PREAH PEAY (*****): One night hosted by Prince Peay, a fictional character popularized by a film of the 1970s, goes as exciting as a first visit to the Temple of Angkor. A debauchery of silver trays and plates, a service reminding us of our recent private visit to a maharajah's palace, with uniformed waiters floating silently around us, lulled by the languorous Apsara dances... We felt halfway between reality and a Bollywood movie set. Away from the crowds of Chinese tourists visiting the Koulen dance show, we made it in style that time thanks to the always faultless Temple Group.
The best Apsara show in Siem Reap comes with a real touch of gastronomy. Our magic night at Preah Peay made us discover the authentic Royal Khmer Cuisine, which is totally different from the popular street food available in all the small restaurants in town. It is usually served on special occasions only, like wedding ceremonies, or official receptions at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. This is not a cuisine intended for tourists. What a privilege to sample it in such a stylish atmosphere.
Unlike in the other shows, there is no open buffet; but two set menus, updated on a daily basis, with a unique price (USD 18 per person). Each menu bears the name of a temple. One of the favorites, “Temples Privilege Set”, was served the day of our visit.
As a starter, we had crunchy “Pan-Fried Prawn, Green Papaya Salad” served with shrimp paste dressing. Soup is a highlight of the Khmer culinary habits: “Samlor Samlok”, mixing roasted fish and aromatic local spices, is a must be try. As the main dish, we had “Wok-Fried Pork” (Chhar Kreaung Sach Chrok), a classic, and a portion of “Pan-Fried River Fish with Pickle Bean & Ginger” (Trey Chean Joun) accompanied with “Steamed Jasmine Rice” (Bay Chom Houy Phkar Malis). Made from the freshest ingredients, usually imported from the regional farms, it was a sappy sample of the aristocratic Khmer cuisine.
Though our dessert was a simple food platter, featuring the best sweet and sour mangoes in Asia, you might be lucky enough to dine at Preah Peay when our favorite “Nom pley Ia” (crusted coconut served with coconut sauce) or “Gratinated Fruits with Coconut Ice Cream & Sabayon Cream” are on the menu. Yummy!
Presented in a variety of splendid Khmer pure sterling plates, carved bowls, hot pans, all dishes were as a pleasure to the eyes as the elegant show, mixing the most sophisticated Khmer ceremonial Blessing and Apsara dances, once reserved to the royalties only. The gilded costumes worn by the dancers are splendid and well worth a souvenir picture after the show.
This exceptional restaurant is located at Golden Temple Retreat: one of our top five preferred luxury hotels in Siem Reap.
PREAH PEAY (at Golden Temple Retreat hotel): Wat Damnak, Sala Kamreuk,
Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia.
PHONE: +855 63 217 777 FACSIMILE: +855 63 761 222
TAKEZONO (*****): The classiest and most authentic Japanese restaurant in town stands in the center of Siem Reap, in the five-star Sokha Angkor Resort. Seating more than one hundred guests, this prestigious restaurant is astonishingly intimate compared with the other F&B resources in this pharaonic hotel (the largest in Siem Reap). It has private dining-rooms for VIP guests, which need advance reservation.
Executive chef Kunihiko Hamada has been hired from Tokyo to bring a real Japanese taste to Takezono Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. And from our recent dinner in May 2016, we can confirm that the savors of Japon came on our plate with a touch of class.
We enjoyed the supreme refinement of having our Teppanyaki prepared in front of us, by our private chef and in our VIP room! The setting looked ideal for romance, family or business dinner. The anticipating staff only interfered with our intimacy to bring us premium sake on crushed ice, mizo soup (strong on “dashi” stock), crispy salads which were so tasty that we ate them without any condiment, and a set of prime class hand-craft sushi featuring crude salmon, and the best assortments of fresh tuna imported the same week from the Pacific. Unlike in Paris or London sushi bars, fish was sliced thickly: developing a richer taste with a better texture.
Takezono is, first of all, a Teppanyaki restaurant. We got sea scallops, crunchy giant tiger prawns, and super tender US sirloin, all cooked with plenty of garlic from the “teppan”. Takenozo is also a steak-house. Japanese style, of course, but yet offering prime steaks and a well-mastered cooking time. Compared with our experience at “The New York Steak House”, a few weeks ago in Bangkok, or El Gaucho in Saigon, we found the price more than reasonable. A well-sized sirloin from Texas will cost less than USD50. We like the attractive packages on the menu: with average USD 50-80 price range for two. We are in a five-star Japanese restaurant; when it might sound costly on the Cambodian standard, it will look amazingly good value for visitors from the USA, UK, Europe… or Japan.
