Category Archives: Japanese

ToTo Ramen

Look at the lovely interior design...

Look at the lovely interior design…

Justin and I recently went and checked out the new ToTo addition: ToTo Ramen. Apparently ToTo is expanding their ice cream store to create a mini empire including ToTo Ramen and soon ToTo BBQ upstairs. Personally, I’m not a big ice cream person but people that do like ice cream really like ToTo so I’m was excited to try their ramen.

Seemingly full of lunching mums with kids in tow...

Seemingly full of lunching mums with kids in tow…

The shop was beautifully renovated and the ToTo Ramen logo looks like some weird Japanese manga storm of noodles which is pretty awesome. Having recently opened, the staff was a bit painfully under-trained but the manager was apologetic and promised things would improve.

Ramen dish #1 ???

Miso Ramen

I went for the go-to miso ramen and received this bowl. I had never really thought about it before seeing this bowl but ramen is typically served with a bit of presentation showing a mix of  meat, veggies, and noodles like when we went to Bekkan Ramen. This presentation was attempted at ToTo but not quite as appetizing. As for taste, the broth was not bad but the noodles were nothing exciting. And it’s not cheap. They did give a 10% discount because they had just opened but then I noticed they slapped a 10% service charge on the bill which is kind of a joke. Maybe things will improve as they get the staff trained but I’m in no rush to return.

1.5 out of 5 nyamies
– Bryse

Great signage and branding, shame about the food....

Great signage and branding, shame about the food….

I’ve never really been into the whole ramen thing, not out of any dislike or anything, just naivety and lack of opportunity. So seeing a new place open up, and bill itself as a specialist in it, I was definitely interested in giving it a shot. Given that ToTo has been successful thus far in their food-empire building, I assumed it would be a good introduction. They certainly have spared few expenses in the design and branding of the shop, inside and out it looks the part of a trendy lunch spot.

Volcano Meat Ramen... What's volcano meat? I don't know but there was hardly any in the bowl anyways...

Volcano Meat Ramen… What’s volcano meat? I don’t know but there was hardly any in the bowl anyways…

Their picture based menu depicts all sorts of good looking dishes but I opted for the Volcano Meat Ramen mainly based on the name. I like volcanoes, I like meat, what could go wrong? It wasn’t so much bad as just not terribly appealing. It was also pretty short on the promised volcano of protein. Indeed the only volcano-esque element was the oily, brown splodge floating at one side of the bowl, lingering evidence of the small portion of now submersed meat (pork? beef? chicken? who knows). The noodles were ok, nothing special.

To be fair, they had only been open for a little while when we went but it wasn’t much for a first impression. For $7.50 there are quite a few places around Phnom Penh where you can get a great bowl of noodles and soup. Actually, for $7.50 you can get several bowls at many of those places and still have some change. I think I’ll keep doing that.

1/5

– Justin

ToTo Ramen
Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh

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Osaka Ya

So it’s been over 8 months since I have moved to the homeland and a couple things have happened.
I have started a blog here and it is going pretty well. I have also discovered that I can actually write something other than food stuff! So I am now a writer here when I am not taking photos around Vietnam. But it has been a while since I have been to Phnom Penh so when a 5 day holiday came up, I took the opportunity to head back to the old stomping grounds.
I let Bryse know so I can see what’s new in Phnom Penh and he suggested we head off to a new Japanese place on the riverside. He also asked if I wanted to Nyam this. Why not I said!
grilling at Osaka Ya

grilling at Osaka Ya

Osaka Ya is a pretty simple restaurant in terms of decor. When I walked in, I noticed Lina and was glad to see that Bryse invited her! So we had a bit of a catch up and let the waiter know that we will call him when we were ready. Bryse arrived a few minutes later and we started perusing the menu. Typical of Japanese restaurants in Phnom Penh, there was ngiri rolls, rice bowls and set lunches. Lina asked what was in the Japanese lunch set and the waiter replied ” Rice and food”.
Seriously….
Bryse and I went asian style and shared a few dishes and Lina threw caution to the wind and ordered the Japanese lunch set.
Yakatori

