Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mike’s Burger House A Year On

It’s been over a year since our inagural post where we headed out to Mike’s Burgers and ate ourselves stupid. Alot has changed over the year and we decided to take a trip out to Mike’s to see how it holds up a year on.

It totally does and then some.

Interior of Mike's Burger House a year later

Interior of Mike's Burger House a year later

It’s still in a petrol station but has moved into more spacious digs and has that family-run diner feel that wouldn’t seem out of place in middle America. We were greeted by Mike and his always smiling wife and headed to the counter to check out the new items on the menu.

I immediately noticed the Crying Cheeseburger ($3.75). When I asked for more details, all Mike said was that it’ll make you cry. It’s obvious I didn’t learn from last years Crazy Burger (which is still on the menu) so I ordered it and on top of that, ordered the hottest option. We also ordered a Mike’s version of the In-N-Out Animal Fries ($3.99) and an order of Fish Tacos ($4.50) which aren’t on the menu but Mike recommended it so we had to have it.

Condiments at Mike's Burger House

Condiments at Mike's Burger House

We were lucky to grab a booth in the middle of the very busy restaurant and drank some A&W root beer while waiting for our order.

We got the Crying burger first and it looked dangerous with chopped chili’s peeking out from under the burger patty.

The Crying Cheesburger at Mike's Burger House

Under the patty, lies the Crying aspect of the burger

Then we cut into it.

That's alot of chilis!

That's alot of chilis!

I took an initial test bite and it made me sweat almost immediately. In the middle of my third bite, I looked over to the kitchen and saw that there was a couple members of staff watching me and laughing at my sadomasochistic attempt at finishing half of the burger with all the chilis intact.

Crying Burger 1 Nyam Penh 0

Crying Burger 1 Nyam Penh 0

Even though I removed all the chilis from half of the burger, there was still a bit of heat to it. In the middle of my dissection of the Crying burger, we received the Animal Fries and the Fish Taco.

Medium sized Animal Fries at Mike's Burger House

Medium sized Animal Fries at Mike's Burger House

Chock full of grilled onions and a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, the fries also had some sliced roasted anaheim chilis. A fantastic side to cool down our burning mouths.

Fish taco at Mike's Burger House

Fish taco at Mike's Burger House

The fish taco was pretty amazing. Along with the obligatory lettuce, tomato and salsa that you normally see in tacos, Mike added some green onions that added to the crunchy texture of the taco filling. He also added some grilled green onions and a roasted anaheim chili on the side.

Fish taco filling at Mike's Burger House

Fish taco filling at Mike's Burger House

We had a great time revisiting Mike’s Burger House and are glad to see that the changes over the year has made it even more of a burger powerhouse in Phnom Penh.

Vinh

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Mallrats at Sorya Shopping Center

Mallrats at Sorya Shopping Center

Mallrats at Sorya Shopping Center

I can’t resist a good mall. Heck, I can’t really resist a bad one. And there have been many.

Most notable has to be the Plaza Carlos III in Havana but hey, it was a good effort and had a decent chinese restaurant on the ground floor. Which brings us to our next Nyam excursion to the Sorya Shopping Center located a stone’s throw away from the art-deco masterpiece, Central Market.

Five floors of shopping fun, Sorya has a little known food court on the 4th floor that caters to a more local crowd. It also has a few restaurants that dot the various floors of the mall. We started at the food court to see if there was anything tasty to try out.

Panorama of the 4th floor food court at Sorya

Panorama of the 4th floor food court at Sorya

First thing to do was to buy some food coupons at the coupon center at the front of the court. No cash is accepted at the stalls.

Where to get the food coupons

Where to get the food coupons

The coupons come in 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 Riel notes and there is no service charge to worry about.

Bryse rollin like a big baller

Bryse rollin like a big baller

After getting our coupons, we (Bryse, Lina and I) went our separate ways to see if there was anything tasty to report. A good ten minutes of inspecting every food stall later, all I got was quite a bit of offal soup/fry/steamed rice stalls with only one exception.