Don’t leave without tasting the Green Tea Sherbet: if, like us, you don’t like so many Japanese desserts, you will make an exception with this one.
Open daily from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm.
TAKEZONO (at Sokha Angkor Resort): National Road No 6 & Sivatha Street Junction Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 63 969 999
HUNKAAR (****L): It takes less than ten minutes by tuk-tuk to
reach this out of the
restaurant and lounge. It is well worth the little effort. Hidden in a
peaceful street, with a terrace-lounge swept by the breeze, and only
disturbed by the song of the insects, it has one of the most pleasant
settings in Siem Reap: in the delightful Anjali by Syphon
boutique hotel (affiliated to Secret Retreats).
Why visiting Hunkaar, when the Old French Quarter has so many entertaining, cheap bistros? Precisely because, once a week at least, we routinely like to escape from the crowds of tourists haunting Pub Street to discover a more refined cuisine in an authentic local atmosphere. At Hunkaar, “local” refers more to wealthy expats and residents, with some hotel guests sometimes, than to working class Khmer. Cool and astonishingly affordable, this remains a glamorous eatery for demanding gourmets. We are part of them, and didn't regret the experience, made easier by the fact that we were staying at Anjali the night of our visit...
A successful dinner in a tropical country should always start with a cocktail. Our “Floridita”, was served frozen like in Cuba, featuring imported top quality Plantation 3-Star rum, Luxardo Maraschino, and Fresh Lime. At USD 6, four-time cheaper than in any established bar in Paris or London, the price couldn't be more reasonable. It was on par with the rest of the Hunkaar experience.
Graduated in culinary arts by the Paul Dubrule Hospitality & Tourism School in Siem Reap -an institution in Cambodia- Chef Hak Serey treated us with his “bistro-chic” style cuisine. Far from the casual Pub Street eateries, but totally unpretentious compare with the amphigoric cuisine dared by some self-proclaimed gastronomic restaurants in Siem Reap. Both Khmer and Western cuisines are available. We went for the second, which came with a colorful Mediterranean note. Halfway between the French “Provençale” and Italian “Trattoria” cuisine.
We started with a refreshing, yummy “Burrata Salad” (USD 9.00). The Mozarella was supremely creamy, paired with an aromatic Cambodian Pesto, and ultra-fresh crispy Baby Lettuce and organic vegetables. It came with delicious home-baked bread.
The “Slowly Cooked Osso Bucco”, a signature, came “Cocotte”: in a “Lava Signature” black iron pot. The home-made pasta was set separately, so that we could mix it up according to our taste with the melting-like-butter meat, carrots and fragrant sauce. The evening of our dinner, Chinese flat rice noodle had been used instead of the Linguine which remains our favorite pasta with Osso Bucco. This was interesting in term of texture, though we always prefer the al dente Italian pasta. It has anyhow an “I shall come back for it” savor. Though we eat it all, because we had no lunch at all that day, this USD 18 delicacy could feed a couple of dinners.
We paired it all with one glass of fruity “Le Grand Pinot Noir”: a most honest and softly-priced Pinot from French Pays d'Oc.
“Trio Panna Cotta”, with Passion Fruit & Pineapple, sweet and sour, was the elegant conclusion to this dinner, in one of the most pleasant restaurant rooms experienced in Siem Reap. Far from the usually old-school, sometimes shabby neo-French design of the chic restaurants in town, we enjoyed this unique gastronomic experience in a zen atmosphere, designed by the hotel owner to cater the foodies and high-profile gourmets alike.
MIE CAFE (****L): We loved at first sight this traditional Khmer wooden house with an outdoor patio and garden, located half way between Angkor and Siem Reap city center. The dreamed place for a romantic, definitely atmospheric dinner al fresco punctuating a sunset visit to the temples, it makes lying those affirming that Cambodia is the antithesis of a gastronomic destination.
