Ever since I was sent a picture of their fried squid and butter beef on Whatsapp, I, as well as what appears to be the rest of Greater Vancouver, had been eager to try out Phnom Penh. Although the location of the restaurant was in a somewhat sketchy area, the experience was well worth the risk of parking along East Georgia. Bloo, Apple and I arrived at the restaurant before the majority of the dinner rush, so we only had a short wait before we were seated.
The décor of the restaurant was quite typical for an Asian restaurant in Metro Vancouver. It doesn’t necessarily exude cleanliness, but it’s not horrific either. Bloo reported that the lights were flickering in the bathroom, which was apparently “scary.”
We were given a plate of bean sprouts and chili to start off with. The bean sprouts looked and tasted quite fresh, which is always a plus at Vietnamese restaurants.
The menu here is quite extensive, but there are a number of items that each patron should definitely try. One of these is the dry mix noodle. We ordered ours with pork and shrimp. Avoiding the shrimp the noodles were tender, and the pork was cooked well. This dish was quite flavourful.
Another must-order item are the chicken wings. These look and are quite oily, but the taste is quite succulent, especially when dipped in the lemony sauce. Although these were indeed palatable, the wings could have had a bit more meat on them.
Continuing with deep fried must-haves, we also ordered the deep fried squid. I enjoyed this immensely: the squid, coated in a well-balanced batter, was nice and chewy. This was again quite oily, but the taste was well worth it.
If you’re going to order a drink, you must get the mango moo shake. Mixed with real mangoes and not too sweet, this is quite the hearty drink to accompany your other food items. Wish I snapped a better picture of this, but I guess I really wanted to consume it quickly.
The butter beef is, of course, the real kicker. Almost completely raw and covered in sauces and cilantro, we divided this into six portions for the three of us. Each serving was a cornucopia of flavours, with the seasonings and the beef blending together quite well. Yes, this dish does have a bit of a risk factor, but I think it’s well worth it if your stomach can handle it!
We finished off the meal with the lemongrass chicken on rice. Like the rest of the items, the chicken had a tangy, unique taste, although this one was less oily than the rest. The rice was a little overcooked, but I didn’t really mind at this point.
Ultimately, is the hype for Phnom Penh worth it? I definitely think it is. Judging by the line-up that accumulated as we ate our way through our meal, it appears that many others agree with me, too. I don’t normally dine on South Asian cuisine, but I would definitely come back to this area of Chinatown to sample some of their other dishes.
Conclusion: Andy ate a lot.
244 E Georgia St.