Worth the wait
By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer
If you’re looking for Vietnamese food that isn’t pho, then look no further than Phnom Penh! This hole-in-the-wall restaurant has been garnering buzz for years. It features numerous accolades displayed on their wall, including a signed menu from none other than Anthony Bourdain. Named after the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is a Vietnamese-Cambodian fusion restaurant that will have you going back for seconds… and thirds.
Located on East Georgia Street in Chinatown, The restaurant is a quick walk from Main Street-Science World SkyTrain Station. They’ve recently upgraded their sign, so the bright red banner should be enough to signal that you’re at the right place. Oh, along with the large line waiting outside.
It’s definitely not the best place if you’re looking for a quiet dining experience, as the restaurant isn’t famous for its ambiance. Loud, with the family-table style setup, you might find yourself sitting right beside some strangers. The staff are efficient and excellent at recommending dinner options, and you’ll be shocked at how quickly you get your meals after sitting down. One problem I find is that it can be hard to wave down a waiter to get your name on the waitlist.
Prices are reasonable given how much food you find on your plate, and you’ll never leave the restaurant feeling famished, as this place will make sure you get your fill.
Phnom Penh is family run, and you can literally taste the time and care that goes into each recipe on the extensive menu. However, the drawbacks to relying on family recipes is that it doesn’t have too many options for anyone with food restrictions.
My first recommendation would be to try their butter beef. It makes for an excellent share platter, though you’ll be wanting it all to yourself after the first bite. Butter beef is a lightly-seared dish, cooked in a medley of rice vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. It may not be for everyone because of its “fresh from the butcher” look, but if rare beef doesn’t scare you, it’s worth a try. The meat is garnished with cilantro and fried onions, which gives the dish a well-rounded flavour. The beef melts in your mouth and is irresistible with the sauce. One critique I have for this dish is that some people may find it a tad salty.
The other dish I recommend actually offers three different options, depending on what type of meat and texture you’d like. This dish is for anyone who says, “There’s no such thing as too much garlic.” Rightfully named, the garlic squid, garlic frog legs, or garlic chicken wings are all fantastic! All of the meats are deep-fried to golden brown perfection in a sweet and crispy batter. A light lemon pepper dipping sauce cuts down on the grease level, making them an absolute delight to the taste buds.
If your ideal restaurant is a lively, food quality-oriented place, then Phnom Penh is the place for you. There are so many wonderful options on the menu that you’ll be sure to find something flavourful and filling.