The Best Places to Eat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap is home to Cambodia’s finest restaurants, including the outstanding Cuisine Wat Damnak, named Cambodia’s Best Restaurant when it crept onto the San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list at #50 in March 2015. The town’s Khmer restaurants should be your priority, including Sugar Palm and Chanrey Tree for outstanding traditional food, served in beautiful spaces. However, Siem Reap also boasts an abundance of restaurants offering international cuisines, from Italian to Indian.

Wat Damnak market street, Village Krong Siem Reap, City 93108, Cambodia
To many gastronomes, the subtle flavors and spicing of Khmer cuisine makes it one of Southeast Asia’s great food secrets. That’s certainly the view of French chef Joannes Riviera, who has taken inspiration from Cambodia’s unsung culinary traditions to create one of the region’s biggest restaurant success stories. Cuisine Wat Damnak has received numerous accolades since opening for business in 2011. Using only the freshest local produce (think juicy tropical fruit, bamboo shoots, and fish from nearby Tonle Sap), Riviera devises regularly changing tasting menus that burst with creativity. Recent hits include a fish sour soup with green banana and rice paddy herb, and a duck confit curry with fresh rice noodles. Dinner is a steal at just $27 for five courses or $31 for six.
Opposite Pannasastra University, Street 27, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Sugar Palm restaurant is the first Cambodian restaurant that many visitors to Siem Reap try, and it often becomes a favorite. The food is some of the most delicious, traditional, home-style Cambodian food in the country. It also happens to be served in a very traditional, Khmer teak-wood house, with high ceilings and wide verandahs—oozing atmosphere.

Everything on offer is scrumptious, from the amok trei or fish amok, to the hearty Cambodian chicken curry. If you’re not a fan of pungent and sour flavors but want to try one of Cambodia’s quintessential ingredients, prahok (fermented fish), then this is the restaurant to do it. The prahok k’tis (a minced pork dip made with prahok) is a fairly tame albeit still very tasty iteration of the dish. The owner-chef, Cambodian-New Zealander Kethana Dunnett, is often around if you have questions about the cuisine. Kethana is the go-to person for celebrity chefs -- from Gordon Ramsay to Luke Nguyen -- when they are in the country filming food programs, and she certainly knows her stuff.
Taphul Street, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap sees a lot of Koreans visiting throughout the year, both tour groups and independent travelers. This means the city has a large number of Korean restaurants to cater for them. My favorite is Dae Bak, on busy Sivutha Boulevard. This simple place with stainless steel tables that get packed with groups of tourists, as well as off-duty guides and Korean expats, does deliciously authentic Korean food. There’s a fairly long menu of specialties, including everything from dumplings to kimchi soup and bulgogi to seafood pancakes. A few dishes to share is enough for a couple, as also serve half a dozen tiny dishes of starters, from kimchi to various pickled and fermented vegetables. Dishes start at $5 and a bottle of soju goes for $4. My only gripe is that the Korean BBQ is done outside and not at the table.
Pari's Alley, 16 The Lane, Krong Siem Reap 63000, Cambodia
There comes a time for everyone on a Cambodia trip when, no matter how much you’re enjoying sampling the local food, you’ll get a craving you need to satisfy. Fortunately, Siem Reap has an abundance of restaurants serving cuisines from around the globe, and many of them are very good. Filling pastas are fantastic if you’ve been cycling or scrambling the temples all day and a plain Margarita pizza is a terrific choice if you’ve been a tad sick in the tummy. Of Siem Reap’s handful of Italian restaurants, I love Il Forno, on a narrow alley off Pub Street, just down the lane from Asana and around the corner from Miss Wong.

The pizzas come piping hot from the traditional Neapolitan wood-fired oven and many of the handmade pastas are made fresh daily on the premises. While some of the products, such as the Parma ham, are imported from Italy (as you’d hope!), others are local and seasonal, like the beautiful fragrant basil. They also offer decent Italian wines by the glass and carafe. Check the blackboard for daily specials. If you can’t get a table, I also like Little Italy on the parallel lane on the other side of Pub Street. The specialty there is their excellent carpaccio and house-made charcuterie.
Mondul 1 Village, Svay Dangkum Commune, District, 563 2 Thnou St, Krong Siem Reap 17252, Cambodia
It may seem unbelievable now, given the pace of Siem Reap’s evolution, but reliably great coffee and other deli and bakery staples were tough to find before Blue Pumpkin set up shop near the turn of the millennium. Success may have changed the venture—it now has a number of outlets in Siem Reap, and several more in Phnom Penh—but the philosophy of serving simple but high-quality Asian and Western dishes remains intact. Menu highlights include generously proportioned breakfasts and sandwiches, decadent cakes, famous yogurt shakes, and a wide selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets.
River Rd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
The beloved Cambodian breakfast dish of nom banh chok is a love-it-or-hate-it dish for most foreigners, who would probably prefer to have this cold to luke-warm noodle dish served hot. The process of making these rice noodles is depicted in bas reliefs on Angkor temples, suggesting that the dish dates back to the Khmer Empire and traveled to Thailand at the end of the Angkorian era. In Thailand, there is a similar noodle dish called kanom jeen. In Siem Reap it’s typically served at street-side stalls and by roaming women vendors who carry baskets of ingredients on their shoulders. Like anything in Cambodia, you can expect to find an array of versions but a favorite comes with a yellow kroeung curry, a mound of thinly sliced banana blossoms, pickled cucumber, and fresh fragrant green herbs.
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