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The Sous-Vide Challenge

Deco’s sous-vide burger

The first time I had heard about the sous-vide method of cooking was when Caspar from Yumi and now Deco joined us for a nyam about a year ago. He had just purchased the equipment and was already talking about tinkering with the method in an effort to perfect a sous-vide burger. Needless to say, Vinh and I were really excited.

Caspar’s sous-vide burger has finally arrived on the menu at Deco. Not an everyday burger, coming it at $9 for the burger and triple cooked chips, it is however, probably the new king of burgers in Phnom Penh. Cooked evenly through with the sous-vide method done right, the meat is juicy and delicious. I think they even try to show off the quality of the burger meat by keeping the toppings relatively simple.

The triple cooked chips fine but were not my favorite mostly because they are English style chips, not the American fries I’m looking for with a burger. But the ketchup and burger sauce that came along with the plate were both awesome. For those of you not in Cambodia, ketchup being good is unfortunately not a given. It is typically some gross, sweet watery mess so Heinz 57 is a treat.

The rest of the menu looks really good as well but I’m going to have a hard time not ordering the burger next time I’m back at Deco.

Garage’s sous-vide burger

On a normal night, Garage has one of my favorite burgers in Phnom Penh. Nothing fancy, just a solid backyard bbq style burger. It does take as long as 45 minutes to get one if their grill isn’t fired up when you arrive but they do the regular burger really well. However, comparing the sous-vide burger from Garage to the Deco sous-vide burger isn’t even fair. At least not at this point. While Caspar spent a year trying to perfect his sous-vide method, I’m pretty sure the Garage owners bought one and are using their customers to learn how to use the equipment. The night we gave Garage a shot, the burgers were extremely dry and crumpling apart as we tried to eat them. Apparently the whole idea behind sous-vide is to make a juicier burger; this was not the case.

I’d stick to the regular burgers at Garage until they get this new style figured out.

– Bryse

Our first post on this blog focused on a very American diner burger at Mike’s Burger House. 2 years down the line, the culinary landscape has significantly changed with new and exciting restaurants popping up left and right. Sometimes, they are a hit with us and other times, a bit of a miss.

So when I wasn’t too surprised to hear that Phnom Penh has a joint that does sous-vide burgers. I was surprised when I found out that there are two!

Sous-vide is the method of slowly poaching a vacuum sealed bag of food goodness until it achieves whatever temperature the chef would like. What this does is two things:

  1. The food is cooked in it’s own juices, hence intensifying flavor and overall juiciness
  2. Allows for almost perfect cooking temperatures

However, there are some downfalls to the cooking technique.  Because it slowly brings the internal temperature of the food up, cooking times are significantly longer than traditional methods. Also; and this is very important for burgers; there is no browning of the meat. A big part of the burger experience is that char or “crust” that is prevalent on flame-grilled or griddle cooked patties which gives a textural one-two punch when biting into a burger.

Okay, enough burger knowledge for one post, let’s get to the burgers!

We first went to Garage to check out their sous-vide burger. We are big fans of the Garage burger and Jeff the owner is always tinkering with the menu. Usually this is a bad omen of things to come in a restaurant, but in this case, it’s great to see someone constantly refining the menu to keep it fresh.

One admission about the review: C0-owner Jeff was not at the restaurant and his partner had a really bad day trying to get the sous-vide machine up to speed which has adversely affected this review. 

The sous-vide burger was overcooked. There is no other way to put it lightly.

An overcooked sous vide burger at the Garage

An overcooked sous vide burger at the Garage

The burger had a great crust on it so I have a feeling it could have been left on the grill a bit too long. It’s quite disappointing as the onion confit, rocket and sriracha mayo were a great complement to the burger.

In typical Nyam fashion, we ordered way too much food and ordered 2 more sandwiches on the menu.