In all honesty, I got to thinking of scrapping the whole review and head to the nearest burger joint to wash away the images of offal floating in my brain. Bryse decided to get drinks and came back with the sweetest lemon tea drink I have had in Cambodia. Lina reported that she saw a stall that had filipino food which was promising.  I also saw a japanese noodle stall so we decided to hit up these two places.

Serving up some soba noodle soup

Serving up some soba noodle soup

I ordered the made to order Soba Noodle Soup which looked amazing when it came out. The soup came with a couple pieces of fried shrimp on top but didn’t have the soba noodles as advertised.

Soba Soup

Soba Soup

It was ramen instead which didn’t bother me but I can imagine purists causing an uproar about it. It was great value for money (8,000 Riel or $2.00) but I have had better noodle soups in town.

"filipino" food at Sorya

"filipino" food at Sorya

Lina came back with a sizzling hot plate from the filipino stall which had rice, an over-easy egg and what looked strangely like fried beef with basil.  Which it was. Naming aside, this was a pretty good plate of food. The sizzling hot plate gave the rice a great crunchy crust and the beef was full of flavor. All for $2.00!

We decided we had enough of the food court and headed downstairs to the BBQ Chicken restaurant which is Korea’s #1 Chicken Restaurant.  When perusing through the menu, we noticed that there wasn’t too many grilled dishes for a place with the initials BBQ in it. Upon some research, I found out that the BBQ doesn’t actually stand for BarBeQue but Best of the Best Quality. Those crazy Koreans!

Hot Hot Drum at BBQ Chicken

Hot Hot Drum at BBQ Chicken

We ended up ordering Korean Charbroiled Chicken Thighs ($4.90) and the Hot Hot Drums ($4.90). The Hot Hot Drums had quite a bit of breading on them which soaked up the sweet and spicy sauce that they were drenched in. The chicken thighs were a little better in terms of actual meat and had a great soy based marinade to it.

Charbroiled Chicken Thighs at BBQ Chicken

Charbroiled Chicken Thighs at BBQ Chicken

If I had to choose between the two, I would have to go with the Hot Hot Drums.

Along with these places mentioned, there are several other restaurants to check out. Let us know if you do so we can add to this list of places!

Vinh

Sorya Shopping Center
No. 13-61 Street 63 (Just south of Central Market)
Phnom Penh

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Leisurely Sundays

Sundays are usually spent in my flat, ordering delivery, watching DVD’s, and obsessively checking Facebook for status updates. Basically recovering from the excesses of the past 3 days (If Thursday is the new Friday where does that leave Saturday??). So it was a bit of a surprise when my wife and I woke up at a reasonable hour in the morning very refreshed and wondered what the heck to do for the rest of the day.

So we threw around the idea of going out to the hammock bars that are located about 10 KM’s outside Phnom Penh on National Road 6 (the road to Siem Reap). We made some quick texts and planned for our excursion just before lunchtime.

On our respective motorbikes, Bryse and I (with my wife on the back of my trusty Sanyang) we headed on the sometimes dusty National Road 6 to our destination. About 30 minutes of driving, we ended up at our destination. Unfortunately, the lake that the hammock bars is located on is slowly being filled in and left the ambiance of the place a bit wanting. Since we were already out there, we went for an alternative spot which overlooks the Mekong.

We went to a set of hammock bars/restaurants located behind a big wat that you can see from the road (just look to your right about 10 KM’s out of town, make a right into the wat then make a left when the road ends.). There are a few places to choose from so we just decided to pick one and went in.

Restaurant signs

Restaurant signs

We ended up at the Royal River Restaurant which was very busy. A good tip: make sure you get to these places at least a half hour before noon if you want a chance at an unobstructed riverside view. We were unfortunately one “table” in and had to look through a group to see the river.

The view of the river from my hammock

The view of the river from my hammock

Sorry about the silhouettes. I forgot to bring my flash. Once settled in, we ordered some drinks and three plates of food.

Word to the wise: If you don’t like your drinks warm and cooled down with ice, then these places are not for you.

