Monthly Archives: February 2011

Loud Vietnamese

Vietmart restaurant

Vietmart restaurant

The place was pretty rowdy back in 2004. We named it Loud Vietnamese due to the ear-splitting techno music that thumped in the joint. The first time I was there, I saw a very drunk teenager in her school uniform carried down the steps by her friends. All I could think at the time was this place ought to be interesting.

The patronage at that time was a bit sketchy, you had to yell to keep up conversation and stupidly cheap beers with ice were the norm. The menu wasn’t as diverse as it is now but they had a great chao tom (grilled ground shrimp wrapped around a stick of sugarcane) for 3,000 Riel which made for a handy snack after a night of boozing.

Around 2007, the place was remodeled and looks pretty much like it does now. They got rid of the loud techno which drove the kids away but made conversation a bit easier. They also revamped the menu and now offer some very tasty dishes.

Enough history. Lets live in the now and get to the food!

First to come up was the Thit Neung Heo (Grilled Pork Ribs $3.50). Having a nice char from the grill, the ribs were exquisitely balanced between sweet and salty and made for a great start to the meal.

Thit Neung Heo or Grilled Pork Ribs

Thit Neung Heo or Grilled Pork Ribs

Ten minutes after we received our first dish, we started getting the orders on top of each other. The Banh Xeo (vietnamese pancake $2.00), Muc Chien Ngon (fried crispy squid $4.50) and Goi Bo Tai Chanh (rare beef lime salad $5.00) came next. The Banh Xeo was chock full of ground pork, shrimp, julienned carrots and sliced onions.

Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo

Goi Bo Tai Chanh is always favorite with me. This version is filled with rau ram (vietnamese coriander), basil, mint, sliced onions and tossed in a sweet lime sauce. A bonus was the addition of fried shallots and peanuts for garnish. The Muc Chien Ngon was nice but I felt that the breading that they used was to too heavy and overpowered the delicate taste of the squid.

Goi Bo Tai Chanh or Rare Beef Lime Salad

Goi Bo Tai Chanh or Rare Beef Lime Salad

During this time, the Bo Nhung Dam (thin sliced beef boiled in vinegar $6.50) was delivered to the table but placed on the side. The very attentive staff waited until we finished a couple of plates before setting it up which was very thoughtful of them. A Vietnamese take on Shabu Shabu, the raw beef is placed in the vinegar broth and the accompanying sides are used to garnish. Here, the sides were some dry banh trang (rice paper sheets), a bowl with some water to dip the banh trang in, a few cups of nuoc cham (dipping sauce), rice noodles, various herbs and lettuce.

Bo Nhung Dam and its fixings

Bo Nhung Dam and its fixings

The last dish we received was the Mi Xao Chay (fried vegetarian noodles $3.00). I was shocked to see ramen noodles were used instead of the usual noodles I’m used to. To my surprise, the noodles weren’t too bad! It didn’t hurt that the vegetables were fresh and nicely seasoned.

All in all, a great trip down memory lane.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. Anchor cans are $ 0.80.  — Vinh

Mi Xao Chay or Fried Vegetarian Noodles

Mi Xao Chay or Fried Vegetarian Noodles

I am by no means an expert on Vietnamese food, but I am an enthusiast. As such, I was delighted to try this place as my initiation into the Nyam Penh scene. Executive summary is that this is the best Vietnamese food I’ve had so far in Phnom Penh, or at least tied with the restaurant downstairs (which may or may not be owned by the same people). Beef in vinegar is my go-to dish in Vietnamese restaurants and this one did not disappoint. Because it was my first time meeting the gang I decided not to drink the broth, but I easily could have. The combination of vinegar and lemongrass is fantastic, and I appreciated that they went heavy on the lemongrass–it wasn’t too much for me. I also thought the rare beef salad was excellent, and I ate more than my fair share of it.

Muc Chien Ngon and Banh Xeo

Muc Chien Ngon and Banh Xeo

I was least excited by the noodle dish that was a packet of ramen noodles and some vegetables. I’m no elitist about packaged ramen–in fact, I’m a die-hard fan. But I’m rarely thrilled to get it served up to me in a restaurant and this time was no different. Overall, I was very pleased with this restaurant. For some reason I had thought that the upstairs was a pho-only place and had always eaten in the much less pleasant restaurant downstairs. But with open-air seating bedecked in plastic foliage and $0.80 beers, this place is a winner for me.  — Lina

Vietmart restaurant

Vietmart restaurant

As soon as we walked into this place, I liked it.  It reminded me of places I had been while visiting Hanoi.  Ngon was absolutely beautiful but I never ate anywhere like that in Vietnam.  Loud colors, plastic plants and flashing lights felt much more authentic.

The ribs that came out first were amazing.  Maybe it was because we had had a few beers before dinner but, wow, I would have been happy eating just ribs that night.  There is a huge ‘Banh Xeo’ sign painted on the outside of the restaurant so I wanted to try it thinking it might be their specialty.  It wasn’t the most amazing tasting banh xeo I’ve had but it was probably the biggest.  All five of us at the table were able to have a decent portion.

Dunking some beef in the vinegar broth

Dunking some beef in the vinegar broth

The Muc Chien Ngon, aka, Vietnamese calamari, was good but you can pretty much deep fry anything and it will be pretty good.   But the highlight for me was definitely the Bo Nhung Dam.  They let the pot filled with the vinegar broth and onions simmer on our table for a while before they moved it over to the middle of the table.  Any sort of hot pot dinner is always the best group meal but would have been slightly nicer if we were at a round table (John had to reach pretty far to get to the pot).  Again, Vietmart was generous with the portions and we all had plenty and with beers for less than a buck, this place is definitely solid.

