Siem Reap is a foodie’s playground with top-class restaurants serving up cuisine from all corners of the globe. There are also a few worthy spots scattered throughout Angkor Wat to keep up the energy levels while exploring the temples. Here are 10 of the best.
Malis in Phnom Penh has made a name for itself as Cambodia’s finest, run by local celebrity chef Luu Meng. A couple of years ago, Malis in Siem Reap opened its doors, serving up the same philosophy and sumptuous food as its sister. The menu is packed full of Khmer cuisine given a contemporary twist – dubbed living Cambodian cuisine by Meng – and takes diners on a culinary journey of Cambodia, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner you’re after, in an opulent riverside setting.
Cuisine Wat Damnak’s head chef Johannes Rivieres has made it his mission to ensure visitors to Siem Reap sample the divine dining on offer. Describing the menu as “Cambodian food with a French sensitivity”, the menu combines Rivieres’ deep knowledge of Khmer cuisine with seasonal produce to create non-traditional Cambodian dishes. Often incorporating edible flowers and local fruits, the restaurant offers two set degustation menus that change fortnightly. Set in a stunning traditional Khmer house, dining areas take in a tropical garden, air-conditioned dining room, and traditional wooden house.
Blue Pumpkin is a popular name in urban hubs, with the bakery and restaurant serving up a range of reliable Asian and French meals as well as baked goods, ice cream and sweet treats. The great news is it has opened a small branch just outside the entrance to Angkor Wat, and it opens early, which means if you don’t have time to grab breakfast before heading to the temples for sunrise, you can fuel up here. Be warned though, it fills up quickly at lunch time.
If hunger strikes while exploring Angkor Wat and you fancy feasting like a local, then Angkor Reach Restaurant will hit the spot. The sprawling restaurant has plenty of tables and chairs in a basic set up – and believe it, they’re needed because this restaurant, which sits opposite Angkor Wat’s western causeway, fills up during peak times. It serves a range of Khmer, Chinese, Thai and international dishes.
Overlooking Siem Reap River, this stylish Cambodia eatery is set in a converted traditional wooden Khmer home that used to belong to a governor of Angkor Thom’s Peak Sneng district. Diners can sit inside an air-conditioned room, outdoor upstairs space, or in the lush tropical gardens out front of the restaurant. Mahob, which means “ingredients” in Khmer, also offers a weekly degustation menu as well as its a la carte menu that includes dishes cooked on the “hot stone” – an ancient way of barbecue grilling on volcanic stone at 400 degrees. It also runs cookery classes for those wanting to learn how to cook Khmer food.
Operating under the Tree Alliance family – a network of social enterprise restaurants that falls under the Friends International umbrella – Mahob serves up great food with heaps of heart. Operating as part of NGO Kaliyan Mith, which translates as “good friends” in Khmer, the restaurant is staffed by former street kids who have undergone intensive training in hospitality. The food is fantastic, with healthy portions spanning vegetarian, seafood and meat-based dishes, all Khmer with contemporary flair.
For some upmarket eating in cool contemporary surroundings, Embassy Restaurant hits the right spot. Headed by executive chefs Pol and Sok, known as the Kimsan twins, they share the same family name but are not related – although they do share a passion for cooking. The restaurant specialises in a seasonal Khmer gastronomy menu. Diners can tuck into the mouth-watering monthly menu, with a seasonal seven-course gastronomy set that can be paired with an exclusive selection of wines.
Khmer Grill is a great budget option with all food served with heaps of Cambodian hospitality. Popular with tourists, the corner spot serves up a range of Khmer and Western food, with owner Chean Meankung and his wife ensuring smiles and laughter are delivered to each table. Whether it’s a fresh fruit juice, fried rice, salads, burgers or Khmer curries, Khmer Grill serves great food with lots of love in a casual setting.
Combining an interior designed by an award-winning architect and a menu created by top chefs, it’s no surprise that The Dining Room at Park Hyatt is said to serve some of the best Khmer food in the city. The menu features traditional Cambodian dishes along with a few French-inspired innovations. Highlights include the wok-fried beef-strip loin with toasted rice and lemongrass, and the Australian roast rack of lamb with rosemary and garlic. The best place to soak up the atmosphere is out on the veranda, where diners can enjoy the view of a towering 100-year-old banyan tree.
Jomnan’s Kitchen is another eatery that aims to give underprivileged children a new lease of life. Specialising in Khmer food, the restaurant serves a wide selection of well-cooked dishes, with the staff being the stars of the show. Their smiles are infectious and as well as walking away with a full belly, diners will leave with a warm heart. Upstairs boasts a chilled area for relaxing with some bites and drinks, with downstairs offers a more formal seating.