Asahi beer in a bucket

Asahi beer in a bucket

Bryse ordered Asahi and they actually came immersed in a bucket with water and ice so his managed to stay a bit cold. We were left with sofites with ice. It was quite busy so it took a bit of time for the food to come. After lazing about for 15 minutes or so, we received our food order. We ordered Fried Squid in a Black Pepper sauce, Deep Fried Pork Ribs and a Grilled Whole Fish with a Tamarind and Mango Sauce.

Fried squid with  pepper sauce

Fried squid with pepper sauce

The squid was cooked to perfection. Not too soft and not too rubbery. The ribs, however were a bit overcooked and needed a bit of the lime/pepper sauce that accompanied it.

Fried pork ribs

Fried pork ribs

As for the fish, it was whole which meant all of the guts were still inside. Definitely for the more adventurous gourmand. I didn’t actually take a photo of the fish which actually shows how good it was. The fish was soft and flaky with the unripe mangoes in the sauce giving the dish a bit of texture.

An Asahi, about 3 soft drinks and these 3 dishes came to $21 total which isn’t the cheapest meal in town but great value when you take into consideration the surroundings.

Hammocks, hammocks, hammocks

Hammocks, hammocks, hammocks

Directions: Cross the Japanese Bridge on National Road 6. When you see the very large wat on your right, make a right. When the road ends, make a left and you should see the restaurants located on the Mekong River.

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Grease is the Word

The alley that leads to the Alley Cat Cafe

Let's play the Find The Sign game.

Nestled in an alley off Street 19, the only indication of the Alley Cat Cafe’s presence is a sign that gets lost in the busy jumble that is Phnom Penh’s street signage. Which is a shame because the food is pretty good.

The view in a booth at the Alley Cat Cafe

The view in a booth at the Alley Cat Cafe

Alley Cat Cafe serves Americana and Mexican food at pretty reasonable prices. The interior of the joint is a bit sparse and could use what I will refer to as “a woman’s touch” but in all honesty, what brought us to the place was the burgers.

And they are definitely worth it.

For some unknown reason, the 4 of us decided to go for it and ordered 5 plates.  2 burgers, 1 sandwich, an order of fajitas and nachos. I was thinking of using the “Fat Cat” option (which doubles the patties for $2.00 extra) for one of the burgers but decided that it would have hit gluttonous levels that I didn’t want to hit for lunch. If you are a bit hungry and were willing to sacrifice dinner, breakfast and lunch the following day, I would suggest ordering the Quadruple Bypass!

Nachos with queso dip and salsa

Nachos with queso dip and salsa

We ordered chips with queso dip and salsa for a starter just to get things rolling. The queso dip was a bit thin for my tastes and I ended up getting some of it on the table during the transfer process from the plate to my mouth. When it did hit my mouth, it was pretty tasty with a surprise addition of sliced button mushrooms in the mix. The salsa that accompanied was very fresh with distinct tastes of lime and chopped chili bursting through.

The next dish to come out was a sizzling plate of Fajitas Loco which combines chicken, steak and chorizo as the filling for the fajitas.

Fajitas Loco at Alley Cat Cafe

Fajitas Loco at Alley Cat Cafe

Accompanying the sizzling dish was some tortillas, rice, salsa, sour cream and a generous helping of shredded cheddar cheese. I really dug the fajitas but if you don’t care too much for chorizo, I would stay away from ordering the Fajitas Loco as the chorizo overpowered the rest of the flavors in the sizzle dish.

Now onto the burgers! We ordered the Supreme and the Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burgers. Both come with crinkly fries and were cooked medium.

Supreme Burger at Alley Cat Cafe

Supreme Burger at Alley Cat Cafe

The Supreme Burger comes with tomato, iceberg lettuce, and grilled onions on a bun that was buttery and toasty (a huge plus). The Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger had sauteed mushrooms, still a bit chewy bacon and an ample amount of blue cheese atop the meat patty. The patties on both burgers had a great crunchy crust that gave way to a  juicy patty when bitten into. Possibly the best hamburger patty I have had in Phnom Penh.