Yakatori

We started out with some yakitori. Chicken to be precise. They were really good. The chicken was tender and had a great sweet-spicy marinade. We also ordered some chicken wings which had the same marinade. Dusted those off with no problems.
We had to wait a bit for our mains even though there was just one more table in the restaurant. Maybe it’s due to me getting used to Vietnam’s one hour lunches (Oh Cambodia, how I miss you for the two hour lunches) but I was seriously wondering where our food was.  From what seemed like an eternity but was actually only 10 minutes, we got the rest of our mains.
okonokoasdfsd

okonomiyaki

We ordered an okonomiyaki and a oyakodon bowl. The okonomiyaki was a gut busting disc of goodness. Potatoes, cabbage, pork belly and octopus were fried on a griddle then covered in a pancake like batter. Mayonnaise and okonomi sauce was drizzled on top and a heap of bonito flakes. Despite the fact that the oyakodon bowl looked like one of the chefs puked onto the rice, I gave it a go and found that it was fantastic! Tons of chicken and egg covered a gigantic bowl of seasoned rice. 

It was about this time that Lina got her rice and food lunch set. The food consisted of a grilled fish fillet, steamed pumpkin, some pickled cucumber and a small bowl of rice.

I had a taste of the fish and it was pretty delicious. Each of us also received a small bowl of clam soup which was pretty tasty. Prices weren’t that bad and though we got some tasty food, I don’t think I would go back as the service was something to be desired.

 2.5 out of 5 nyamies
 – Vinh
food

food (Japanese lunch set)

I had tried Osaka Ya a few months back, pretty soon after they opened, and they were still working through some kinks with the staff and the power cutting out every 10 minutes. But the restaurant owner was really nice and the food wasn’t bad so I wanted to give them another shot.  When we arrived, the owner wasn’t there and the staff was definitely struggling. When Lina asked what was included in the Japanese lunch set the response was “… food.” Not incorrect, but not too helpful. I felt a bit bad for the guys waiting on us. They were really trying but were clearly in over their heads without the Owner. 
adfdsaf

oyakodon bowl

Despite these issues, we were able to get our order in and soon after the Owner arrived to help put together our lunch. The yakitori arrived first and the first thing that arrives always seems to taste the best but these things were pretty amazing. Lina had said that this is what Osaka Ya was known for and it’s well deserved. Really nice mix of chicken meat with cartilage. My favorite dish of the meal.
wings

wings

The wings came next and I was expecting the same really delicious sauce as the yakatori but they were a bit different and not quite as good. The oyakodon bowl was really good. As Vinh mentioned, not the most appetizing looking dish but it was a great mix of eggs and chicken piled on Japanese rice. Okonomiyaki isn’t my favorite dish but this one was actually pretty good. But this may be because they placed the dish in front of a fan which blew most of the bonito flakes off of the pancake and all over our table. Overall, Osaka Ya is not bad but not the best Japanese place in Phnom Penh. I would recommend checking it out for a few yakitori skewers and their “Happy Time” beer special.
3 out of 5 nyamies
 – Bryse
Osaka Ya
River Side close to Street 130

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New Nyamers / Sesame Noodle Bar

Hello again! After spending the past few months slacking / being sad about Vinh moving away (and starting a new blog in Vietnam), I was given a kind kick in the butt to start posting again. This friendly kick even made introductions to a new crew of folks that will help posting new fun places to try. So I’d like to introduce the new nyamers (borrowing Corbett’s introductions):

