Wednesday, June 20, 2012

from temples to tongues, a taste of siem reap

So the word is out. Temple town is becoming a hub for great cuisine. Gone are the days of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am midnight noodle stalls and lifeless burger drones in gasoline stations.

But the good thing is that there's something for everyone. For all walks of life, for all sorts of budget, for all kinds of culinary kinks. Here are a few (yes, this is just a small fraction!) of our favorite ones...

Siem Reap Staple: ABACUS
A Siem Reap institution for years, Abacus transferred into an out-of-the-way location after being driven off from their original space by Sivutha Boulevard. The food is marche concept, so expect to find new offerings everyday on a menu written by hand on a black board and carried by their staff from table to table.

The French owner, Renaud is a quirky character that is half of the experience when dining at Abacus, so it is of utmost importance to meet him!

Cheap and cheerful: BBQ LOVER
 A little gem in the hawker stalls by Pub Street, BBQ Lover is a no-frills grill place with a little dash of oomph. The dipping sauces are their secret artillery, so be sure to stock up on them as you nibble along. They are perhaps the only whose staff wear professional kitchen uniforms, so it's like eating on the street but served by a fancy resto.

The house that flour built: BLUE PUMPKIN
  
The Blue Pumpkin's road to success has been a bumpy one, but when they finally hit the right notes after years of perfecting their craft, their combination of great space, lush pastries and inventive ice creams took them from a single cafe years ago into franchise that spans well into the kingdom - Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Battambang. My first few weeks in Cambodia was mostly spent here, over coffee and doodling on my notebook musings and drawings as the enchantment passed me by.
 
A little taste of Paris: macaroons with a plethora of flavours!

When east married west and had a love child: KANELL
Kanell is one of those hidden gems tucked neatly out of the public sight so that only those in the know can truly enjoy its many offerings. The gentrified old Khmer house where the main restaurant sits is a quirky collection of the couple's finds and the garden setting at the back complete with a pool is a lush hideaway in itself. The food is as quirky as the place.

The couple, who both ran different Michelin-starred kitchens back home in France, managed to fuse Khmer, French, Mediterranean and middle eastern flavours into one cohesive palate, which surprisingly works!

The accidental pizza: IL FORNO
If it's Italian you're craving, it couldn't get possibly more Italian than this! Tucked just a breath away from the beat of Pub Street on a little alley called Brick Lane, Il Forno had not happened if not for the airport protests in Bangkok, where the founders were doing a pit stop from Italy to Fiji where they own a resort. Trapped there, they made their way to Siem Reap hoping to catch another flight to connect them eventually to Fiji, but they never left since then. From the brick oven brought piece by piece from Italy, to the rustic interiors and the wine choices, who needs to fly all the way to Tuscany?

Relaxing respite: RAJA ANGKOR
From the same owner of BBQ Lover comes Raja Angkor, a couple of levels up from its streetside sister, and with a more varied menu for both Cambodian and Asian favorites. Their biggest draw is their extensive wine list which goes to show that this ain't your regular hawker hole anymore.

Hotel Hopping: SOKHALAY ANGKOR

Don't be fooled by its imposing concrete facade. Drive past the main hotel block and inside, you'll be in for a surprise. Sokhalay Angkor is actually an oasis of forest greens, tropical gardens and endless stretches of ponds. In the middle of the complex is probably Cambodia's largest freeform pool and an aptly named restaurant called GREEN. The restaurant is open to the public and the menu is as extensive as the property itself. The salads and the vegetarian fare is great, but if you are a pescetarian, you have an option to try your hands on fishing for the hundreds of mature red snappers swimming around the ponds of the restaurant. If you catch one, the chef can cook it in any manner you fancy your fish.

Of course, meat lovers have their day in the sun too!

All the Happy Flavors of the Earth: THE INDIAN
If there's one food I can truly eat everyday and not be tired of, it's hands down the daal curry and the garlic naan at The Indian. These don't need any words, explanations, nor any tantalizing lines to define how good they are. Couple it with my obsession with India since I was in high school, then we've got ourselves a dangerous situation. The people behind the Indian opened up another restaurant right in front of Art Deli called Kerala and this poses a really big problem both on my wallet and my waistline.

For the culturatti: THE APSARA THEATRE
For those in search for a dose of classical Cambodian dance and food, head to the Apsara Terrace. Although the food here can use a little more panache, the space and the performances can more than make up for it. Owned by the same team as the Angkor Village Resorts, the theatre is a rich visual dessert to complete any odyssey to temple town.


3 comments:

Leigh said...

1) I love the titles.
2) I love the photos.

Way to go, Loven!

the spool artist said...

thanks leigh! glad i went back to blogging. am slowly catching up with your recent posts too!

arollerskatingjam said...

this is the perfect post for me! Everything looks and sounds delicious!