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger at Alley Cat Cafe

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger at Alley Cat Cafe

Bryse came in a bit late and ordered the Steak Sandwich. Unfortunately, Mark, the owner of Alley Cat came over and let us know that they were on the end bits of the bread that they normally use for the sandwich and instead offered the sandwich on a bun, which we didn’t mind after having the burgers.

Steak sandwich at Alley Cat Cafe

Steak sandwich at Alley Cat Cafe

The Steak Sandwich was definitely worth the wait as the steak was cooked to rare (my personal favorite temperature for steak). We pushed the excess factor to 11 by adding cheese and bacon. Talk about a cholesterol bomb!

All in all, the Alley Cat Cafe is a great restaurant that serves huge portions of food at a very reasonable price. You just have to find it first!

4 out of 5 nyamies

Vinh

Nachos with queso dip and salsa

Getting some dip

I’ve only been to Alley Cat for their Mexican fare before, which is quite good. The place itself is a little lacking in ambiance — there’s something a little bit joyless about the place that I can’t quite put my finger on. That said, the burgers at Alley Cat were not half bad.
We had a huge, disgusting spread consisting of chips and salsa plus a cheese dip (which Vinh later dipped his burger in, the glutton). The salsa was excellent but as EJ complained, there wasn’t enough! We also had a regular burger, a bacon blue cheese burger, a steak sandwich and some sort of mixed meat fajitas.
Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger at Alley Cat Cafe

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger at Alley Cat Cafe

The burger was good — the bun was toasted, the beef was juicy, a good solid burger. My complaints had to do with preparation. There were no pickles on the burger, which we found out later was accidental. I could taste cumin on a couple of bites, probably from them using the same grill as for the fajita meat without cleaning it, and it wasn’t salted enough for my taste. The blue cheese bacon burger was also good, but I felt the blue cheese overwhelmed the burger and it was too blue cheese-y for me, but others who are bigger fans of blue cheese would love it. Both were served on fluffy weak buns. I know that in our burger tastings we are going to encounter these same buns at most places in Cambodia, but they are the sort of thing I’d knock off a few points for if we were burger tasting in the States, so I feel obliged to mention them here. I ate enough fries that I was nearly sick, so they must have been good.
The real standout was the steak sandwich, which although not technically a burger, was truly delicious and calorically intense, topped with both bacon and cheese. Definitely worth a visit to Alley Cat.
Burger rating: 3/5 nyamies
Overall rating:3.5/5 nyamies

Lina

Supreme Burger at Alley Cat Cafe

Supreme Burger at Alley Cat Cafe

When I eat a burger, I expect to get a little messy.  I mean, to me, what’s a burger without an abundance of toppings and condiments.  I want my burger’s contents to be oozing out of the sides of the bun, and I like it greasy, but again, that’s just me. That’s why Alley Cat’s burgers appealed to me.  They have what I call a ‘Hangover Burger’ which equates to: stacked, messy, delicious, and greasy.  In addition, a lightly toasted burger bun wraps it all up in a nice crispy crunch.  I like that Alley Cat has a satisfying variety of burgers to choose from with different toppings, but, of course, it wouldn’t hurt if they came up with more variations.

Fajitas Loco at Alley Cat Cafe

Fajitas Loco at Alley Cat Cafe

Just in case you’re not a burger person the fajitas will rock your world.  They go the whole 9-yards, providing rice and beans, chicken or beef (or both), salsa and sour cream – I mean, the works, *side note* the mango salsa is flavorful and beyond fantastic.  As a whole, what I appreciate about the Alley Cat is that you get more for your money.  You leave with a full belly and a bit of a food coma.

3 nyamies

EJ

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger at Alley Cat Cafe

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Mushroom burger at Alley Cat Cafe

So far, the bacon cheeseburger at Alley Cat is my favorite burger in Phnom Penh. No crazy frills, just a solid burger with all of the right ingredients (lettuce, tomato, and most importantly pickles). I’m not a big blue cheese fan so I skipped the blue cheese and mushroom and stuck with the supreme and it was pretty great. But like with most restaurants in Phnom Penh, consistency can be a bit of an issue and they had forgotten the pickles on the burger which … was tough.

