Tag Archives: review

Ayotaya

Interior of Ayotaya

Interior of Ayotaya

Ayotaya is a no frills Thai restaurant that is severely lacking on ambiance but inversely makes up for it in flavor. Upon walking in, you have a sense that you have entered a canteen. It’s white walls are bare with a few signs stating daily specials. It also has that living room look that only a canteen in Southeast Asia can have with a few couches in back, a whiteboard with daily specials which are in Thai no-less, and the ubiquitous TV running a very melodramatic dubbed soap opera.

Interior of Ayotaya

Each table comes with your own personal trash bin

The good thing about places like this is the high probability of getting a really good meal. But sometimes you need a ringer to really order the goods. Enter Fon from Hungry Go Where who we gave the undue pleasure of ordering for us and Lina from My Big Fat Face.

And it was so good… 

Fon ordered a total of 6 dishes which included 2 plates of Green Curry Fried Rice ($3.00), Lime Steamed Tilapia ($6.00), a Wing Bean Spicy and Sour Salad ($3.50), Fried Squid in Curry Powder ($4.00) and a side of fried eggs ($2.00).

They were all excellent with the Wing Bean Salad and the Tilapia being my favorites of the meal. The salad was clean and fresh with the Wing Beans giving a great crunchy texture to it. For the Tilapia, I am a huge fan of this Thai preparation and almost always order it when it is available.

The only niggly thing I could say about the meal was the quartered hard-boiled egg as garnish on almost all of the dishes.

All in all, Ayotaya is a great Thai restaurant on the cheap if you can deal with the canteen-like feel of the place.

Vinh

Ayotaya is conveniently situated at st 302 in BKK1. You wont miss the cheerful yellow sign outside Decoration is basic, yet clean and welcoming.

Being Thai, of course I was tasked to order for the other 3 foodies – pressure was on. Fortunately all the dishes we had lived up to the expectation. I was happily to collect the compliments!

Fried squid in curry powder

Fried squid in curry powder

We ordered few things to share; snake beans salad with prawns, steamed river fish with garlic, chillies sauce, green curry chicken fried rice and fried eggs to accompany the curry fried rice.

Snake beans salad with prawn came with light and slightly spiced coconut dressing. It was a hands down everyone’s favourite and personally, I can eat that everyday. Steamed river fish came in a generous portion. We asked for the garlic & chillies sauce to be spicy and the restaurant was not shy to give us that. The sauce offers that perfect sour, spicy and salty combination which compliments the fish really well. We just could not have enough of that.

Green curry fried rice

Green curry fried rice

Last dish, curry fried rice with fried eggs. The dish reminds me of good street food in Bangkok  – rustic and giving home cook feel – Two thumbs up!

There are daily specials on their board every day (in Thai). Just ask what they are if you are curious and want to try something different, their Thai staff will be able to explain to you.

Fon

Ayotaya
No 58 Street 302
BKK 1
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
099 222 408

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The Exchange Burger

The Exchange

The Exchange

The Exchange is one of a number of high-end restaurants that have opened up in Phnom Penh in the past 6 months. I tend to wait a bit to let the restaurant get on it’s feet a bit and sort out the niggly details that comes with opening a restaurant.

After hearing that Al formerly of Sharky’s was running the food side of things, I excitedly threw out this rule and showed up on opening day. Unfortunately, in my excited state, I forgot to bring my camera.

Interior at the Exchange

Interior at the Exchange

The interior of the Exchange exudes class and was very well designed. Also, I really enjoyed the open air feel of the place with lots of windows let in the breeze and light. I ordered the burger and my wife ordered the braised lamb shank. Both were excellent and the service was impeccable. The only issue was my burger was dripping with juices which made it nice and juicy but turned it into a soppy mess.  Al came over after our meal and I mentioned the juiciness. He winced and mentioned that the staff isn’t properly resting the burger before serving. I didn’t think anything of it as it was the first day.

Fast forward to a week ago where Bryse and I headed back to the Exchange to have one item and one item only: the cheeseburger.

The cheeseburger at the Exchange

The cheeseburger at the Exchange

It’s advertised as the Flame-Grilled Black Angus Beef Burger on the menu and was definitely worth it a second time around. The menu is a mix of  pan-asian and western grilled plates and prices range from 8.00 to 16.00 dollars but we didn’t bother with anything else.

