Phnom Penh – Vancouver, BC


Phnom Penh Restaurant
244 E Georgia St.
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604 682-5777

Phnom Penh on Urbanspoon

inside_phnom_penh

One restaurant that has never failed me is Phnom Penh – the Cambodian-Vietnamese restaurant on the outskirts of Chinatown. I have yet to have a bad meal there…which is remarkable for such a busy place. I can always count on the cooks there to serve me food with big, bold yet balanced and nuanced flavours. I’m not one to hyperbolize about dining experiences, but I must say that I have taken many friends, colleagues, out-of-towners to this place and they have all invariably declared the meal as one of the best they have had. One particular food-loving colleague from Los Angeles  emails me regularly to tell me that he craves a couple of their signature dishes and is constantly looking for excuses to fly up to Vancouver.

sign_phnom_penh

The restaurant describes itself as Cambodian-Vietnamese – two cuisines which will have much in common given the geographic proximity of the two countries. (The food from Laos and parts of Thailand are similar as well). The Khmer (Cambodian) and Vietnamese names of many dishes are often phonetically identical.

Much of the cuisine in this region all have certain elements in common – the use of souring ingredients (such as  tamarind, citrus); the use of strongly scented green herbs (cilantro, asian basils, lemongrass, kaffir, and so forth); fresh or pickled (instead of dried) pepper; the use of fermented fish sauces and pastes (nuoc nam, kapi); and the use of curry spices (turmeric, star anise, galangal, and so forth).

Also common to the cuisines is the general presentational philosophy of “fresh” balanced with “savory”. Pho, as an example, will always be presented to the diner with a plateful of herbs and greens as a counterpoint the savoriness of the broth. To indulge the diner further – a wedge of lime of almost always provided to allow for adjustment the sour note. This philosophy lends an appealing “brightness” to the cuisine. Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine do diverge somewhat – for example, Cambodian cuisine tends to be more pungent with fermented fishy flavours and the use of ripe tamarind paste is more prevalent.

I tend to order from the “Cambodian” section of the menu with forays into the “Vietnamese” section for a couple of particular favorite dishes. The selection of dishes between the two sections of the menu are similar but distinct enough to highlight the unique aspects of each cuisine.

garlic_chicken_wings_phnom_penh

My favorite dishes at Phnom Penh are their rightly famous garlic Chicken Wings (which comes with an lime juice and pepper dipping sauce), their Banh Xeo (their Vietnamese rice flour crepe filled with pork and sprouts), Black Pepper Squid (a wok-fried, tender and peppery concoction), Butter Beef (a superb dish of sliced rare beef with a good drizzle of a soy and nuoc nam based sauce), and their fried Frogs Legs (I didn’t have it today).
butter_beef_phnom_penh

I did find a new favorite on this visit: The Loc Lac which is the Khmer version of the Vietnamese dish Bo Luc Lac – more commonly known as “Shaking Beef” (due to the preparation method and not the on-plate antics of the beef slices).

shaking_beef_phnom_penh

The meal was excellent yet again. The service was perfunctory yet prompt and efficient…which is all I really want in a place like this. Be forewarned about the long lunch hour lineups. It is a very popular place.

Phnom Penh on Urbanspoon

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12 thoughts on “Phnom Penh – Vancouver, BC

  1. I am probably one of the few who have passed by this place many times, but have not yet gone in. It looks like a place that is better experienced with a larger group, in order to try a little bit of each well prepared dish, would that be true?

  2. Yes for sure. Their best dishes are sized for a group (the squid, frogs legs, etc).

    You can go in there and order an “on-rice” special, dry noodles or a bowl of soup noodles for lunch. You can augment it with one of their signature dishes sized for a single diner (they serve a half-size of the garlic chicken wings at around $7 CAD, for example). I have done this myself.

  3. > gastronomydomine
    Appreciate the added details. I assume this single serving can be done at dinner time too. Though I’m more likely to be able to visit Chinatown on a weekend lunch, will keep this in mind.

  4. The single servings are available at dinner time too. Another note: If dining alone, you might be shown to a large round communal table…which is OK by me. Some folks don’t like eating with strangers.

  5. > gastronomydomine
    Those kind of folks have obviously never eaten in a restaurant in Asia then. :) For me, its no bother but good to know. A French restaurant I’ve been to in Vancouver does something similar for single diners.

  6. That butter beef does look good. Every time I see a picture of their dish I want a plate full! And it wouldn’t matter if they sat me at a communal table; the more, the merrier.

  7. Great writeup, well researched as usual :-). SO and I were there for dinner on Jan 23 and had an excellent meal with only two people so it can be done. We had the small garlic squid, the full-sized bo luc lac, and the shrimp fried rice. Minor quibble: the squid was a wee bit dry, maybe slightly overdone, but the other dishes more than made up for that and there was no squid leftover either.

  8. What’s scary is that I ate take out from Phnom Penh today… I have it almost every week (the garlic chicken wings that is). I’ve been trying to Google the recipe for ages & decided to look for it again today. Then I come across your wordpress! I’m glad the word about Phnom Penh is getting out. I just wish the workers there wouldn’t keep parking in my family’s reserved parking in the back…

    • Hi Ashley – thanks for popping by. I have to say, based on the lineups, the word is out about PP already :) I’m personally not a huge fan of the wings, but to each their own!

  9. Pingback: Phnom Penh Cambodian Vietnamese Restaurant in Vancouver (Chinatown) - Dine Out Here Vancouver BC Canada

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