Fox Wine Bistro

The Bar

Fox is the latest offering by the entrepreneurs who brought Brown to Phnom Penh, and it has a lot of the same things going for it: well-trained staff, great interior spaces, and a mission to make Cambodian clientele feel at home in a typically Western setting. If you go, go at night; take friends or a date, enjoy the wine and the buzz of conversations in Khmer and western languages, and be open to some interesting Asian spins on the kind of dishes you find at Deco or Topaz.

Indoor/Outdoor Seating

But OK, because we were taking photographs, Bryse, Anna, Peter and I went in the middle of the day one Saturday. It was kind of empty, and we didn’t have any wine, so we basically opted out of two of Fox’s top selling points. We also didn’t order any of the over $10 options on the menu. With those caveats, here are our thoughts on some of the dishes as we experienced them in the harsh, sober light of day.

Burger

Fox serves a great-looking “burger”; well-toasted bun (complete with subtle “Fox” bun brand), sloppy egg on top, and with a decent side of wilted greens for a dash of healthiness. However, look under the hood and you’ll discover that this is not a standard ground beef patty, but rather, a small pile of saucy beef cubes. If I had ulterior motives, I could spin this as a groundbreaking Asian fusion burger, but to be honest, it was a little weird and disappointing, particularly compared to other Nyam Penh burger adventures. Also, where are the fries? For $6.50 or less, you can get way better, more traditional burgerage in Phnom Penh.

Mini Burgers

The mini-burgers look adorable and taste pretty good. Unlike the regular sized burger, these have more traditional patty structure and texture. Alas, the truly delightful burger physics of juicy-centeredness and outer-crustiness are rarely found at this quantum level, and even as mini burgers go, these didn’t have that much meat. But Fox mini burgers, how can I look at Anna’s picture of your tiny Fox buns and write you off as not worthwhile? At $5-$6, they are not a bad choice for an appetizer.

Whatever Roswell Ordered

The chicken has a very Western presentation, and yet the flavors are all Khmer. The sauce reminded us of amok, with delicious notes of lemongrass. I could have used some rice, though; like with the “burger,” it seemed conspicuously carb deficient. It was particularly odd that it didn’t come with rice, since, according to the waitress, this is a dish designed for Cambodian diners who aren’t in the mood for our exotically ethnic food (“they say it is too bland,” she explained) and prefer something they’re used to. To a Westerner, on the other hand, it is a very intriguing take on a gourmet chicken dish. A little steep at $8, but worth a try.

Fox Bistro Anna Clare Spelman-8

This is the goat cheese beet root salad with strawberries and walnuts. Unfortunately, there are only two slices of strawberries, very few beet roots, and not a lot of goat cheese — and the goat cheese, unfortunately, doesn’t have that crumble to its creaminess that usually makes goat cheese worthwhile, it was closer to standard cream cheese in blandness and texture. In addition to the vinagrette on the side, the salad leaves came already dressed in oil, making the whole thing unexpectedly greasy.

For the above dishes, we stuck with the under-$10 options. Our waitress, who was very helpful and well-spoken, noted that the more expensive dishes (Australian rib-eye; lamb; etc) were the most popular, and I would spring for those next time I go back. And I will go back. Like I said at the top, it’s a good scene at night, and it’s nice to have a Western restaurant that really feels like it has grown up in the new, cosmopolitan Cambodia.

-Roswell

-photos by Anna.

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Dirty Burger Marathon

USA Donut

USA Donut

Things slow down a bit for the Tet holiday in Vietnam and most expatriates tend to leave the country. So when I came to Cambodia for a bit of holiday and for a photo job, Bryse suggested that we should go nyam some places. Not one to shirk the idea of grubbing some food, I said yes but with a catch. I wanted to try to accomplish at least 4 places in the city in one night. However, we couldn’t go to a proper restaurant as that would just take forever. So we had to go a bit dirty and in true nyam penh fashion, it revolved around burgers.