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked to a rare temperature, the burger comes with extremely fresh tomatoes, crispy lettuce, an onion confit and swiss cheese on a not-too sweet sesame seed bun. A side of fries with a garlic aioli and ketchup round out the plate. Not too bad for $7.50. I mentioned in an previous post that T-Bone had the best burger in town but after this one, I have to take that crown off T-Bone and place it squarely on the Exchange burger. The high quality of the imported Australian meat shines through and the fresh garnishes make it the complete package.

Just a little juice

Just a little juice

So next time you are fixing for a burger and are willing to dish out a little more loi, then you can’t go wrong with the burger at the Exchange.

Vinh

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

A big old flag at the Exchange

A big old flag at the Exchange

The Exchange
#28 Street 47
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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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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Tom Yum Kung

Tom Yum Kung

Tom Yum Kung

Phnom Penh’s Golden Street or Street 278 is known for it’s many bars, restaurants and shops. So many in fact, that it can be hard to choose a venue to dine in. However, if you head just a bit west of Street 57, you can find a gem of a restaurant called Tom Yum Kung that dishes the goods.

I have driven by this restaurant too many times to count and never knew it was there until it was recommended by a fellow Nyammer. I think this is due to the parking area which is at the entrance of the restaurant and if there are a couple cars there (which there usually are), the sign is covered up. Either way, I am glad I found it because it serves some of the best Thai food I have had in Phnom Penh. I went with a pretty large group of people so we were able to order a ton of items off the menu.

Som Tam salad

Som Tam

Probably the best dish we ordered would be the first one we received.  The quintessentially thai salad Som Tam ($1.50). A great start to the meal, it had just enough heat to kickstart our palates for the upcoming feast. Add some sticky rice to this and it makes for a meal in itself (which I have done twice since). We also received some Satey Khai ($3.00) the same time we got the Som Tam and the skewers of chicken were so good that they only lasted a minute on the plate. So we ordered another.

Satey Khai

What you don't see are the awaiting hands out of frame

After dusting off the two starters, the dishes started pouring onto our table.

Pork Laarb ($3.00)

Pork Laab

Pork Laab

Tom Yum Kung (Sour and Spicy Soup $4.50)

Tom Yum Kung Soup

Tom Yum Kung Soup

Pla Tab Tim Nuang Ma Naw (Steamed Fish in Lime Juice $8.00)

Check out all that fish!!

Check out all that fish!!

Phat Kaprao Gai (Stir Fried Chicken with Thai Sweet Basil and Chili $3.00)

Stir Fried Chicken with Thai Basil

Stir Fried Chicken with Thai Basil

Phat Pak Roum (Stir Fried Vegetables $3.00)

Stir Fried Vegetables

Stir Fried Vegetables

We ordered everything spicy but I have to give the restaurant some credit for not destroying our taste buds by overpowering the tastes of the dishes with copious amounts of chili. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any heat, they just knew the right amount to put in. All of our group absolutely loved the Phat Kaprao Gai with it’s simple, fresh flavors and Pork Laarb didn’t last too long before being demolished and put out to pasture.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we lived up to our nyamming reputation and ordered some Khao Niaow Ma Muang (Mango and Sticky Rice $2.75) to finish out the meal.

Mango with Sticky Rice

Mango with Sticky Rice

A great end to a fantastic meal.

Tom Yum Kung
#10, St. 278, BKK1, Khan Chamkarmorn
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
+855 23 720 234

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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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Dolce Italia

Condiments at Dolce Italia

Condiments at Dolce Italia

There’s something about a wood fired pizza that gets me well, a bit fired up.  I think that it’s the crispy, yet chewy crust that only a stupidly hot wood oven can create. I also love the visual aspect of a pie with blistered, almost burned edges and taking that first bite, burning the roof of your mouth and not caring.

That’s why my wife and I ended up at  Dolce Italia: Pizza Napoletana Da Giorgio after a hearing from a friend about the pizzas. The menu is a mixture of antipastas, sandwiches, pastas and of course, wood fired pizzas. We ended up ordering a classic Pizza Fresca ($9.50) and the Ripieno Classico ($11.50).

