If you want to enjoy some local street food you can’t get better than heading to the Psar Chaa area until late evening. A lot of stalls have menus in English and it’s easy to order. Prices aren’t exactly local but at USD1 or USD2 a dish they’re reasonable.
It gets slightly more local at the stalls next to Wat Damnak.
After dark, street food is easier to find around Pub Street, though the quality is variable so have a look around before plunging for a stall. Some of those stalls have migrated to another area off Sivatha Boulevard: from Pub Street, left at Park Hyatt and continue down the street until you see the stalls.
Whatever the time of day, try to find a busy stall with what looks like good hygiene. Street food menus include standbys like noodle soup, fried rice, barbecue skewers and great fresh juices.
What to eat
Dishes to try in Khmer eateries include amok (baked fish curry in banana leaf), salad, noodle dishes like mee kola and dishes using the spice sauce kroeung.
If you want to get authentic contemporary Khmer food, you could also think about eating in a local’s house. Ask at your guesthouse or a travel agent – we’ve found that sooner or later someone will be able to arrange this for you.
You cannot go wrong with Khmer food at the stalls at Psar Chaa where some Khmer staple dishes are well represented.
For slightly upscale experience try Khmer Kitchen (The Alley, 961454) which offers simple Khmer food at low prices, Angkor Palm (Pithnou Street, 761436) with a great authentically Khmer menu at a good price, and Cambodian BBQ (The Alley, 965 407) for tasty Khmer barbecues with a panoply of meats.
There are higher end Khmer restaurants, some in beautiful old buildings (like Café Indochine, Sivatha Street, 012 964 533) but most of them offer Khmer dishes as part of a wider regional menu.
A lot of restaurants dabble in a mixture of local or Asian food with western food, or western food with Asian influences. Some manage it much better than others. We find Carnets d’Asia (333 Sivatha Street, 760278) does this well with higher end dishes, as does Madame Butterfly (Airport Road, 016 909607) which sits in a beautiful teak house.
There’s plenty of international food wherever you look, from simple, cheapish Asian dishes through western staples and up to fine dining, reflecting the French influence in Cambodia.
Cheap Indian eats abound at Curry Walla (Sivatha Street, 965451). We built our own burger at Funky Munky (017 824553). There’s great Italian at the secluded L’Oasi Italiana (092 418917), a way out and not easy to find.
For excellent Thai in beautiful surroundings, visit the wooden house Chivit Thai (130 Wat Bo Street, 012 830761). High end French is on offer at Le Malraux (Sivatha Street, 63 966 041) which offers a traditional menu with classic French dishes in chic surroundings.
Happy Herb’s Pizza (Pithnou Street, 092 838 134) is a branch of the Phnom Penh pizzeria legendary for offering herb-filled pizzas offering a “happy” experience. If your favourite hallucinogen is just mozzarella, normal pizzas are also available.
For another memorable experience try Dead Fish Tower (Sivatha Street, 016 630 377), which prides itself on keeping live crocodiles onsite.
Coffeehouses & cafés
As you’d expect from a town filled with travellers and those pondering life, Siem Reap has some charming cafes and coffee shops.
Le Café (Wat Bo, 271392) offers great food and drinks inside the French Cultural Centre. Caffeineheads can get their fix at Common Grounds (719-721 Street 14, 63 965 687), which although popular with non-discerning customers as well as a hipster clientele, does offer outstanding quality Asian roasts.
We find Upstairs café (Wat Bo Road, 97 304 3600) charming and cosy with a social enterprise vibe and great coffee. Sister Srey (200 Pokambor Avenue, 88 607 2166) is another cosy, lazy afternoon spot.