  • Caitlin – Skinny as a whistle but a foodie none the less, Caitlin did the typical blog thing– started off strong, and then it sort of let it linger. Never let it linger. The thing is, she’s got a great voice, and I think dangling a bit of food in front of her is just the right thing to get her inspired again. To see her writing chops, visit some of her past posts at: http://limeandpepper.wordpress.com/ 
  • Robert – He is the counter for anyone else you’ll find. He’s a glass is half empty type of guy when it comes to food, but like a stale beer at 4 am, he’ll drink it anyway.  He’ll bring neutrality to your rating system. Also a good photographer, he’s looking for inspiration to start shooting again. 
  • Justin – Graphic Designer, photographer, tech head and pocket-conscious foodie, Justin tries everything and runs algorithms to cross tabulate delight against price. More about non-foodie Justin at: http://justinpn.com/
  • Roswell – Roswell is our big boy from Boston. He eschews cutlery in favor of  hammers and nails and is the sly, quip master of our dining experiences. As the nerd-in-residence, he analyzes every food adjective before laying pen to paper. Actually, the last part is a lie. He actually writes in the blood of vanquished chefs. Great hair too.
  • Tim –  Cofounder of Co-Lab and all around tech talented despite being Australian. Tim will help out with making the blog look nice, eating and photos. 
  • Ben – Obviously so talented he does not need a last name. Tim’s recommendation but he’s got mapping chops you can see here. Ben will help add some mapping features to the blog so places will be easier to find.

Thanks to Corbett’s help, we have a new crew of nyamers that will be eating, and posting and hopefully we will have lot of new fun places to try this year. And because Corbett has been so nice, we will provide his wife’s new restaurant a shameless plug.

Outside Sesame Noodle Bar

Sesame Noodle Bar

Sesame Noodle Bar is a great new Japanese cold noodle bar just South of the Russian Market. Again, this is a blatantly biased review but Keiko and Corbett have setup a really cool, comfortable restaurant with tasty, cheap dishes.

Inside Sesame Noodle Bar

Inside Sesame Noodle Bar

Things are still getting set up and they are only open for lunch at this point but lunch specials are $4.75 for a bowl of noodles and a side which is a pretty great deal. SNB is also probably the only restaurant in Cambodia with Edison bulbs which is pretty awesome.

The noodles at Sesame Noodle Bar

noodles

The signature cold noodle dish is served with a ton of veggies, a small bit of pork, hard boiled eggs (which I pick out) and a side of tahini sauce so it’s more of a salad then a typical noodle bowl. The lunch special also comes with a side of either gyoza, pork bun or a passion fruit, mint fruit shake. It really does make for a perfect lunch. Not hot, not too heavy but plenty to walk away full.

– Bryse

The noodles at Sesame Noodle Bar

more noodles

Justin: Thanks for the warm welcome to Nyam Penh Bryse! I’m looking forward to finding some great new places to add to the site… and to my waistline.

Speaking of great new places, SNB certainly is. I think Keiko and Corbett have developed a great idea that will be a real winner in Toul Tom Pong. It would be nice to see more places trying out creative new ideas like this.

Pumpkin Sesame Balls at Sesame Noodle Bar

Pumpkin Sesame Balls at Sesame Noodle Bar

I have to admit, I’ve been through the doors of Sesame more than a few times since they opened but I keep coming back to two dishes. The aforementioned noodle bowl is delicious and is like you say, a little salad-like in its freshness and healthy serving of veg. And that lightness is oh so well balanced by the sweet and rich pork that goes along with it.

Sriracha hot sauce at Sesame Noodle Bar

Sriracha hot sauce at Sesame Noodle Bar

But for me, the real treat at Sesame is the pork buns, or rather ‘Thor’ buns. Grilled pork belly with a little bit of pickle and some sauce inside a perfect little pocket of steamed bun. Damn it’s good. I could eat like forty of them and then wash them down with Sriracha.

Overall it’s turned into one of my fav places to get lunch and it’s a must to try for anybody in the area.

– Justin

Sesame Noodle Bar
(the real) #9 Street 460

map

map

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Nyam Abroad: Pizza 4P

The entrance for Pizza 4P

The entrance for Pizza 4P

When I go to Vietnam, I tend to eat a lot of Vietnamese food. So much that sometimes, my wife has to call a stop to it and force me to eat something that doesn’t involve a noodle, grain of rice or fish sauce. When this happens, I usually complain, pout, and kick about. Basically, I turn into a 3 year old.

It was one of these times again last week where she put her foot down and told me to find a non-Vietnamese place for us to try out. So I opened the excellent Word magazine and unenthusiastically started down the list of international restaurants until I saw a listing that piqued my interest.

Italian tradition meets Japanese ingenuity

Nuff said.