Another great aspect of wood fired pizzas is that they take no time to cook so from the time we ordered to the time we got our pizza and calzone was under 10 minutes.

Pizza Fresca at Dolce Italia

Pizza Fresca at Dolce Italia

The Pizza Fresca is sheer simplicity; consisting of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and  basil. It’s this simplicity that allows the high quality ingredients to shine.  The crust was superb with just enough charring to give it that taste only a wood fire can give.

Just enough char

Just enough char

We also ordered the Ripieno Classico or Calzone Napoletano which consisted of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, salame Napoli and basil.

Ripieno Classico at Dolce Italia

Ripieno Classico at Dolce Italia

The crust for the calzone wasn’t as crisp as the pizza but still managed to have that great wood-fired taste and there was ample amounts of goodness inside that made it gut-bustingly delicious.

There are about 10 pizzas on the menu which range from $6 – $15 which is very reasonable considering the size of the pies. Also, they do not deliver and only do pick up orders.

Vinh

Dolce Italia
#96 Sothearos Blvd
Tel: 012 562 892
Just across the street from the Vietnamese/Cambodian Friendship Monument

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Ngon 13 months later

Banh Xeo at Ngon

Banh Xeo at Ngon

It’s been over 13 months since the Ngon fiasco that left me (and others) with a such bad taste in my mouth that I have never gone back. I still think of it as my worst dining experience in Cambodia.

However, it is one of the most read posts on our blog and we still get comments regarding the service. Many people have commented to me that I should give Ngon another chance (one actually told me to lower my expectations as “this is Cambodia”).

So with much trepidation, I went to Ngon.

In Vietnam.

And what I got was a mixed bag.

We went off to the new location which is located An Phu in District 2 which has become a haven for expatriates and well to do Vietnamese. You can definitely see the development in the clean streets and the very suburban feel to several of the compounds located in the area.

Not a bad place to have a meal

Not a bad place to have a meal

The new Ngon is one of four restaurants in the Thao Dien Village which is located on a very picturesque riverbank located on the northern eastern part of the peninsula. We went for lunch and were lucky to grab a great spot right next to the river. The menu is a bit more expensive than the one in District 1 but with the mainly seafood options and the picturesque location, I had to give them a bit of leeway in terms of pricing.

We decided to order in a non-Nyam fashion and only order 3 dishes. We got a papaya salad with beef, Banh Xeo with seafood (no shrimps please) and deep fried squid. The first dish to arrive was the papaya salad.

Fresh papaya salad with beef

Fresh papaya salad with beef

Served in a hollowed out papaya, the flavors of the salad were fresh and light and a perfect start to the meal. There was an ample amount of sliced rare beef to give the dish a bit of heft and it was topped with peanuts and deep fried shallots gave the salad a nice crunchy texture. Up next was the fried calamari.

Muc Chien Don at Ngon

Muc Chien Gion at Ngon

They looked great when they were dropped off but then the cheap side of my brain kicked in and went “Holy crap, this dish was 180,000 dong??? Dude, that’s like a dollar a ring!

Usually I dress any deep fried calamari with a dose of lime/lemon and dip them in the accompanied sauce. But I decided that these had better be the best deep fried calamari on Earth for that asking price and popped one in my mouth ungarnished and unsauced.

50 cents in my belly and 50 cents on my chopsticks

50 cents in my belly and 50 cents on my chopsticks

It was good but it wasn’t mind-blowingly great. I asked for some lime and tried it again garnished and sauced. Heaps better but still not worth the price. In the end, I waited for special moments like when a boat was passing by to have another ring so I could appreciate the price of the dish a bit more.

The last dish to arrive was the banh xeo which was pretty tasty and very filling.

Banh Xeo at Ngon

Banh Xeo at Ngon

One ingredient that I have not ever seen in Banh Xeo was the addition of mushrooms which gave the dish an earthy taste which cut the taste of the large amounts of onions in the dish.

Some shipping goes by

Some shipping goes by

The meal came to just under $40 USD and even though the location is great and I left full, I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn calamari.

Vinh

Ngon
Thao Dien Village
195 Nguyen Van Huong St.,
Thao Dien Ward, Disctrict 2, HCMC

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