Chef Pola Siv, recognized as the master
of Khmer Nouvelle Cuisine, mixes his freshly imported European skill
with a personal, fusion vision of the local cuisine. Which makes some
dishes taste more Western, and others more Asian. With of course some
popular Khmer musts: like the sapid “Traditional Khmer Chicken Amok”,
with lemongrass paste, coconut milk, noni leave and eggplant, or the
tender “Rib Eye Beef Lok Lak”, with mushrooms, onion, green peppercorn
stir fried with oyster sauce topped with egg sunny side up. Those
looking for a new, more interesting version of the Cambodian cuisine
should rather order a noteworthy appetizer (available from the
attractive Gourmet Menu
): “Carpaccio of Fresh Snake Head Fish Fillet”, cooked in fresh
citrus juice with Cambodian spices, grapefruit and hazelnut oil
dressing, served with a delicious poached egg tempura. On the same high
mark, and from the same Gourmet Menu, the “Grilled Beef La Ap”,
marinated with local herbs and chili, then chopped grilled medium rare
with tomato sauce and a touch of balsamic vinegar, is topped with
parmesan cheese… and red ant eggs. Cambodian eat tarantulas, worms, and
cockroach: so there is nothing actually surprising locally in the
introduction of this special ingredient into a gastronomic dish. You
can experience red ants in the distinctive “Cat-Fish Consommé”: it
gives this classic Asian specialty some power. More signature dishes,
like “Grilled Prawn with Amok Butter”, roasted somanea seed, eggplant
with coconut milk and dry cure ham, or “Fried Pork with Oven Roasted
Giant Eggplant”, bell pepper and wild mushroom, are well worth the try.
Chef Pola has been trained in Switzerland: we could realize it from the supreme quality of his “Hot and Creamy Chocolate Cake”, with vanilla ice cream, and fresh mango passion fruit sauce. Like all the master chefs, he uses the best cocoa (from Valhrona) to produce really professional pastries.
Note that all ingredients come from the
best local farms, and that the bio-vegetables are grown up in the
restaurant kitchen garden.
The bill is rather high on the Siem Reap
standards, yet more than
reasonable for international fooders. It will cost approximately USD 80
for a couple of dinners, with one bottle of refreshing “South of Africa
Chenin Blanc, The Winery of Good Hope” (USD 25 by the bottle). The
entertaining song of a colony of frogs in a pound nearby is included in
Open Wednesday to Monday, 11am – 2pm for lunch, 5.30pm – 9.15pm (last sitting) for dinner.
PALATE ANGKOR (****L): There are a few gastronomic restaurants on the riverside. Housed in a neo-1950s immaculate building, topped by one of our favorite panoramic bars in town, this little gem is one of them. It offers a brilliant version of the Khmer cuisine, with some international signature dishes.
We suggest that you'd rather come early, ideally at sunset, and enjoy an appetizer or a cocktail at the breezy Sky Bar. This coincides with the “happy hours”, when we sipped a Singapore Sling and a Strawberry Daiquiri, served with hot grilled peanuts, at less than USD 6! That was a great introduction to a great, cool restaurant. The smart main dining room, at the ground floor, nicely decorated with nostalgic pictures and posters from the King Sihanouk era, was booked for a private party. Never mind, we loved the rooftop atmosphere so much, with a romantic river view, that we pleasingly had our dinner al fresco.
We have been presented the menu, illustrated with the picture of each dish. This sounds a good idea, as none would understand what Plear Trei Mreas, Prorhok Ang, or Chhar Kreourng Trei, actually refers to. The average price for Khmer dish is around USD 8. Twice the price of a basic restaurant in Pub Street; but the quality of the ingredients is much superior. The beef used for Lok Lak, the most popular Cambodian stew, isn't local but imported from Australia. Which makes a noticeable difference in term of taste and texture. The salads are purchased from an organic farm. They are the best that we have experienced in Siem Reap.
Master Chef Chinhove Huor is skilled in Western, Chinese, and Royal Khmer cuisines, presented in the plate with a contemporary elegance. We loved his cuisine a lot. His signature dishes are all featured in the super attractive “Western Set Menu” (USD 25++).
The appetizer, Tomato Mozzarella, a refreshing standard, was followed by the crunchy and tasty “River Lobster & Parma Ham Salad”. A signature delicacy!
This sounded quite odd, the savory “Asparagus Cream Soup with a Spicy Bacon Stick” was served in the middle of the diner. Followed by a medium rare, juicy and tender “Grilled Australian Sirloin Steak”, with baby potatoes, peppercorn and Brandy sauce. Palate Angkor is reputed for its char-grilled meats: beef, duck, and lamb. Local beef tenderloin costs USD 12; imported from Australia, USD 20++; which doesn't make a big difference. Fairly priced in both cases.
