Phnom Penh is great fun and there’s so much to do here. The most unexpected perk so far has probably been the amazing food scene. From hidden hole-in-the-wall gems to world class international cuisine, there are seemingly endless restaurants to explore. It might take a lifetime to eat at all of them, but I’m determined to try.
Luckily, my coworkers have the same mindset. When I sat down to put together this list of Phnom Penh restaurants, I conducted a little informal office survey. The result is our heartfelt recommendations for where to eat in Phnom Penh. Whether you’re a traveler in town for the week or an expat looking to get out of your rut, we hope this list leads you to some damn good food…!
Claire and the team at Mad Monkey
Friends the Restaurant
Creative tapas with a social impact
Mad Monkey’s HR Manager extraordinaire Sarah made the official first call for this list. She went with Friends the Restaurant. Friends is a training restaurant for marginalized youth. It’s famous for its ‘creative tapas’ and refreshing cocktails. Friends is one of Cambodia’s longest-running and best-loved restaurants, and it only takes one visit to understand why. When I asked Sarah what made Friends her first place pick, she talked about the diverse, inventive menu rooted in Khmer flavours. She also loves the relaxed setting. The generously-portioned share plates allow you and your friends to have a satisfying helping of a bit of everything. Sarah’s also fond of the cocktails – she recommends #57 on the menu, the Frozen Lychee, Chinese Pear, and Lemongrass Daquiri.
Friends is part of TREE, a global alliance of training restaurants. All of its profits are reinvested into the education of the students in training and the social programs that support them. Friends the Restaurant was established and is operated by a Phnom Penh organization called Mith Samlanh. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to truly and sustainably help the local community while you’re traveling, but the effectiveness (and deliciousness) of this social enterprise is clear.
Location: #215 Street 13, near the National Museum
Hours: Daily from 11am – 11pm (kitchen closes at 10pm)
Contacts: (+855) 12 802 072 | WEBSITE
Exactly what you want if you’re craving Indian food
Our next Phnom Penh restaurants pick is courtesy of Tom, one of Mad Monkey’s founders and Directors. Taste Budz is his go-to spot when he’s in the mood for a curry. This is a real local gem. It’s tucked away on a sidestreet in the popular BKK1 neighbourhood of Phnom Penh. A simple white sign out front makes Taste Budz easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The interior decor is equally sparse, but the food hits the spot every time.
Phnom Penh has no shortage of Indian restaurants, but this one stands out. Tom had a hard time narrowing down what one thing makes Taste Budz a winner in his books. The service is quick and considerate, and the staff will help you out if you’re overwhelmed by the options. The prices are reasonable and the portions are plenty. As you eat you’re surrounded by people really enjoying their food, and it makes for a well pleasant atmosphere. You always leave Taste Budz feeling satisfied, which can’t be said for every restaurant out there.
Location: #13E Street 282, BKK1
Hours: Daily from 10:30am to 10pm
Contacts: (+855) 17 913 812 | Facebook
For the hungry, yet health-conscious
Backyard Cafe gets a shoutout on this list of our favourite Phnom Penh restaurants courtesy of Clemens, Mad Monkey’s Training Director. A visit to Backyard Cafe makes you feel good, all around. A wall of leafy green plants out front seals off the space as a little oasis within the city. Inside you’re greeted with a smile and prompt service. The interior is simple but cozy. You’ll be feeling refreshed before you’ve even ordered! The menu itself is super healthy but never compromises on flavour. In their own words, Backyard Cafe’s “passion and focus is on seasonal, locally sourced, organically grown ingredients; nothing processed, just real, honest, clean food.”
Backyard Cafe has plenty of vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten-free, and sugar-free options. There are also dishes with meat. Basically, there’s something for everyone. Clemens likes Backyard Cafe for the way they thoroughly accommodate allergies and health preferences. What he really loves, though, is how creative they are within those parameters. Every dish comes out looking like a work of art. The Abundance Bowl is a masterpiece of flavour combinations, and you honestly will not believe that the Raw Chocolate & Salted Caramel Tart is good for you.
Backyard Cafe is the sister restaurant to Vibe Cafe in Siem Reap, so you can keep filling up on their goodness all the way through Cambodia.
