If you are into food, or have friends that are into food, you’ve probably heard about this place. Phnom Penh is a famous Cambodian restaurant hidden in a seedy part of Chinatown. It’s surrounded by run-down shops with decades old merchandise. Yet out of nowhere this restaurant pops up, with people lined up outside.
Phnom Penh is known to have the best chicken wings in town, and overall delicious food. And it’s very popular. We arrived on a Friday night at 6:30, and there was an hour wait. Chinatown Night Market was on so the streets around it had some foot traffic. Otherwise it would be pretty sketchy to wait outside.
The layout and decor are of a typical Asian establishment. The interior has been renovated recently, so everything looked pretty clean and new. It’s certainly not famous for a great atmosphere.
What went in
We got to ordering soon after sitting down. Even at close to 8 the restaurant was still hustling. Wings were the obvious choice. The Marinated Butter Beef also sounded swell, so that was chosen. To top it off we had a bit of rice and a Mango Moo Shake.
Let’s start with the Deep Fried Wings the whole town is crazy about: it was okay. Maybe it was the high expectations, or it was because we had to wait an hour to get in, but it didn’t blow me away. In fact it probably didn’t even make top three on my best wings list.
The meat was moist, but I’ve had juicier; the seasoning was nice, but I’ve had more memorable ones. As I worked my way into the bottom of the small pile, a gradual sadness began to fill the space around me. I felt like a kid that was just told Santa Claus died. If this was the best, and there is none better. I might as well give up wings… hell, I might give up chicken altogether.
To be honest the wings weren’t bad. They were just completely unremarkable, unspectacular, and ordinary in almost every way.
The beef, as you may have guessed, was just okay as well. I’m not sure how it got the name “Butter Beef” with the vinegary marinate and slightly chewy texture. All I could think of was I wish it was more like a Beef Carpaccio. There was an overload of fried garlic and cilantro on top, over-powering what little natural flavour the beef had left.
It’s sad to think the mango shake was likely the most memorable part of dinner. It was nice and thick, and it didn’t melt much. I bet it’s because they used real mangoes in it. The flavour would suggest so.
What came out
Despite the location, the prices are on the more expensive side of Asian restaurants, which is still very affordable. However I could think of a dozen cheaper places between my home and Chinatown that I’d rather go.
Quick, efficient, and average… a running theme of Phnom Penh.
It wouldn’t be fair to say I had a bad experience. And I do blame some of my opinions on the build-up prior to going. But there is just so little good to write home about.
Throughout dinner, the two of us sat quietly trying to think of something positive to say about the food. And all we managed were to sound like two polite guests at an old lady’s home, too kind to admit what we really thought.
(Max Score: 10; Base Score: 5)
What went in (-2 to +2) = 0.5
What came out (-1 to +1) = 0
Service (-1 to +1)) = 0.5
Mr’s Bonus (-1 to +1) = 0
Total Score – 6/10
Phnom Penh 金邊小館
244 E Georgia Street, Vancouver