C&C went for a Phnom Penh dinner a while back. It’s definitely a great place to go with a large group. Though no matter the size of the group, I always tend to order the same things. Now being Vietnamese, and having had eaten authentic Vietnamese food at home, in Vietnam and in the states (my gosh it’s SO much better over there), I actually find it is difficult to find good Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver. Sure there are plenty of pho restaurants, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Take a peek here at some of the things I ate in Vietnam (Eats in Vietnam). Then again, I don’t purposely venture out to go eat Vietnamese food when I can have it at home.
Phnom Penh is usually my go to place for good Vietnamese eats, though it’s not exactly a place my parents would be impressed by. Honestly, I just like to go there for the butter beef and the chicken wings. I’ve tried a few other items off their menu, but nothing else has really impressed me. Rice dishes are mediocre and the soups are average… though I’ve yet to try the famous Bo Luc Lac (beef fillet with rice) off their menu. It’s such a simple dish, something I have at home quite often, that I wonder how good it can really be.
We did order the famous wings, but believe me, when they got to the table I didn’t want to stall with taking photos and did not get one I’m happy with. You can check out my take out experience with the wings here (Phnom Penh’s Chicken Wings – Take Out).
Butter Beef – 5/5
Pile on the cilantro. I LOVE cilantro. I pretty much use it as a garnish for everything I cook. Maybe it’s a Vietnamese thing. Anyways, it makes this dish look absolutely beautiful. Rare thinly sliced beef, in a delicious vinagary soy sauce, topped with mounds of cilantro and sprinkled with fried garlic. I love this stuff more than the wings. Excuse me while I lick the plate.
Papaya Salad - 3/5
I’m a huge fan of Vietnamese papaya salads. They are light, lemony and fresh. If you like eating the daikon that comes with your sashimi at Japanese restaurants, this has a similar texture. Though Phnom Penh makes a decent salad, I wouldn’t say it’s particularly memorable. Worth trying if you’ve never had papaya salad though!
Rice Combo (B? A? I can’t remember which) - 3/5
Good filler up dish if you’re hungry, portion is huge, but I don’t think it was anything special.
Deep Fried Squid – 3/5
Fried the same style their wings are fried. Now I always think that calamari can either be done REALLY well, or it’s just bad (oily, greasy, soggy). I usually avoid ordering calamari for this reason. Now this was a while ago, so I can’t remember what I thought. But from looking at the pictures, it doesn’t seem disappointing. If you like calamari, go for it… otherwise, skip, and try something like the deep fried frog legs! Yum.
Vietnamese Crepe – 1/5
Again, they are quite generous in their portions. I ordered this dish, hoping to give my friends the opportunity to try something new. To eat this crepe, you cut out a piece, and roll it into some lettuce and dip it in fish sauce. Unfortunately, the crepe we had that day seemed overcooked and drier than I’m use to. I wasn’t a fan.
Overall:So verdict? As everyone says, come to Phnom Penh for the butter beef, the chicken wings and possibly the Luc Lac Beef. I find the other dishes to be average, but they will feed my cravings for authentic Vietnamese foods when I'm away from the parents. Even so, it's definitely worth the trip to Chinatown just for those few signature dishes, and you'll know what I mean when you try them. That's if you haven't already have! Phnom Penh always has a wait, and you may have to be a bit aggressive to get a table. But once you are seated, service is quite good. They are efficient and the food comes quickly. Guess they know you're hungry from the wait, well that or they want to clear you out for the next group.
*Our scoring system is out of 5. With 5 being the highest score.