What’s a dirty burger? It’s not quite fast food and not quite gourmet. Kinda in the middle price point of around $3 – $5.

So Bryse rustled up the troops, in the form of Roswell and Dene and off we went.

The first burger we tried was at USA Donuts. The cafe / convenience store lives up to it’s name with it’s very american style donuts and random items from the States.

We ordered a couple of burgers to start. A run of the mill cheeseburger with fries ($3.00) and a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings ($5.25). Both burgers were decent not great. Meat was a bit dry as both patties were cooked grey and the cheese wasn’t a slice but rather cheese sauce. However, I would definitely come back for the breaded onion rings. You don’t get alot of them but they are gargantuan in size. The breading was crisp and was salted perfectly. Just enough to balance the sweetness of the onions.

USA Donuts: 2.5 nyamies (The extra .5 goes to the onion rings)

Rocket Burger

Rocket Burger

Next up was Rocket Burger. Set near the Australian Embassy, I was a bit dubious about the place as it was a bit out of the way and looked quite sad when we entered. But they made a decent cheeseburger which made up for the depressing digs. Their bacon cheeseburger ($3.00) was great and the patty was actually cooked medium which made it juicy. And check out out the perfectly grilled onion! They could tone down the tartar sauce (yeah, I know) but this was a definite surprise.

Rocket Burger: 3 nyamies

Garage

Garage

We have a complicated relationship with Garage. Bryse and I have eaten there several times and feel that their burgers are some of the best in town. However, whenever we decide to officially nyam the place, the food falls just a bit flat. Sadly, when it came to the sous-vide burger, it happened again.

Overcooked and crumbly, the patty does injustice to a very well thought out burger. It is a very beefy burger though and you can definitely taste that it is high quality meat. For a look at what the burger would taste like when properly cooked, head to the link (http://www.gopowerkick.com/4006/the-garage-phnom-penh)

soex

sous-vide

However, their smash burger was freaking awesome. How awesome was it? Well, I didn’t have a chance to take a photo of it as it was scarfed down before my trusty Nokia 102o could get to camera mode (seriously Nokia, can we work on that please???). The patty was crusty yet was at a medium temp. It came topped with cheese, arugula, caramelized onions and sriracha mayo. It was a perfect smashburger. And cheap at $3.25!

Bryse has a thing for cubanos and he ordered one, which kinda put everyone over the edge. It was good. However, plating could use a bit of help. One word: ramekins.

Garage: 3 (2 for the sous-vide, 4 for the smash)

We weren’t able to make it to our 4th venue as we were stuffed to the gills. Sadly, it will have to wait for next time.

– Vinh
USA Donut

USA Donut

This was my first outing with the Nyam crew, though I’ve been a close follower of their blog for years now. I was very pleased to be asked along because 1) I love food blogs, and 2) I love burgers, dirty or otherwise.

Our first burger at USA Donuts was actually pretty good to me, but maybe it’s because I had low expectations. Their cheese was sort of a nacho/velveeta cheese-like texture, which could be off-putting to some people, but I thought it was pretty tasteful when smashed with the patty. Their onion rings were bomb — crispy and huge — though perhaps what was the best part about USA Donuts is that they had Fat Tire beers by the bottle. I love non-Cambodian beers (They give me diarrhea, bleh).

Rocket Burger

Rocket Burger

The exterior decor of Rocket Burger is fashioned after Johnny Rockets in the US… but the interior makes for a pretty lonely-looking place, with a bar in one corner and a children’s play area in the other. It was empty, save us — I think the wait staff was thrilled to see us. Their burgers were pretty good — better than I expected, really.

At this point, as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if both USA Donuts and Rocket Burger benefited from my low expectations. Because the next place we went to, Garage, was where we had really high expectations.

