Between remnants of French colonialism and the more recent influx of humanitarian-aid workers, international cuisine abounds in the Cambodian capital. Along with Vientiane, it is one of the best cities for dining in all of Southeast Asia. Some restaurants themselves are actually NGO (nongovernment organization) projects designed to raise money for local causes or provide training. Ask Khmers where to eat and you'll certainly be pointed to any of the street-side stalls or storefront Chinese noodle shops south of the Central Market, but good eats can also be had from one of many options along Sisowath Quay or among the alleys of the town center. There are simply hundreds of restaurants in Phnom Penh of all cuisine types. The riverfront, from the Royal Place to the Siem Reap boat pier, is one long strip of eateries. Around the residential area of Boeng Keng Kang south of Sihanouk Boulevard and centered around 51 Street are a number of restaurants set in quiet streets, with the long-running Khmer Surin really standing out. For a true local Khmer experience, cross the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship bridge on the Tonle Sap River in the north end of town and follow the main road a few short clicks to the town of Prek Leap. The large riverside restaurants here are always crowded with locals on weekends. They are usually in big groups of family and friends and the atmosphere of celebration is palpable. There are karaoke, bands, and even variety shows using the universal language of slapstick. It's a good chance to eat, talk, and laugh with locals. All the restaurants serve similar good Khmer and Chinese fare. Go by tuk-tuk and pick the most crowded place; the more, the merrier.
Snacks & Cafes
Java Café and Gallery, 56 Sihanouk Blvd. (tel. 023/987-420), is a good spot in town to relax and escape the midday heat. Just south of the main sights (near the Independence Monument), this popular second-story oasis has casual seating on a large balcony and an open gallery interior. They serve real coffee, cappuccino, good cakes, and other baked goods; they sometimes feature live music in the evening. It's open daily from 7am to 10pm.
Fat Boy at No. 124 St. 130 (tel. 012/704-500) is a submarine sandwich shop that is making waves. It serves up the best American-style subs in town, generously made-to-order on fresh baked just-like-home breads and rolls. Good choices include the Italian sub and imported roast beef sub, and all subs come with a big selection of sauces and add-ons. The Fat Boy sub packing 2 pounds of meat is for real aficionados of the sub at its finest and indeed its largest.
The Deli at No. 13 St. 178 (tel. 012/851-234) is a favorite among the expats in town for a good sandwich and excellent pastries.
The Shop is a stylish cafe on popular Street 240 (tel. 023/986-964) and now has a new location on the north end of Sisowath Quay. Come here for baked goods (try the raspberry chocolate tart), filling panini, fresh soups, tea, and coffee in a friendly and comfortable storefront at each location. There are neat details like butcher-block tables and fresh flowers, and they can arrange picnic lunches for day trips from Phnom Penh. Chocoholics must visit Chocolate by The Shop ★ (No. 35 St. 240; tel. 023/998-638) next door, which serves fantastic truffles and bonbons all for reasonable prices. The fiery chocolate sprinkled with pepper from Kampot makes a great gift.
Sugar Palm (No. 19 St. 240; tel. 023/220-956) serves good Khmer dishes at street-side or from their upstairs balcony. It's a gallery that features good local crafts and a good place to relax and enjoy real Khmer atmosphere and good treats.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.