Dining in Phnom Penh is a pleasure due to the variety of high-quality cuisine on local menus. The city's not-so-distant colonial past has paved the way for a few outstanding French restaurants, but there's much more for hungry tourists to enjoy. The ideal dining itinerary involves an even mix of Khmer and European cuisine, with an occasional visit to a Chinese restaurant.
Aside from the city's French influence, one of the biggest contributors to the international atmosphere is the NGO sector. Humanitarian aid workers produce a thriving sub-market for relaxed cafés serving fresh, organic foods. Some of the best restaurants in this category are actually operated through NGOs and give most (if not all) of their proceeds to local charitable causes.
Of course, a trip to Phnom Penh wouldn't be complete without a healthy dose of Khmer cuisine, and there's plenty to be had from local food stalls in the city center or along the river. Stir fries, noodles, curries and sticky rice are all on the menu.
All around Central Market (Psar Thmei) is a collection of bars, cafés and Chinese restaurants that are busy at all hours. Most of the restaurants tourists are likely to visit are found here, and they're easily accessible on foot from the main market area.
The Sisowatch riverside area, stretching out from the Royal Palace, has some of the best French restaurants in Phnom Penh. Most are housed in colonial-era mansions and are brimming with class and atmosphere. The riverside also hosts more than a few local food stalls serving excellent budget fare.
Cross the Friendship Bridge and follow Route 6A to reach this dining district. This is a favorite local haunt with roadside stands, drink kiosks and a few nightclubs that mainly serve Cambodian fare, though there are also a few Chinese eateries. The best way to get here is by taxi, and then it's a matter of following the crowd to the most popular establishments. This is a guaranteed good time for culture lovers.
A short distance north of the city center is Beng Keng Kang, a dining district that follows the Tonle Sap River. Tourists regularly travel to this area in order to visit the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, and the trendy and relaxed restaurants in this area cater to all tastes and are busiest during the day.
The Boddhi Tree
Number 50 Street 113, Beong Keng Kong
Phone: +855 16 865 445
This restaurant is across the street from the Genocide Museum and is a popular lunch spot for visitors. It's an oasis of solitude; perfect for those who need an hour to process what they've just seen. The menu features plenty of Cambodian fare, along with a selection of coffees and teas.
Number 100 Sothearos Boulevard, Central District
Phone: +855 23 211 054
One of Phnom Penh's most celebrated French restaurants, Topaz is modern and comfortable, but with an elegant edge. Beyond standard French fare, the menu features plenty of more mainstream Western dishes. The wine and dessert lists are both worth attention.
Number 215 Street 13, Central District
Phone: +855 23 426 748
This is one of a few NGO-affiliated restaurants in Phnom Penh that sends its proceeds directly to a good cause (a children's shelter in this case). The menu goes back and forth between Khmer classics and international standards. Directly across from the National Museum, this restaurant belongs on everyone's must-dine list.
Number 6 Street 110, Sisowath riverside
Phone: +855 23 212 302
A favorite of the Sisowath riverside restaurants, River House serves mostly French cuisine with a sprinkling of other Western dishes. The bars and dining area have a sophisticated air, while the upstairs is dimly-lit and laid-back. The after-hours crowd comes here for the late night music.
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