Rocket Burger

Rocket Burger

Now, I’m a simple girl when it comes to burgers — I like them big, greasy and cheesy. I’m not too into fancy seasonings or like… special techniques when I am looking for my ideal burger — Vinh had been going on and on about sous-vide all night. Just give me a good flame-grilled patty, bread that’s fresh, and cheese, and I’m good!

Expectations or not, I’m sad to say that their sous-vide burger was disappointingly dry. Their smash burger was good, but that random bit of vegetation in it really weirded me out. I disagreed with Vinh on it being arugula… I think it was something like cilantro. Alas, the best part about Garage was the cubano that Bryse ordered. I love Cuban sandwiches. You know what Garage does super well? Cuban Ruebens! Those are my favorite things on the menu, though they can be a little bit pricey.

If I had to rank the burgers, I would probably rank the Rocket Burger one first, USA Donut second, Smash Burger third, and Fancy Sous-Vide Burger fourth. All in all, lots of burgers and beers were consumed, so what more could a girl ask for? Being someone who LOVES talking about food (I’m Singaporean) I really enjoyed the non-stop food debates that was happening.

– Dene

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Digby’s Butchery

Best burger in town

Best burger in town

Big news in Phnom Penh! Digby’s is serving the new king of burgers (despite the fact that there is now a Burger King at the airport). Digby’s is a really well done, Dean & DeLuca knock off that has opened up in the past six months and it is by far the best burger I’ve had in Phnom Penh. Great beef patty, bacon, cheddar, secret sauce on a sesame bun. Not cheap but really tasty. Being still new, it looks like the Digby’s Chef is still working out the exact recipe; I’ve been twice and the burger was a bit different each time but great both times.

Meat platter

Meat platter

I haven’t tried many of the other menu items in the cafe but I’ve bought a few sausages to cook at home and everything has been awesome.

classy Mountain Dew

Classy Mountain Dew available

The historic go-to butchery in Phnom Penh has been Dan’s Meat which is a no-frills shop with a decent assortment of sausages and meats. Digby’s leapfrogged Dan’s and has about 3x as much sausage available, meats, cheeses, a fancy grocery store and a cafe which great food.

The exterior of the building is very dark and uninviting but the interior design was really well done with attention to detail. There are still reminders that we are in Cambodia (see Mountain Dew in the fancy beverage section). But if you haven’t been, definitely check it out.

4.5 out of 5 nyamies
– Bryse

pulled pork

Pulled pork

My interest in Digby’s was first piqued when it was just a butchery operating out of BKK1, and rumors swirled that they offered varieties of sausages in the double-digits. But it wasn’t until they began offering this vast assortment of meat treats cooked on-site at their Digby’s Café that I actually tried out their wares for myself. In addition to sausages, the café serves a variety of Americana-style sandwiches and a burger that some say is the best in town.

Walking into Digby’s is astonishingly like walking into a fancy grocer in NYC. From the gleaming white subway tiles, to the industrial-chic lighting, to the inevitable sticker-shock, Digby’s definitely evokes nostalgia for those who have spent time in the Big Apple. It’s a beautifully well-done space, but I do wish their milk was a bit more reasonably priced. That said, their café menu is more mid-range in cost and quite excellent when you consider the quality of meat you are served.

burger

Portrait of a burger

So how about taste? This trip to Digby’s was a mixed bag for me. I steered wrong from the beginning, ordering the pulled pork sandwich. While the pork was amazingly tender, I had a hard time tasting it as it was drowning in sauce that was at least 50% Liquid Smoke. Kind of like eating a campfire… My expectations were high for the burger and it was quite good, though there are a few other Phnom Penh burgers higher on my list. The patty was delicious, bacon cooked to perfection and the bun was delightful. However, the burger had that same mystery smoke sauce. Another diner ordered the meat platter, which was visually gorgeous and piled high with charcuterie, fluffed greens and chunks of bread n’ butter. But the show-stopper was the cheesecake. Ordered as an after-thought and only after strong encouragement from the only sweet-tooth in our bunch, it was the best cheesecake, perhaps best dessert, I’ve had in Phnom Penh. So good it deserved a GIF!