Cuban sandwich at the Garage

Cuban sandwich at the Garage

We ordered a stellar Pulled Pork Sandwich and a Cubano. Both were excellent though the Cubano didn’t have the prerequisite mustard on it but a simple splash from the bottle of French’s solved that problem

Pretty much all of the food on the Garage menu is under $5 which makes it a great deal for what you get. I will definitely be back to the Garage to retry the burger as this was a one-off experience.

Now onto a more different bear in Deco. Co-owned by Caspar from Yumi and Rob from Rubies, Deco is located in BKK I and is set in a beautiful art-deco villa.

Menu at Deco

Menu at Deco

The Deco burger is  the best burger in town.

Hands down.

However, it’s too much of a good thing.

More on that later.

Chilled tomato soup at Deco

Chilled tomato soup at Deco

There are elements of molecular gastronomy on the menu but none of that exemplifies it more than the chilled tomato soup. The clear broth belies the intense tomato flavor that pummels the perception of what your eyes are telling you. A great start to the meal.

Sous vide burger at Deco

Sous vide burger at Deco

Now onto the burger. It’s simple in it’s presentation which once again belies how much thought is put into it. Every ingredient was top notch even down to the fresh tomatoes which are prominently displayed on top of the patty. I have an almost Un-American love of fat fries aka chips and these triple fried ones are definitely some of the best in town. No ketchup needed for these babies as they are also salted perfectly.  The remoulade-like burger sauce gave a great tangy bite to the burger. As for how the patty was cooked, check out the photo below:

A perfectly cooked sous vide burger at Deco

A perfectly cooked sous vide burger at Deco

But throughout the meal, something was constantly nagging at me and it took me a week or so to figure out what it was.

It’s too perfect.

I have proclaimed the best burger in town a couple of times, here and here but both burgers had their faults. This one is completely flawless and that’s the problem with it. Maybe I like imperfection.

Also, the location is too close for comfort. For example, I love the burgers at Cafe De La Paix (RIP). But one of the reasons why I love them is that they were 6 hours away from Phnom Penh and it took a bit of effort to get one. And that made them special. I’m not saying Caspar and Rob shouldn’t pack up and move to Siem Reap but it’s too much of a good thing.

This is my last post as a regular contributor of Nyam Penh. I have moved to Saigon and have started up a new food blog called Vietnomnom. I am getting content for a post in the next month so please check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Also, thanks to all of our readers and commenters for reading Nyam Penh and helping us get to where we are now.

Vinh

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Fast Food Burger Off

One of the best aspects of living in Cambodia is the extremely civilized 2 hour lunchtime. Combined with the relatively compact size of Phnom Penh, it is conceivable to go home, have lunch, relax or take a nap and get back to work in time. Not a bad way to live if you ask me.

But there are days where you just don’t have the time for civilized.

And that’s where this post is headed. We took that very civilized 2 hour lunch and hit up 4 different fast food burger joints in Phnom Penh to see if there actually is a decent fast food burger in town. Our criteria was simple.

It had to be fast so we set a time limit of 5 minutes from ordering to the time the order arrived for the restaurant to qualify. Now off to the judging!

Lucky Burger

Lucky Burger Meal

Lucky Burger Meal Deal

We first started off at Lucky Burger. With 5 locations in Phnom Penh, and 1 in Siem Reap, Lucky Burger was the closest we had to a western fast food restaurant.

We ordered the basic lucky burger meal which consisted of a cheeseburger, fries and a coke. I don’t know if I should consider this a plus but upon ordering our meal, we were asked it we wanted to up the size of our fries and drink for an extra charge. We declined but I think Lucky should be given some props for maintaining the western fast food mentality of upselling to the customer. After ordering, we got our order number and found a place to sit. 5 minutes later, we received our meal. My initial impression of the burger was positive.

All that cheese!

All that cheese!