Pizza 4P interior

Pizza 4P interior

It took a while to find the place, mainly due to the fact that it is down an alley. Best advice is to look for the Domino’s and then walk past it, then make a left when the road ends. We arrived on a very busy Saturday night and were told it was going to be a 30 minute wait for a table but were free to sit at the bar. I suggest anyone eating here to sit at the bar to watch the awesomeness happen.

Chef Yoshikawa in his element

Chef Yoshikawa in his element

All the pizza’s are made by the man in the red rimmed glasses. And he is very good at what he does.

The menu is quite extensive with appetizers, soups, salads, one-dish meals and of course pizza. With over 14 different pizzas, it was hard to choose. Luckily, Pizza 4P’s offers combination pizzas by offering half orders on each pie. This time, we ordered a full margherita and a half salmon sashimi/quattro flowers pies.

Pizza dough ready to go

Pizza dough ready to go

From the first minute of watching from the bar, I was completely enthralled by the quick work by Chef Yoshikawa and his crew making the pies. The speed at which pizzas were getting placed in the wood-fired oven was astounding after seeing some of the complex affairs that were being assembled. I asked the chef’s assistants to let me know when he was going to start our pizzas so I could document the process. So after a half hour of beers, conversation with our fellow bar mates and a fantastic caprese cocktail appetizer, the assistant indicated that ours was next.

No shredded mozzarella here

No shredded mozzarella here

Once the dough gets rolled out, the toppings get piled on. I love a place that doesn’t shred their mozzarella and seeing Chef Yoshikawa grabbing whole chunks of cheesy goodness made me extremely happy.

A margherita gets a dash of salt before going in the oven

A margherita gets a dash of salt

Once all the ingredients are on the pie, it gets moved to a waiting pizza peel for baking. .

Pizza waiting to be placed in the oven

Pizza waiting to be placed in the oven

Once Thuy, the pizza baker gets a hold of the pizza, it is placed inside the oven for about a minute, then it is slowly rotated and constantly checked for the prerequisite char marks to appear. When Thuy decides the pizza is done, it is placed on an awaiting dish to be garnished. It only took 2:27 from the time Thuy put the margharita pizza in the oven to the time the plate was placed in front of us.

A finished margherita pizza

A margherita pizza

A simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil finished off with some extra-virgin olive oil is all that is on this margherita pizza. My wife commented that the tomato sauce was the best she had ever had on a pizza. Sometimes simple is all you need.

Half Quattro Flowers and Salmon Sashimi Pizza

Half Quattro Flowers and Salmon Sashimi Pizza

The other pie that came out was the complete opposite of simple but the crew still managed to get it out to us at 3:47. The Quattro Flowers pizza had pumpkin, leek, telosma cordata, sesbania, grandiflora and daylily flowers accompanied on a sweet mozzarella cheese mayo and parmesan cheese. The medley of flora in the Quattro Flowers brought a fresh, crisp texture to the pizza and would have made it a light meal if it wasn’t for the other side of my plate.

Fully dressed and ready to eat

Fully dressed and ready to eat

The other half was the Salmon Sashimi which had house-made ricotta, capers, onions and parmesan cheese cooked onto the pizza. It was finished off with some raw salmon and fresh dill on the side. The Salmon Sashimi side of the pizza was a playful Japanese spin on traditional italian ingredients by adding the raw salmon and dill.

The last slice

The last slice

As we were leaving, I had a chance to chat with the owner, Yosuke Masuko about his restaurant. Chef Yoshikawa and him have been friends for over 20 years and actually built a wood fired a few years ago in his garden. When I asked about the quality and care they took in each pie that came out, the former venture capitalist cum restauranteur simply replied, “I really like pizza”.

Nuff said

Pizza 4P’s
8/15 Le Thanh Ton Street District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: 0120-789-4444
Website: http://www.pizza4ps.com

We came back 2 more times and tried the Okonomiyaki, Chicken Teriyaki, Quattro Fromaggio, Proscuitto and the Salmon Miso pizzas. All were great and we will definitely come back when we are back in Ho Chi Minh City!

