I haven’t been eating much Chinese food in restaurants since I’ve been in Cambodia because until recently, I’d been sorely let down by it. This was largely a function of my own laziness. My nearest Chinese is just north of the intersection of Mao Tse Toung Boulevard (appropriately) and Monivong, where there are three Cantonese restaurants that specialise entirely in offal – to which I’m not entirely averse, but I’m not really in the mood for organs all the time. One of the places has the evocatively named “Mixed Insides” on the menu and when I enquired as to which insides were included, the waitress told me “All of them”. Just south of there on Monivong is Hua Nam Restaurant, which is designed solely for patronage by Chinese garment factory owners and consequently is just beyond my price range, as is Xiang Palace at the Intercontinental Hotel, which does excellent yum cha ($10 all-you-can-eat dim sum, Mon-Sat).
I was searching for the calibre of Cantonese food that people like Supper Inn in Melbourne would purvey to me at low, low prices but I had not been putting in any effort to find it. It only took four people recommending me Sam Doo before I realised that cheap, good Cantonese was back on the menu for me in Phnom Penh.
I don’t go out for lunch as often as the average expat but needed to repay Roman the favour of recommending me Enjoy Restaurant. I ordered the Seafood and Beancurd Hotpot ($3.60) in homage to my favorite dish at Supper Inn, their Pork Belly and Beancurd Hotpot; and the Siew Mai dumplings ($1.20) in homage to the deliciousness of mixing swine with seafood.
The siew mai had a fairly large slug of sesame oil in it, pork, very finely minced prawn, all enclosed in a chewy beancurd wrapper. The hotpot was spot on: sweet, glossy, glutinous sauce; crisp slices of young ginger and spring onion; soft, fried pouches of beancurd; fresh squid, sliced fish and a few small shelled prawns to make up the seafood quotient. Served bubbling hot. Food this rich makes me glad that it’s Friday and if I was less committed to my real job, I would have floated off to a beer garden somewhere for a mid-afternoon digestif.
Roman selected the chili chicken ($4.40) to make a direct comparison to Enjoy Restaurant just around the corner. Battered, deep-fried slices of boneless chicken with a few scant pieces of diced capsicum and chili wasn’t what he expected, but was hugely enhanced with spoonful of chili oil from the canister on our table. The food arrived less than ten minutes from our order.
By Khmer standards, the restaurant was squeaky clean. Being able to see the kitchen in the front actually made me contemplate eating, rather than thinking about where I’d stashed the anti-diarrhea medicines at home. Service was attentive despite being busy and I think that I’ll be back there often enough for them to get to know me.
Location: On Kampuchea Krom (st.128) between Monivong and Psar Thmei, near the corner of Monivong. Contact details. Phnom Penh photoblogger Mythicaldude has a great photo of the kitchen at the front of the restaurant.