Making a fajita taco at the Alley Cat Cafe

Making a fajita taco at the Alley Cat Cafe

The fajitas and chips and dip were pretty decent but personally I wouldn’t come to Alley Cat for the Mexican food. Not that it was bad at all but the burgers and sandwiches really outshine the Mexican dishes.

Steak sandwich at Alley Cat Cafe

Steak sandwich at Alley Cat Cafe

The night before we went to Alley Cat I mentioned it to a good friend and he highly recommended the steak sandwich. It had never even caught my eye on the menu but we gave it a shot. The Owner, Mark took our order on the steak sandwich and asked us if we wanted cheese so I asked him what he recommended, his response: “Everything is better with cheese.” He was right. Definitely not an everyday sandwich but it was pretty amazing. I’m always looking for better burgers but so far, Alley Cat is my pick for Phnom Penh.

4 out 5 nyamies

Bryse

Alley Cat Cafe
No. 42, Ang Yukanthor (St. 19), corner of St. 178, opposite Royal School of Fine Arts
Phnom Penh

Just south of street 178, look across the street from the Royal School of Fine Arts for the Alley Cat Cafe sign. Just head down the alleyway for 50 meters and it is on your left.

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Burgers at Tepui

The burgers we sampled

The burger trio

We had a chance to sample some concept burgers at Tepui, a restaurant located on the riverside in Phnom Penh. C0-owners Antonio and Gisella are looking to put these mini-burgers to a brunch menu after the rainy season so we were very lucky to get a chance to try some of their experimental burgers.

Starting from the left, we have the Italiano burger which has a coarse ground chuck patty with some slab of prosciutto, mozzarella cheese,  sun-dried tomatoes and rocket inbetween toasted tomato ciabatta bread with a bit of vinaigrette dribbled on.

The middle burger is the Bunless Chicken Burger. Essentially using breaded sliced chicken breast as the buns, it is definitely something you have to eat with a fork and knife. Smashed inbetween the breaded chicken slices is another slice of breaded chicken, cheddar cheese, tomato and rocket salad. Just to push up the unhealthy factor of this “burger”, they take a fried egg, cut around the white stuff and put the runny yolky goodness on top. Oh yeah, there is a pickle on top.

The Chinese Dumpling burger on the far right is their version of a chinese dumpling. A seasoned ground pork patty is placed with some shitake mushrooms, and caramelized onions inbetween a mini burger bun.

All three were excellent but I found that my favorite was the Chinese Dumpling burger. It is a great take of the classic dumpling and is indicative of the creative mind of Gisella, who creates the menu at Tepui. The two other burgers were also fantastic but in all honesty, I kept going back to the Chinese Dumpling burger.

– Vinh

The Holy Trinity

Before we went over to Tepui to try these burgers I ran into Giselle and she warned me that they were going to get creative and they certainly did.

I tried the Italian burger first and it was really nice. The focaccia bread,  vinaigrette and mozzarella worked great together as a burger. I thought the prosciutto was a nice touch but it didn’t stand out as much as I would have expected.

Next I tried the Chinese Dumpling Burger. First of all, a CHINESE DUMPLING BURGER?!?! Amazing. Ground pork, sautéed onions, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, all on a bun. It actually did taste like a delicious dumpling; it was amazing. We then started talking about sides for this type of burger and Gisella ran back to the kitchen and came back with a spicy soy sauce, sesame oil dipping sauce which just pushed this thing over the top.

Finally, I tried the bun-less chicken burger. I’m usually a big fan of chicken burgers and this was ground chicken with bacon mixed in which sounded amazing. However, the logistics of this one threw me off. I wasn’t a big fan of getting runny eggs on my hand and it was way too big to eat in any sort decent manner. The taste was great and I think Antonio and Gisella will probably tweak this one and it will be great.


Then, a completely unnecessary desert burger came out as a final surprise. It was basically a s’more type burger but a toasted bun instead of graham cracker. Really tasty but one bite and I was finished.

Can’t wait for the new brunch menu at Tepui to start!

– Bryse

Chinese House

Tepui at Chinese House

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