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Ichiriki Tei

Ichiriki Tei

Ichiriki Tei

Located on Kampuchea Krom just west of Central Market, Ichiriki Tei is a great Japanese restaurant that not only serves your generic sushi and nigiri rolls but some seriously filling homestyle cooking.

Interior of Ichiriki Tei

Interior of Ichiriki Tei

We were greeted immediately by the staff and were offered a huge table that could have easily fit 10. The interior is a blend of tacky Khmer Riche and understated Japanese.

The view of the other tables at Ichiriki Tei

Understated yet tacky

The menu is quite extensive and was a bit daunting to look through. Luckily, the proprieter was very patient with us newbies and guided us through the menu. Between the 3 of us, we ordered 4 dishes.

Gyoza at Ichiriki Tei

Gyoza at Ichiriki Tei

The first dish that arrived was the gyoza. At $2.00 for 5 pieces, it was a little expensive, though not as expensive as the gyoza at Bekkan Ramen. I felt they were a bit bland and definitely needed to be dipped in the accompanied soy sauce. After the demolishing the gyoza, the rest of the plates started to appear.

Ichiriki Tei Special Ramen

Ichiriki Tei Special Ramen

Ichirikitei Special Ramen ($6.50) was one of the lunch specials of the day. Along with the noodle soup, you get a pretty generic plate of fried rice. . I would suggest sharing your meal if you want to actually do anything after your meal. Half a boiled egg, sliced pork and cabbage accompanied the thin round noodles that came in the sesame oil-infused broth.

Katsu Don with miso soup

Katsu Don with miso soup

The next dish they plopped down was the Katsu Don ($8.50). When I say plopped, I mean a thud. The bowl was huge! The deep-fried pork cutlet was smothered with a beaten egg before serving and tempered the crunchy breaded pork that is usually served with this dish. The rice  was flavored with a bit of soy sauce and was a nice counter-punch to the rich pork. A definite gut buster!

Niku Soba

Niku Soba

The Niku Soba ($7.00) was the last bowl to come out. Nice and chewy soba noodles were served with sliced beef, carrots, onion. I found it to be a bit bland and once some heat was added to it via some chili flakes, it made for a pretty good broth.

All in all, a great place for those who are looking for homestyle Japanese food and don’t mind not doing anything afterwards.

3 out of 5 nyamies
Vinh

homemade chili sauce and soy sauce

Once we were able to find the front door at Ichiriki Tei and found our table, the overly attentive staff started piling hot towels, menus and sauces on our table. The woman that spoke the most English explained to us that the chunky chili sauce they brought over was homemade so we had to give it a try. We mixed some in with the soy sauce and it was decent, not too spicy and a bit sweet but the mix went well with the gyoza.

Food at Ichiriki Tei

My eyes bugged out when the Katsu Don arrived at the table. Probably really unhealthy but the katsu don consists of delicious tenkatsu and fried eggs piled on a top of really nice Japanese rice. This was by far my favorite dish (I’ve actually been back twice since and ordered this).

Special Ramen, Fried Rice and neon red ginger

The ramen was really cheap so I wasn’t expecting much but it wasn’t bad for the price. The noodles were not fresh but the broth and pork were really nice. The Niku Soba and fried rice were fine but not stand outs.

pickles

Americans typically associate Japanese food with healthy options like fresh sushi. This Japanese food is not healthy. Ichiriki Tei does have a very expensive sushi section but bulk of the menu is “Japanese soul food” which is definitely the reason to visit this place.

4 out of 5 nyamies
Bryse

Ichiriki Tei
No.10 Kampuchea Krom Blvd, Sangkat Phsa Thmey 2, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh

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Spring Vale

Spring Vale

Spring Vale

Tucked around the corner from Russian Market, I had heard of Spring Vale from a couple of friends that live around the corner. After reading Lina’s review of the place, we knew that this had to be the next place to try out.

We were greeted by one of the owners upon walking in and were offered a table outside. Not one to turn down al fresco dining in December, we grabbed the nearest table and were given menus. It’s one of those laminated jobs which doesn’t mess around. All the dishes range from $3 – $6 which is very reasonable for it’s proximity to Russian Market.