Along with the normal LOT (lettuce, onion, tomato), there was an ample slice of american cheese, a tangy, not too sweet sauce and pickles. The sauce wasn’t cloyingly sweet and the pickles made for a great tang that was missed on the other burgers we tried. The fries were just okay and definitely needed some dipping in the accompanying catsup bowl for some extra flavor.

Lucky burger offered the best tasting burger but taste came with a price as it came dead last in order time.

2.5 out of 5 nyamies
Vinh

Lucky Burger

Lucky Burger

I had tried Lucky Burger before and it wasn’t too bad. The day we went, it kind of reminded me of the cheap burgers in the elementary school cafeteria. Probably grade F meat but definitely eatable. Nothing special but just a cheap fast food burger.

Lucky Burger cut in half

Lucky Burger cut in half

We stuck with just the basic cheeseburger but what I was surprised about was the variety on the Lucky Burger menu. They have the typical fast food menu but also pizza, fried chicken, rice, etc. We were trying to pace ourselves for the following spots but some of the other items looks pretty interesting.

2.5 out of 5 nyamies
Bryse

Lucky Burger
N0 158 Preah Sihanouk
Total order time: 5 minutes
Total Price: $3.50

Song Tra Ice Cream

Looking at the store front, you couldn’t tell that this place sells burgers. But once inside, we perused through the menu and found a lone cheeseburger in a menu filled with very sweet Khmer food items.

Song Tra burger

Song Tra burger

At 5,000 Riel, it was the cheapest of the bunch and only took 3 minutes to arrive but I think that’s all it had going for it. The burger consisted of a patty of indiscriminate meat, lettuce, a green tomato, catsup, special sauce, cucumber and coleslaw. The patty was a mealy affair and had no bite to it and the bun was the sweetest I have had in a while. I also have to dock off some points for having a barrier of sauce inbetween the (unmelted!) cheese and patty.

French Fries at Song Tra

French Fries at Song Tra

The french fries at Song Tra were the polar opposite of the burger. Piping hot, they were seasoned perfectly and definitely were the high point of the meal.

2 out of 5 nyamies
Vinh

Song Tra burger cut in half

Song Tra burger cut in half

A coworker had mentioned that Song Tra had really good, cheap fries which was definitely true. But how bad could the burger be? umm … pretty bad. We ordered the cheeseburger but whatever they had between the bun was definitely not beef.

Song Tra burger patty dissected

Song Tra burger patty dissected

1.5 out of 5 nyamies
Bryse

Song Tra Ice Cream
No. 17 Sothearos Blvd
Total order time: 3 minutes
Total cost: 12,000 riel for a cheeseburger, fries and a coke

BB World

BB World burger meal

BB World burger meal

BB World is another fast food chain in Cambodia that has 4 locations in Phnom Penh and is described on their parent company’s website as “The Cambodian equivalent to McDonalds but with an element of Kentucky Fried Chicken”. It also has the distinction of being the only one that is open 24 hours a day (only the Monivong branch). We ordered the BB World Cheeseburger Set which was the most expensive of the meals at $3.70.

BB World burger patty

BB World burger patty

The burger came with your typical LOT but also added a lone pickle to the mix. Unfortunately, the greyish hockey puck of a patty destroyed any redeeming qualities the rest of the ingredients could muster. Also, the cheese was unmelted, there was a mealy greenish tomato but on the plus side, the lettuce was crispy and the bun not so sweet. The fries were okay but I think we got a batch that had been left under the heat lamp a bit too long.

1.5 out of 5 nyamies
Vinh

BB World burger

BB World burger

Whenever we take on too many restaurants in a day, the last place definitely suffers from us being too full. However, I don’t think it would have mattered when we went to BB World. These guys take the cake for serving up one of the most unappetizing burgers I’ve seen.

BB World patty for the world to see

BB World patty for the world to see

Simply: no.