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Overall, I’d recommend checking out Digby’s for a meal, perhaps ask for the smoke sauce on the side. You can also select one of the 12+ sausages and they’ll grill it up then and there, served with baguette and mesclun, for about $2, which makes for a great lunch. And definitely pick up a couple of sausages and bottles of Sierra Nevada to take-home.

3.5 out of 5 nyamies

– Alissa

Digby’s Butchery

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Rice & Pork Breakfast

Pork & Rice Shop

Rice & Pork Shop

On the corner of streets 136 and 13 there is a typical Cambodian grilled pork and rice breakfast restaurant. The reason we decided to check out this restaurant, which is apparently called “126”, is because there were reports that they had the best rice and pork in Phnom Penh. For a bit of background on breakfast rice and pork, or bai sach chrouk, check out this Phnomenon post from a few years back.

pork and rice

pork and rice

First of all, Cambodian pork and rice isn’t my favorite breakfast. It’s not bad but definitely not exciting. It’s a relatively safe order when out in the field but I’ve never had a craving. But after hearing that this was the best in town, I was excited. Vinh and I had checked out the well known Sovana BBQ restaurant for breakfast a couple of years ago and their pork was solid but it has been a while since I had really good pork and rice.

Unfortunately, with the build up, it was a let down. Decent rice and pork but nothing that made it stand out from any other restaurant in Phnom Penh or out in the Provinces. It’s really just rice and grilled pork. Not particularly amazing pork, no special sauce, Cambodian white rice; that’s it.

coffee

coffee

The coffee wasn’t bad, strong and sweetened with condensed milk, and the place was packed so there was high turnover on the grill which is good. However, the soup was basically just liquefied msg and had a weird fishy flavor. Overall, it’s not a bad place to bring an out of town guest for an experience but I’m in no rush to go back.

2 out of 5 nyamies

– Bryse

the grill

the grill

I am not a morning person, but if there is one thing that consistently causes me to peel my eyes open and get out of bed before 8AM on weekdays, it is food. Cambodia is well-suited for those with raging early-morning hunger pangs, as it offers a particularly hearty breakfast dish – bai sach chrouk (rice and grilled pork). Despite two years in Phnom Penh, I had yet to try the dish. Having heard a strong recommendation, claiming ‘Restaurant 126’ to serve some of the best in town, we decided to see if it was worth the 7AM wake up call.

up close

up close

While my taste buds may have been over stimulated by the adrenaline of trying a new dish and disoriented by the early hour, I thought the pork and rice was pretty tasty. The pork was sweet, flavorful and grilled to perfection; reminded me of eating a thick slab of bacon with maple syrup…Hard to go wrong there. The counterpart to this dish was basic, pretty mediocre, white rice, but it served its purpose as a blank canvas for the pork.

sides

sides

Along with the pork and rice, diners receive a small bowl of broth and a dish of pickled vegetables. The broth was also nothing to write home about, salty and hot, but a nice contrast to the sweet pork, as well as adding another flavor option for the rice. The pickled vegetables were a showstopper though; carrots, cucumbers, and jicama all mildly pickled with a sweet tang and light crunch. I could have eaten everyone’s serving. We all accompanied our breakfasts with hot coffee. Though tiny in size, it packed a strong, intensely sweet punch, thanks to a generous dose of condensed milk and that characteristic chocolate-y flavor of Cambodian coffee.

While I don’t think I’ll make ‘Restaurant 126’ a regular morning routine, it was fun to wake up early and share my first meal of the day with a crowd. And I wasn’t hungry again until mid-afternoon.

3 out of 5 nyamies

– Alissa

126 Restaurant
Corner of Streets 136 and 13
Close to river side

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by | September 2, 2013 · 6:57 am