krahom means red in Khmer) made with beetroot juice. It’s hard to tell if the vegetable affects the flavour much, but they sure look pretty and their texture is just about perfect, providing the right amount of bite.
Like its signature dish, the red-themed eatery that opened on Street 322 just this week is an aesthetically appealing little place. The long restaurant has a bar and stools on one side and tables on the other, with a wide stripe of bright orange running the length of the ceiling.
There are touches of red and orange everywhere, and the attention to detail is great: note the adorable red money boxes in the shape of a London bus, an antique petrol bowser and Union Jack lunchboxes.
When we stopped in for lunch, the restaurant was almost completely empty, although one other diner came in just as we were paying our bill. The staff – who take orders on a tablet computer – were also a bit timid and had a tendency to hover. Pretty much what you expect from a new restaurant, but given the quality of the food it probably won’t be long before it’s a buzzing lunchtime spot.
The menu is short and focuses on noodles – fried and in soup – and fried rice. Along with the aforementioned special beef noodle soup ($4.50) we ordered beef fried rice ($3), which also came stained red with beetroot juice. It’s hard to make really standout fried rice, but my dining companion reported back that it was satisfying and, like the rest of the food, it looked a treat. We also got a mango and passionfruit smoothie ($3.50) that was surprisingly good: fresh, tangy and sweet.
It’s really good to see a casual restaurant executed so well. Krahom Noodle Bar’s dishes are as tasty as its decor is tasteful (the noodle-themed paintings on the walls are great).
It’s not the cheapest place to get quick noodles or fried rice in Phnom Penh, by a long shot. But the whole dining experience is well worth the money.