4.5 nyamies out of 5.  Vinh

4 out of 5 nyamies Lina  (check out Lina’s blog here)

4.0 out of 5 nyamies Bryse

Vietmart Restaurant
On the corner of Monivong and street 242 across the street from the 24 hour BB World.

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Qammar lunch buffet menu

If you are around BKK 1 for lunch and feeling a bit hungry, check out the extremely value packed lunch buffet at Qammar Indian Restaurant on Street 288.

Monday to Friday: $3.00
Saturday, Sunday: $3.50

And if you are interested in planning your excursion, check out the weekly menu listed below:

MONDAY
Chicken Curry, Vegetable Curry, Daal

TUESDAY
Chicken Masala, Aloo Mutter, Bindi Masala

WEDNESDAY
Fish Curry, Aloo Gobi, Lobia (Black Eye Peas) Curry

THURSDAY
Chicken Curry, Mushroom Mutter, Daal

FRIDAY
Chicken Masala, Lobia Makhni, Aloo Palik

SATURDAY
Chicken Seakh Kebab Masala, Prawn Curry, Bangan Masala, Daal

SUNDAY
Chicken Tikka Masala, Fish Curry, Mushroom Mutter, Palak Paneer

The buffet comes with all you can eat Naan bread and Rice. It also includes one free Coke, Sprite or Fanta!

My wife and I went for a quick Sunday brunch and it is pretty tasty considering the prices.

Anyone else been there yet?

Vinh

Qammar Restaurant
#40BEo, Street 288
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Sovana in the AM

Mmmmm.... Pork

Mmmmm.... Pork

Sovana has the reputation with locals and  expats as being the best grilled meats restaurant in Phnom Penh. Their grilled pork is legendary and its a place I always take the relative newbie to town for a safe khmer dining experience.

When it was mentioned of doing a review of Sovana, I scoffed at the idea saying that there were tons of reviews about the place. Anyways, the place is filled with expats all the time.

Then breakfast was mentioned.

Genius!

Bai Sych Crouk (Grilled pork and rice) is a great Cambodian dish and when done right, rivals Pho for my favorite breakfast dish of all time. So what better place to try this dish than the place with the best grilled pork in town!

Upon arriving at 7:30 in the morning, the first thing I realized is that it’s certainly not as busy for breakfast as for dinner. No waiting for a table here!

We ordered two dishes initially. The pork and rice (4,000 Riel) along with some beef noodle soup (4,000 Riel). Never order the noodle soup. Ever.

Hot water with noodles and beef

Hot water with noodles and beef

What you get is a packet of noodles immersed in some plain water with some sliced beef and herbs. They even give you the flavor packet on the side if you want to give your plain water a bit of oomph. I thought I had ordered it wrong and asked the waiter if this was khtieau and was told they didn’t have khtieau. More on this later.

Pork and rice

Pork and rice

The pork and rice didn’t disappoint. The pork had a nice char on it and had that great marinade that you get from dinner. An added bonus was the flavorful soup broth on the side which had a nice piece of tender beef to gnaw on.

Which makes me wonder why they didn’t use the broth for the noodle soup.

Beef stew

Beef stew

We also ordered a bowl of beef stew (5,000 Riel) which I spied at another table. The brothy stew had tender chunks of beef with onion and carrots filling it out. My order came with bread but you can also order it with clear noodles.

Which also makes me wonder why they didn’t use the noodles for the noodle soup.

Sleeping Cow aka Sovanna fajitas

Sleeping Cow aka Sovanna fajitas

The last dish we had came as a recommendation from a Nyam reader that eats at Sovana quite a bit. Called the Sleeping Cow (5,000 Riel), I’ve renamed it Sovana fajitas. The plate comes to the table sizzling with  a few bits of beef on one end and a couple pieces of fish in a tomato broth on the other. Separating the two was an egg that was still cooking when it arrived. One major problem I had with the dish was the out of the can tomato broth left a pretty nasty aftertaste. Certainly not my favorite.

All in all, the experience for breakfast is pretty solid with the pork and rice and beef stew the clear winners from the excursion.  — Vinh

Pork, egg omellette and rice

Like most Khmer restaurants, Sovana has no menu for breakfast.  Somehow, everyone just know what to order.  Which is fine but after we were sitting and enjoying our random guesses at what they would have, we saw a few other nice looking dishes come out  so we decided to give it another go a couple of days later.  Round one was ice coffee with sweet milk and white rice with grilled pork.  While the iced coffee tasted like dirty water, the grilled pork was the best I’ve had for breakfast.  I also tried a bit of the Sleeping Cow which was horrible and left a bad taste in my mouth all morning.  But the other folks at the restaurant loved it and people were ordering it all over the place.

Round two , I went for the grilled pork with an omelet and tried the small shot of hot coffee with sweet milk.  Straight grilled pork with white rice is a bit boring to me but add the omelet and it was ch’ngnie NA (really tasty).  Also, the hot coffee was pretty good for Khmer coffee.  Overall, the food is great if you know what you want and it’s crazy cheap.  — Bryse

Vinh: 3.5 out of 5 Nyamies

Bryse: 4 out of 5 nyamies

Sovana Restaurant

No. 2C, Street 21
S/K Tonle Bassac
Phnom Penh

Another great article extolling the virtues of the humble pork and rice can be found on Phnomenon.

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