0.5 out of 5 nyamies (the only reason there is half a point is because I didn’t get sick)
Bryse

BB World (open 24 hours!!)
No 308 Preah Monivong
Total order time: 2 minutes
Total cost: $3.70 for a cheeseburger, fries and a coke

Ziki’s

I have seen these burger carts around Phnom Penh and have been meaning to actually have one of these burgers. Unfortunately, every time I have wanted one, the cart’s have been closed. Such was the case during the 2 hour lunch excursion. We went the one on Street 294 and 63 at 12:30 and got an empty cart.

We saw another one around 1:30 on Street 184 and 51 which was actually manned by an employee. She refused to serve us so all I got was a photo of her cleaning the cart for I assume would be an eventual opening.

Ziki Burger lady cleaning the cart

Ziki Burger lady cleaning the cart

I had contemplated going to Ziki Burger cart after the review but the main reason why fast food exists is convenience. Granted, only BB World is open 24 hours but in all honesty, if I can’t get a meal from the times of 12:00pm to 2:00pm, there is a problem.

Vinh

So there you have it. Once again, we have risked life and limb by raising our cholesterol levels to unhealthy heights for your reading pleasure! And the winner is…..

Lucky Burger at an average of 2.5 out of 5 nyamies!!!!

Here is the rest of the field:

Song Tra Ice Cream :1.75 out of 5 nyamies

BB World: 1 out of 5 nyamies

Ziki: DQ as they couldn’t even field a burger

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La Patate

La Patate

Mmmm.... Beer....

La Patate is one of the longest running restaurants on Street 5, a small side street that runs parallel to the riverside. It’s known by expats as the best place in town to get Belgian fries so we decided to stop on by to see if the reputation holds.

The interior is covered in Tin Tin posters which gives it a nice retro feel to the place. They serve all sorts of belgian beers there so if you were looking to try something a bit different than your typical Cambodian lagers, this is the place to go.

In typical Nyamming form, we ended up ordering way too much food which consisted of a couple bazooka’s, a jumbo order of Belgian fries, a slew of dipping sauces and an order of mussels.

bazooka burger

Encased in a crusty baguette, the Bazooka is definitely a meal that can be shared and in typical Nyam fashion, we ordered two. We ordered the burger and sausage bazookas which were very reasonably priced at $5.50. The sausage was a much better choice with the burger patties being a bit too mushy for my tastes. The sausage casing gave it just enough bite for texture and had just enough heat to perk up my taste buds.

The mussels were the highlight of the lunch. Mixed in with the herby lemon butter broth and large mussels were an ample amount of calamari and shrimp. It was so good that I threw caution to the wind and dipping the accompanied bread in the sauce until it was all gone (I am allergic to shrimp).

Mussels

I have had the fries before and they are definitely worth a visit. Fried twice in true Belgian fashion, the fries have an amazingly crisp exterior while retaining a light and fluffy potato texture on the inside. If having some of the best fries in Phnom Penh wasn’t enough, they have now added several dipping sauces to accompany the fries! You get Ketchup for free but an extra $0.50 gets you Mayonnaise, Aioli, Barbecue, Sriracha (hells ya!) or Samourai Hot. Definitely spend the extra loi and try some of the sauces.

All in all, the mussels are to die for here and you can never go wrong with an order of jumbo fries made better with some fun dipping sauces (get the Samourai Hot).

4 out of 5 Nyammies.
Vinh

papa fritz

While walking into La Patate we were greeted by a jolly Belgium who turned out to be the owner of the place. In addition to the Tin Tin posters everywhere, there are several photos of him with Matt Dillon and Gerard Depardieu from the City of Ghosts filming in Phnom Penh back in the day. So before even trying anything, you get the impression that if La Patate was good enough for Depardieu it’s probably pretty legit.