The dessert was a light and subtly perfumed Mango Mousse.
We paired it “tropically”, with a big bottle of Angkor beer (USD 3.50++) on ice. But we shall make it with wine next time, surely for a pizza and pasta experience, as the wine list is attractive both in term of brands and value.
A classy and romantic address, this is one of our recommended restaurants in Siem Reap.
IL FORNO (****):
Temple Town's has dozens of places for pizza (usually American and
mediocre), some acceptable Italian restaurants usually located in large
hotels, but few if none real “Trattoria” like our friend's Ed iconic
“Il Forno”. The location in Pub Street is touristic, the dining room simple yet authentic, but the
cuisine is so unique and acclaimed that a new, more trendy and
opened three years ago in Phnom Penh.
Open 12 AM – 11 PM.
THE CHEF 1950 N STEAKHOUSE (****): The latest addition to Pub Street gastronomic scene, inspected in April 2019, a few months after its opening, it brings to the Old French quarter what it actually lacked: an authentic steakhouse. Most affordable, in a country where imported meat is sold out at the gold price... Concretely, using the “Samba Steak” offer we could enjoy a 250 grams portion of 8 kinds of meats for USD 18 only. This was the most “expensive” option... feeding two hungry diners, at least.
Except one of our favorite music, we didn't know what was “Samba” before. What came in our table was actually quite similar to “Churrascos”: grilled meat, served by the waiter directly from the skewers. Extremely popular in Brazil, this is a totally new concept in Cambodia. It took a short time to attract a lot of clients from all hotels, plus regular patrons (usually Khmer from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh). Though the average bill in Pub Street is a maximum of ten dollars a head, gourmets rush into the restaurant each evening, ready to spend twice this price for the experience.
The meat is imported from New Zealand. Charcoal grilled, it consists of a sappy selection of Pork Sasiev / Sausage, and Beef Tenderloin / Strip Lion / Rumpsteak / Piganha. It has also Crocodile Meat! We regret that we didn't ask the chef to cook our steaks rare to medium rare. It was overcooked, as always in Asia. Khmer like it this way; Westerners don't. Blame it on us. Yet, the steaks were tender, seasoned with fragrant spices and herbs, accompanied by salad and woked vegetables. Five types of sauces (we like the Asian one, a bit spicy) give a final touch to this excellent “Samba”.
Though this was more than enough to make us done, we were too curious to see what an “Oven Cooked Crocodile Meat Pizza” would taste like. Excellent, indeed. With a thin, nicely textured dough, and a convenient portion of young crocodile minced meat, with bell pepper, sweet basil, and tomato. Hard to find in Western countries, this local specialty costs only USD 9. With the exquisite “Crocodile Amok” (USD 7.25) this is a signature dish.
We had it all with one glass of French “Louis Eschenauer Chardonnay”. At USD 4 by the glass only, it brought a refreshing, mineral note to the spices. We particularly recommend it with crocodile.
Still some room for a dessert? Don't miss the yummy “Apple Tart with Mango Ice Cream” (USD 3.75), with one glass of Apple Cider (USD 3.
Open daily, 24 hours.
THE CHEF 1950 N STEAKHOUSE: Street 08 (Pub Street), 17251 Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: ++855 88 799 9909
FOOD N' BEVERAGE (***): The Temple Group expands year after year its
empire over the Old French Quarter and Pub Street. Its oldest
restaurant, Temple Food N' Beverage, has been serving for more than 15
years an honest international cuisine, and palatable Khmer dishes. In style, and at
This is also a good restaurant for BBQ, with
local and imported beef. The pizza is fine, if not the best in town (we
prefer Il Forno or Red Tomato). We anyhow always privilege Khmer
cuisine in all the Temple venues: nobody does it better at such a fair
value. The bill ranks between 5 and 12 dollars per person, including
entertainment by an excellent live Filipino Band.
PRASAT (***): Though “Prasat” means palace, this cozy restaurant reflects a serene simplicity. Located next to the Solitaire Damnak Villa boutique hotel, it offers a pleasant alternative to the more visited, and always touristy, Pub Street eateries. It has a pleasant terrace, and the interior design boasts simple elegance. Khmer gastronomy at Prasat is nicely presented in the plate, and the bill comes as smooth as silk: approximately USD 10 till 15 for the three-course dinner, with one glass of house wine or two glasses of beer, which we enjoyed in Spring 2019.
