One of the most obvious changes in Siem Reap since our last visit there was the explosion of new hotels, restaurants and bars. On that prior trip, the area known as Pub Street was actually pretty much confined to one street. Now it goes on for blocks and blocks with lots of action spilling out into the streets.
On that previous visit our favorite restaurant was Khmer Kitchen so naturally, we wanted to go back on our first night there. Only problem was, with all the new places, we didn’t recognize any of the old landmarks we used to navigate there the first time. After walking around for a while and asking several people for directions, we found Khmer Kitchen but it didn’t look anything like the place we remembered and the menu was significantly different. But we went ahead and had our meal. The food was decent and not too expensive but to our disappointment, it wasn’t nearly as good a meal as we remembered from the place with the same name from the prior trip.
The next morning I was telling the desk clerk at our (The Kool) hotel about dinner the night before and she advised that there are now more than one location of Khmer Kitchen and that she would write down the address of the one with the best chef. So that evening, we went to a 2nd location and while the food there was better than the first night, it was still not up to the standard of our memory of the previous trip.
On our way out to a tour of the Tonle Sap Lake and floating villages one afternoon, our guide stopped at a cross roads that had several food stands and we took the opportunity to sample grilled snake and stir fried grasshoppers. I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of them but both were actually pretty good.
On our way back to town from the lake, our guide took us through what he called a “Cambodian Picnic.” Basically, every evening a large number of food vendors set up grills along the roadside just outside of the town. We saw hundreds of locals walking from stall to stall picking and choosing what they wanted to eat. Once purchased, people sit on blankets and folding chairs on the roadside and enjoy their dinner. We saw grilled sausage, chicken and other meats, snails, whole fish, cockles, corn and other vegetables. It really looked and smelled quite good. If we hadn’t already snacked on grilled snake and fried grasshoppers that afternoon and didn’t already have plans for dinner that night, we would have taken part.
We also ate lunch at one of the un-named restaurants nearby the central temple complex at Angkor Wat. It was nothing exceptional but the food was OK and given the location, not badly overpriced. That was pretty much the same experience we had when had eaten in the area on the prior trip.
The one meal we had in Siem Reap that was exceptional was at Touich Restaurant. It’s a bit off the beaten track but the food was surprisingly sophisticated and the service was also terrific. We had a sour chicken soup & banana flower salad as starters and mains of a smoked eggplant with chicken and grilled tiger prawns. Every thing was good and the eggplant was outstanding. For dessert we ordered a sampler plate of Khmer style “cakes” that was also great. Most were essentially rice or coconut rather than flour based. With a large bottle of water and 1 beer, the total price was $20.50.
The owner is a young man who lived for a while in France and he speaks excellent French and English. You must have a reservation (we saw several groups turned away at the door). In their promotional literature, Touich offers to provide transport by jeep to the restaurant but when we asked about it when making our reservation, we were told the jeep was fully booked. Most likely you will take a tuk-tuk there and given the location, it would be smart to ask the driver to wait for you to drive you back to town after the meal.