We ordered the signature fries with all of the dipping sauces, a couple of the bazooka’s and for some reason, everyone else wanted to try the mussels. The fries were pretty good but I’m not a big fan of places that don’t salt their fries. I assume this is so that customers can salt to their taste but in my opinion, if a restaurant named after a potato, they should have these things arriving at your table ready to go.

sausage bazooka

The dipping sauces were all pretty great. The bazooka sandwiches was served on sliced baguettes which was really nice for the spicy sausage but just didn’t really work for the burger. The bazooka burger was more of just a kind of weird beef sandwich than a burger. I’m not a big fan of mussels so I tried to avoid eating them but was forced to try the sauce towards the end of the meal and was surprised at how good it was. Mussels not being my thing, I probably wouldn’t order it again but I would recommend it to seafood lovers and would probably steal a few bites.

Overall, the atmosphere was cool, the spicy sausage bazooka was delicious and the fries pretty solid. The owner laughed as us when we were finishing and said if we ate 3 bazooka’s, the 4th one would be free. No way that was happening that day but I might take him up on the offer next time.

3.5 out of 5 nyamies
Bryse

La Patate – No. 14 street 5 between streets 110 and 118

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Botanico

Set of appetizers at Botanico

Set of appetizers at Botanico

We were lucky enough to be part of a select few to the soft launch of Botanico, a new gastrobar in Phnom Penh that is co-run by the crew that brought us Tepui.

Entrance of Botanico

Entrance of Botanico

An unassuming double door with a metal sign is the only indication of the gastrobar within. Quite a departure from the dark wood and sophisticated dining experience of Tepui, Botanico is set in a lush garden setting with potted plants, chirping birds and a very cute but rowdy kitten.

Botanico gastropub setting

Botanico gastropub setting

There was a limited menu offered but I was happy to see that a burger that we sampled in a previous post was on the menu! The menu features tapas and lighter bites along with a breakfast menu!

The italiano beef burger

The italiano beef burger

We sampled a few items from the menu including coconut milk and lemongrass skewered shrimp, pork wontons with a mango chutney, red snapper ceviche and the awesomely awesome italiano beef burger.

Gisella presents the italiano beef burger

Gisella presents the italiano beef burger

It is set to open this week and if you are in the neighborhood, pop in and check it out!

Botanico
Open 7 Days 8:00am – 9:30pm
House #9b, Street 29 (near Sihanouk Blvd. and street 294).

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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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Nyam BKK

Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin Donuts

Please forgive the worst pic on the blog (shot from my cell phone) but I just got back from a short trip to Bangkok and had some really great food.  This shot is of the least amazing food, a Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin Donuts taste test (KK won in texture and DD on flavor and we all felt horrible after).

Burgers – Garage , 2nd Floor of All Seasons Place on Wireless road – Really tasty bacon cheeseburgers at an American themed restaurant in some huge office building mall.

Vietnamese – Xuan Mai, 351/3 Sukhumvit 55 – Absolutely amazing food, a bit pricey for Vietnamese but wow.  Some highlights were the honey suckel flower with pork and shrimp and a creme brulee desert served in an empty coconut.  Also, the Owner of the place was Miss Siagon in the 70s and apparently worked for the CIA.  Really great dinner.

Street food – Sukhumvit Soi 38 night market – Crispy pork wonton soup + too much chili pepper = delicious

Italian – Bacco, 35/1 Sukhumvit Soi 53 – Nice wood fired pizza with some interesting topping choices.

Bryse

UPDATE: the “bun in the oven” shown in the photo above has been born!  Sunday morning happy and healthy but still no name …

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The Garage

I was in the Garage a week or so with a friend from Hanoi who wanted to have a drink with some great tunes. Whilst there, I got to talking to Jeff and found out that he will be expanding his menu of excellent burgers and hot dogs to cuban sandwiches, pizzas and other items.

If the grilled burgers are any indication of the menu, it will be a welcome addition to the culinary landscape of Phnom Penh.

Speaking of cheeseburgers…..

Vinh

Garage Bar
Preah Ang Duong, (Street 110)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Look for the sign with the Velvet Underground Banana.

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