Location: #11B Street 246
Hours: Daily 7:30am – 8pm (closes 4:30pm Mondays)
Contact: (+855) 078 751 715 | WEBSITE
Go on, live a little
Not a restaurant per say, but the cheapest eats to be had in Phnom Penh are found at the food stalls that line the city’s streets. The words “street food” may strike fear into the hearts of travelers who’ve had a run-in with food poisoning, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll be fine. Choose a vendor that prepares your food within your sight for peace of mind. If you take the risk, you’ll be rewarded with flavourful food and great atmosphere. The low prices allow you to sample lots of local specialties in one go. Each city in Asia has a unique street food scene, so we especially recommend a meal in the streets if you’re only in town temporarily. Here are a few dishes worth trying in Phnom Penh:
- Barbequed Skewers (protein on a stick, often pork)
- Lok Lak (juicy beef stir fry)
- Balut (fertilized duck embryo with a little garnish) (Yes, really.)
- Steamed Pork Bun (a simpler version of the Chinese staple)
- Grilled Frog (“tastes like chicken”)
- Chive Cake (a crispy pan-fried snack)
- Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk
Location: everywhere; with more stalls in popular areas – try around Riverside or Independence Monument.
Hours: Daily – 24hours
Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro
Italian-American staples done right
When you’re living or traveling abroad, there’s something to be said for comfort food from home now and then. Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro serves up a slice of New York right here in Phnom Penh. Then again, the guy who made this addition to the list is from Belgium, so go figure – it must just be really freaking good. Henri (the Belgian in question, and a Customer Experience Rep at Mad Monkey) swears by the place.
For their part, Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro claims to offer the best pizza, pasta, steaks, burgers, and wings in Phnom Penh. Henri’s been trying to work his way through the huge menu for a while now, and so far nothing has been a miss. His top pick to date? The Jalapeño & Blue Cheese Burger, which is (quote) “to f***ing die for.” Recommendations don’t get much more glowing than that. Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro is an inviting spot, and it’s right in the heart of the rather trendy Tuol Tum Pong area.
Location: #20 Street 123, Tuol Tum Pong (Russian Market area)
Hours: Daily from 7:30am to 10pm
Contact: (+855) 89 925 926 | Facebook
Mad Monkey Phnom Penh
Big portions and bigger smiles
Is it a bit cheeky to include Mad Monkey on our own list of our favourite Phnom Penh restaurants? Maybe, but if we’re being honest this is where we all eat most often – by a landslide. It’s a matter of taste, not convenience. Our Khmer and foreign staff have worked hard to put together a large menu with something for everyone. Whether you want to try local dishes, or you’re missing your favourite comfort foods, Mad Monkey serves it all up at affordable prices. Our ingredients are locally sourced and prepared to international standards. We’ve got vegetarian options and large servings. The restaurant bar serves a full range of drinks, making this a relaxed but upbeat place to start a night out.
The best part of eating at Mad Monkey is probably your fellow diners. Mad Monkey is a hub for backpackers from around the world. It’s also a favourite among expats living in Phnom Penh. It’s always interesting to get into a conversation with the people sat at the next table over. The Cambodian service team are known for their big smiles and high spirits, and they love getting to know their guests.
Location: #23 Street 302, BKK1
Hours: Daily from 7am to 10pm
Contact: +855 23 901 556 | WEBSITE
Hourable Mention: Ordering In
When you just can’t be bothered to go anywhere
Sometimes, leaving the house/hotel room is just not an option. Maybe you’re sick, maybe you’re hungover, maybe you’re lazy. We ain’t here to judge. Luckily, Phnom Penh is blessed with lots of reliable and affordable meal delivery services. The two listed below, Your Phnom Penh and Meal Temple, have a staggering array of restaurant partners. Whatever you’re craving, they can find it and deliver it to your door. Menu prices are the same as in-restaurant, and a $1 delivery charge is added. You may also want to tip the driver. No credit card required, you can pay cash on delivery. Frequent orderers can save their account details, so placing an order is faster than saying “I don’t feel like cooking tonight.” (Or so we’ve heard, anyways…).
Location: delivers throughout Phnom Penh, – $1 surcharge to deliver across Japanese Bridge
Hours: Daily from 8am to 10pm
Contact: (+855) 023 430 606
More Phnom Penh Restaurants
Nothing here quite catching your fancy? This list only scratches the surface of your options. Here are some more recommendations for where to eat in Phnom Penh:
- The Top 10 Must-Try Street Food Dishes in Phnom Penh by The Culture Trip
- Phnom Penh Eating Guide by Rusty Compass
- Where to Eat in Phnom Penh by Move to Cambodia
- Top 30 Dining Deals for Budget Gourmands by the Phnom Penh Post