Siem Reap is known for being the gateway to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat temple complex. Enlivened by its many tourists, Siem Reap’s restaurants, cafes and food markets are abuzz with the best of Cambodian cuisine and ingredients. What makes the cuisine of this area distinctive is its unusual Khmer-French–Asian fusion, combining traditional, colonial and international influences, and creating a vibrant dining culture that celebrates Cambodia’s heritage.
Opened in 2011 by chef Johannes Rivieres, Cuisine Wat Damnak represents the culmination of Rivieres’s knowledge of Khmer cuisine, while still offering many creative surprises. Having earned his stripes and made his name at Hotel de la Paix, Rivieres pioneered the hotel’s tasting menu. At Cuisine Wat Damnak, he continues to tailor two tasting menus a week, bringing many exciting flavor combinations to his diners. Here, the focus is not on traditional Cambodian dishes, but on sourcing local seasonal produce, such as edible flowers, kuy fruit and fish found only in the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake. This makes for a unique dining experience showcasing the best in contemporary Khmer gastronomy.
L’Angelo Italian Restaurant is situated in Le Méridien Angkor Hotel on Vithei Charles de Gaulle, which puts it in the fortunate position of being the closest restaurant to Angkor Wat. However, this is not the only reason to eat at L’Angelo. Serving an interesting blend of modern Italian cuisine with an Asian twist, and the finest collection of wines in the city, this uber-trendy restaurant guarantees a first-class fine dining experience. It also provides a comfortable and cosmopolitan environment after a long day of exploring the temples.
Award-winning Meric restaurant at the old Hotel de la Paix was often cited as the best Khmer restaurant in the whole country. Now rebranded as The Dining Room, the restaurant looks intent on carrying on in the same vein. Chef de Cuisine Pisith Theam was part of the original team at Meric, and continues to bring authentic Khmer cuisine to the fore. Add in Executive Sous Chef Martin Robl’s thirteen years of culinary experience in Hyatt’s key properties across the world, and you have a creative and appetizing mix of Khmer and provincial French fare, where traditional Cambodian seafood amok is served alongside Australian Wagyu beef. The interior was designed by award-winning architect Bill Bensley, with a marble floor and chic modern feel. Guests can also dine at one of the outdoor swing tables that look out onto the 100-year-old Banyan tree in the courtyard.
Since it opened in 2004, Abacus has become a big name on the Siem Reap culinary scene. In 2009, the restaurant relocated to an elegant, spacious property off Airport Road, designed by award-winning architects Lisa Ros and Ivan Tizianel. The food is fine international gastronomy, with head chef Pascal Schmit offering a varied and ever-changing a la carte menu and specials, using fresh local produce and the best imported ingredients. Expect dishes such as steak in black truffle sauce and foie gras served on mango and arugula. With such refined food, and a candle-lit terrace area for alfresco dining, it is no wonder that Abacus continues to be a favourite.
For an indulgent, once-in-a-lifetime experience, Destination Dining is Siem Reap’s perfect destination. The dining experience involves a three-course meal, cooked by a private chef and served by a private waiter, in a secluded thatched pavilion above a lotus pond. Though Destination Dining makes for the perfect setting for a romantic meal for two, with candlelight and live music, bookings are also available for groups of up to six people. From the moment you arrive, attentive but unobtrusive star treatment is guaranteed. Of course, there is only one booking per night, so be sure to reserve in advance.
The Alliance Hotel, housed in a 1950s French colonial building, is a surprisingly peaceful retreat in the heart of Siem Reap. The villa itself breathes nostalgia, and features works of art scattered around the entire building, including the hotel’s Art Café, which serves fine French cuisine with traditional Cambodian staples. The restaurant and garden act as a spacious and fluid art space and present a variety of artwork and exhibitions, including paintings, sculpture and mixed-media work from local and international artists. This makes for a romantic and stylish setting, and one of the most unique dining experiences in the city. There is also a wonderful shadow theatre and traditional Apsara dance show on certain nights, so be sure to book.
Nest is a fashionable and funky venue in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor inspired by the cosmopolitan lifestyle of New York and Miami Beach. It calls itself a ‘no walls’ establishment, encompassed by exotic plants, with a sail-like canopy as a roof and beds to lounge on. The restaurant is vast and airy, with a garden-like setting, which becomes the ultimate chill-out venue at night, with soul, R&B and disco music to set the mood. The food is an explosion of flavors, a contemporary fusion of western and modern Khmer cuisine. The astounding choice of cocktails and wines is also a draw.
Located in the former French Governor’s residence, the FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) Angkor is an elegant establishment with a modern Indochina feel. The restaurant serves an eclectic combination of Asian and western dishes, (the same as the famous original FCC in Phnom Penh), serving up Cambodian classics such as fish amok and lok lak saich whilst catering for an international clientele. This class of gourmet food, as well as the ambience, makes FCC one of the most popular restaurants in Siem Reap. Take a seat on the terrace, overlooking the verdant gardens and the bustling main street, to make the most of this charming venue.
Just like its sister hotel nearby, Viroth’s Restaurant is a stylish, sophisticated affair which is surprisingly affordable. The dining area features a spacious garden-like setting, with a raised wooden platform, and silk screens hanging between tables to add a sense of intimacy to proceedings. The low lights and sleek Balinese-inspired décor also add to the ambience. The tour de force here is traditional Khmer food prepared with care and served with creativity. Viroth’s is always packed with happy diners, which is a testament to how well loved it is.
Le Malraux is a bistro situated in the heart of Siem Reap, next to the Old Market, in a wonderful art deco building, a former brewery that has been quirkily decorated with an eclectic French-Indochine antique look and plenty of hanging orchids. The French influence is also clear in the simple but refined menu conceived by head chef David Martin, a famous television chef in France who joined the restaurant after meeting the owner, Christophe Boussiron, on a trip to Cambodia in 2009. Offering comforting European classics such as confit of duck legs and salmon carpaccio and Cambodian dishes, cooked with class and creativity. With its excellent but affordable menu, well-stocked bar and convivial Gallic charm, Le Malraux is a great place to take refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city center.