Okonomiyaki at Spring Vale

Okonomiyaki at Spring Vale

The Okonimyaki was very tasty and didn’t have an excessive amount of the okonomiyaki sauce which can sometimes overpower the rest of the ingredients.

The gyoza were quite ordinary but what I really loved (and was probably the least appealing looking) was the chicken and egg on steamed rice, otherwise known as oyakodon (thanks Nathan!). I could imagine this meal being something your mother served to you after you scraped your leg while playing in the street. The egg was runny enough to imbue it’s taste onto the rice and was seasoned perfectly.

Fried Tofu

Fried Tofu

The fried tofu was a also a hit for me. The tofu had a nice crisp crust to it and had a great melt in your mouth texture once you bit into it.

The fried pork came with rice and a pretty good side of coleslaw. I thought the pork was a bit overfried and needed the sauce to keep the dish from being too dry. I am generally a fan of anything fried and pork but this one kinda fell flat for me. Maybe I dug the chicken a bit too much.

As Lina put in her blog post and I mentioned before, Spring Vale isn’t a fancy shmancy restaurant serving avante-garde fare. It serves items you would probably find in a home or casual eatery. And sometimes that’s all you need.

3 out of 5 nyamies.

Vinh

Gyoza

Gyoza

Whenever dumplings are on the menu at a restaurant we order some and use them as a yard stick for the food. Unfortunately, the gyoza at Spring Vale was disappointing. Not that they were bad, we have definitely had way worse chinese style dumplings close to Central Market, but gyoza is usually really great so it was surprising when these were a miss.

Chicken and eggs on steamed rice

Chicken and eggs on steamed rice

Most of the other items were pretty nice. I could see having the chicken and eggs on steamed rice for breakfast. Nothing special, just a solid bowl of good food.

The okonimyaki was also really tasty. It is served fully cooked and it’s always more fun to see it fried on a table in front of you (while the cook is flipping pieces of food into your mouth Benihana style).

Pork cutlets

Tonkatsu - Pork cutlets

A friend had just been talking about homemade tonkatsu so I was really excited to order some when I saw it on the menu. The breading and sauce was pretty fine but the breading to pork ratio was too far in the breads favor. Not much meat in those things.

The folks serving the food were very nice and none of the plates we tried were bad. If I lived close or am in the neighborhood, I would probably check out Spring Vale again but I’m not going to drive down just for this place.

2.5 out of 5 nyamies.

Bryse

Spring Vale
House 27, Street 450,
Toul Tom Pong I, 27 450,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

089343597

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Ku Kai

Getting ready for the best meal in town

Getting ready for the best meal in town

“If I had one night in Sihanoukville, I would go here. If I had two, I’d go twice”

One of my dinner mates uttered this comment after finishing a meal in Ku Kai. Considered by many Sihanoukville locals as the best Japanese restaurant in town, it is definitely a place to check out when you are done sunning yourself silly on the beach.

BTW, sorry about the poor quality images. I took these on my iphone as I didn’t bring a camera to the beach.

Queenfish and kingfish sashimi

Queenfish and kingfish sashimi - $2.75 per order

Run by a husband and wife team (he cooks, she takes care of the front of the house), the restaurant exudes a warm, inviting vibe and has some of the friendliest staff I have experienced in Cambodia. Ku Kai offers 2 types of fresh sashimi every night (except for Monday when they are closed) and it is best to call ahead to place an order as it tends to run out very fast. The restaurant also offers set meals (which come with rice, salad and miso soup), rice bowls (comes with miso soup) and various a la carte items.

Sliced rare roast beef

Sliced rare roast beef - $2.50

The prices are very reasonable considering the quality of the dishes and the size of the portions but it is a tough place to find a table after 7:00 so it is definitely recommended to book a table.

Prawn and Vegetable Tempura - $4.75

Prawn and Vegetable Tempura - $4.75

Ku Kai
144 7 Makara St
Head down Ekareach from Serendipity Beach towards Victory Beach. When you see the 333 KTV building on the right, turn left. It is about 200 meters down the road on the righthand side.
Tel: 012 593 339

The red X marks the spot

The red X marks the spot

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