Property of the Solitaire group, the restaurant caters some of its two lovely hotels guests, plus a handful of well informed foreign foodies: this such a recent addition to the overdeveloped F&B scene in Siem Reap, that the place remains quite confidential despite its sappy cuisine.
Sous-Chef Sun Sophal specializes himself in a rural, actually traditional Khmer cuisine. Featuring daily-fresh ingredients, meat from the local farms, and fishes from the Tonle Sap.
As a starter, we recommend “Crispy Fried Squids” with chili sauce and mixed salad. Khmer “Pad Thai” is quite different from the Thai version, as the Khmer version includes stir-fried chicken. This a chef's signature, together with “Wok Fried Seafood” with pepper and onions. More international, we liked the sweet and savorous “Pumpkin Consomme”.
Seafood can be also enjoyed topped over a crispy pizza, with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. This is a families' favorite, with “Grilled Beef Burger”, and “Lamb BBQ”served with French fries.
Our preferred dessert, “Mango Sticky Rice”, is served like in Bangkok, generously covered with sweet and sour coconut cream. It is as yummy as the “Banana Sugar Sago and Coconut Milk”.
This most friendly restaurant has a nice bar lounge flanked by the Solitaire Damnak Villa swimming pool, with a great and patient barman (we kept him on duty over midnight...), “Bro Chairath”, an expert in international but also typically Khmer cocktails, like “Mango Daiquiri”.
Open everyday 6am - 10pm (11pm on Saturday and Sunday).
V DESIGN (***):
Such an eclectic restaurant! A reputed
steakhouse, one of the best Japanese sushi-bars in Siem Reap with Takezono, this is
also one of the most visited pizzerias in the old French Quarter.
Sharing the dishes the Asian way has that big advantage that we could experience three different cuisines in a single,
A good appetizer, Crispy Prawns and Calamari (USD 5.5) came with the fragrance and taste of Italy. Home made Pizza alike. Carefully baked in a wood-fire oven, it had a perfectly smooth dough, not too thick. The rich topping of our Capriociosa was super fresh, though a few details were missing to make it 100% Italian: some leaves of basil, and spicy olive oil. The Prosciutto was plain over the dough, not wrapped. This all makes a rather Asian style pizza... which is finally OK, as the guests were mostly tourists from the continent, mixed with some Westerners. Cooked in the same oven, and definitely as cheesy and tasty as in Roma, we can guarantee that Lasagne at V Design is hard to beat in term of quality. At USD 7.5 only, the portion is generous enough for two people.
The quality of the signature T-Bone (USD 22.5 / 400 grams) is impressive. Ask it medium rare if you want your grilled meat well done, or rare if you prefer medium rare, as like everywhere in Asia, local patrons like it overcooked compared with the European standards. Which is a pity for such prime-steaks, coming on the table with exquisite, often hot sauces, and the very best French-Fries in town.
One glass of house Australian wine, paired ideally our pizza, pasta, and steak (USD 4 by the glass).
The Japanese fares, better paired with draft beer at only 50 cents, are the freshest which we have tasted downtown. They are selling like hot cakes, and cooked at the first, panoramic floor, by a dedicated team working from an open Japanese kitchen. Salmon Sashimi is nicely textured, served in a gourmand portion (USD 6.5), as well as the Mackerel (USD 7.5).
Desserts are definitely classic, and the patrons return back to V Design for its delectable Apple Pie (USD 5) and Banana Split (USD 4.5).
This cool and trendy restaurant is efficiently managed by the Temple Group.
Open 08.00am – 02.00am daily.
V DESIGN: Street 11, Krong Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 15 9999 22
KHMER FAMILY (***): This casual yet lovingly designed restaurant is
now operated by the omnipresent and efficient Temple Group. It means
for us an enthusiastic service by young and pretty local staff of both
sex, guaranteed tracked and super fresh ingredients (which is not so
common in Cambodia), and a more than decent cuisine. We are not in what
some would like to call top gastronomy (for that, you'd rather visit
the excellent and pricey Abacus), but in a fine bistro-style cuisine,
full of fragrance and elegance, proposed on a graphic menu for a modest
bill (USD 13 average, including drinks).
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