Heading out on the first foodie venture to Phnom Penh’s tastiest eateries the difficult decision was obviously where to start. With the plan being to simply hunt down tasty dishes across the city from shacks, food stalls, bars restaurants, or anywhere else offering up flavor sensations, the options were of course endless. I was in the mood for something Asian, so why not start with something Cambodian. It had been a long time since I’d visited a Khmer beer garden, the ear splitting Karaoke, the obnoxiously drunk nouveau riche, menus with no prices, and the occasional gun shots from disgruntled generals, all being good reasons to avoid them, or anything looking like one.
Restaurant 54 on st.184 had that look from the outside, the food had been recommended, it was time to give the beer garden another go. Parking up was easy enough, pull up to the door and a scruffy young kid will exchange your bike for a key, which presuming you’ve given it to the correct young urchin, will open the lock placed around your bike once it has been valet parked. The beer garden itself is the courtyard surrounding a large villa in an ‘L’ shape with projector screens at both ends with the football on, and space for a band to the left of the entrance door. The tables are all shiny stainless steel, and mostly full. We are led down the back by a waitress in a shiny Guiness top who is connected to a walky talky via an earpiece.
Beers are cheap with regular sized bottles of Angkor and Kingdom at around $1. Heineken and Tiger were there for a little more. The menu has a comprehensive selection of BBQ items, and a variety of ways to cook them which are mostly the same for each item.
Trying to be adventurous we ordered the goat curry, and added some large black ants, seafood fried rice, and beef in a beer can. This was radioed into the kitchen and started to arrive shortly after. First up was the seafood fried rice which had a deep brown color, with rich earthy flavors to match, with a duck egg fried into it, and topped with large chunks of grilled shrimp and butterflied prawns. It wasn’t a large plate, but at 11000r nor was it expensive.
The goat curry, 16000r, arrived next. Made from a ‘kroeung’, Cambodian curry paste, in a rich gravy that complimented well the gamey flavor of the goat which was cut into chunks of skin, and the meat just below in an equal ratio. The ants we added were lost in the already bold flavors, and would be better tried as suggested on the menu. Finally the beef in a beer can, 11000r. A can of ABC had had its top roughly hacked off and the decapitated can was used as the vessel to serve a beef stew that featured small, reasonably tender chunks of beef in a gravy with similar seasoning to the better known dish, Luc Lac. Novelty value, of which there was little, aside completely pointless.
The food overall was well prepared, and quickly served, the service quick and efficient, and the key in my pocket did return my bike at the end of the meal. Restaurant 54 was nothing like those beer gardens of old, and gets the Foodie seal of approval.
On the Town
A monthly look into Phnom Penh’s music scene, and potentially a bit of what’s on info.
The Battle of the Bands night at Sharky Bar was a good way to get acquainted with a number of new bands on the live music circuit. Seven bands in total would battle it out to be Phnom Penh’s finest.
Sexploited got things under way in raucous punk fashion, pulling in the crowd with free t-shirts to the first moshers, and culminating in the anarchic repetition of sex and violence, the chorus and name of their final song.
Dirty Jacks took up the mic next and their lead singer politely informed the crowd that if they didn’t like him they could F right off before launching into a writhing, screaming, new age punk metal set that saw him singing from his back on the floor numerous times, collapsing as the screams rang out.
Sangvar Day followed with a set of metal and hard rock, and then Mad-Fer-It took everyone to Manchester with a set of Oasis covers finishing off with a crowd pleasing version of the classic Cigarettes and Alcohol. Then following an intro of distortion and noise it was on to Splitter. Alternative metal they bill themselves as, their sound is original and intense with thumping drums and dirty bass lines and intense vocals and head-banging. They got my vote.
Adobo Conspiracy rocked up next in school uniform the lead singer looking that part for a second before she exploded into a whir of energy. Nightmare AD closed the night with more powerful death metal, but in the end it was Splitter who won the 4th Annual Battle of the Bands, congrats guys.