Phnom Penh restaurants: Hot 3

Scallops with lemongrass cream at La Residence

In a quest to experience all the culinary delights Phnom Penh has to offer, I recently tried three of the city’s best new restaurants – La Residence, Van’s Restaurant and Chow.

La Residence is a modern French-influenced eatery set in an elegant villa, with a contemporary interior reflecting its cuisine. Van’s is more of a classic French fine dining restaurant, suitably located in an opulent restored colonial mansion in the old French Quarter surrounding Phnom Penh’s post office.

Each is a definite contender for the city’s best restaurant – the food at La Residence is by a Japanese chef with experience working in Michelin star restaurants in Europe. It features modern and interesting flavour fusions (scampi with earl grey tea, scallops with lemongrass cream) and is served with fine attention to detail. Meanwhile, Van’s Gallic fare is hearty and indulgent with rich flavours and sauces (e.g. pepper and coffee crusted steak flambéd in cognac).

An excellent dining experience was had at each, though the atmosphere of each restaurant was vastly different. La Residence had a more formal feel with a multitude of staff at the ready and dining couples speaking in hushed tones, while in contrast Van’s was playing host to a few boisterous groups creating a more relaxed feel. Combined with a more ‘normal’ number of service staff who came by the table just at the right moments Van’s set a slightly more comfortable scene.

And then there’s the new kid on the riverfront, Chow, standing out as an urban, all white, minimalist outpost on a strip of tired old wicker furniture decked establishments. Despite being the restaurant and bar of the FCC-owned boutique hotel The Quay (upstairs from Chow) it’s already looking like a Phnom Penh expat spot to see and be seen.

The menu features an array of tapas-like bites (try the tasty lobster rolls), noodle dishes and heartier mains from all over Asia, at prices a little higher than the Phnom Penh norm (yet suited to a place of its calibre). A 4pm to 8pm happy hour with half price drinks softens the blow of the cocktail list, which features a few innovative drinks like a lavender martini. There’s also a very sleek and chic rooftop bar – it will apparently be only for hotel guests so have a drink there now if you can!

Image via La Residence

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