Breakfast for my friend Jess and me began with eating a pint of Graters. After several hours of walking around Cleveland to work this off and seeing some interesting places, we became famished and looked for something to eat. My friend Jess had some great suggestions. I picked Phnom Penh because I had never had Cambodian food. The restaurant did not disappoint with its Cambodian and Vietnamese flair.
They have a varied selection, in fact they have so many selections and variations it takes you awhile to choose what you want. The menu is long and detailed, the waitress will help you out if you are uncertain of what to choose. Grammar nuts should have someone else read the menu so as not to spoil their time in the place. There are many vegetarian choices if you so desire and carnivores will not be disappointed. Their main courses can be big enough for two, especially if you ordered appetizers. You can order each dish in a variety of heat levels from mild, medium, and hot.
The space itself is modern and well decorated with wood carved artwork. The waitress was attentive to our needs. The food was brought out promptly and our water glasses were refilled.
The food itself rates from just ok to truly outstanding, depending on what menu item you pick. My friend Jess and I chose what we wanted based on the ingredients. We both wanted to have something that we could not eat anywhere else. For appetizers, I ordered the nitin, which is described as coconut ground pork with crispy rice, and Jess ordered the fish cake. For the main course I ordered the Chha Kreoung Marass Prowt which has lime leaves, garlic, turmeric root, galanga root, coconut whip, lemongrass, ma rass Prowh, onions, green peppers, red peppers, roasted peanuts, with a side of rice. I paid extra to have some tofu thrown in there. Jess had Banh Sougnh which has rice noodles, lettuce, cucumbers, bean spouts, whipped coconut milk, cut spring rolls, Asian basil, ground peanuts, and served with a special sauce. Let’s rate the food dishes. The appetizer nitin tasted like a sweet ground Italian sausage with a rice paddy, the taste was OK but not exotic. For the main course, Banh Sougnh was OK. The spring rolls inside the dish were excellent but the noodle dish itself was a bit bland. You could not taste the lemon grass or coconut inside.
For what I would consider a truly outstanding appetizer and main dish combination, try the fish cakes and medium spiced Chha Kreoung Marass Prowt. The flavors in each complement each other. The lemongrass is mind-blowing. Truthfully, I hate fish and I have not had a bite in several years. My friend Jess asked me to try the fish cake several times and I said no each time. She told me it did not taste like fish and the taste amazed her. I reluctantly gave the fish cake a try because she had been right about everything the whole day. To my surprise I devoured two more! Not wanting to appear too greedy I wanted, but did not try for, the third. The medium spiced Chha Kreoung Marass Prowt with the lemongrass and coconut milk is very flavorful and complements the fish cake.
Phnom Penh has a few exotic drinks available, made from fruits that we'd never heard of before. We didn’t try it because we ordered a lot of food so we stuck to water. One thing to remember is that they do not serve alcohol. They do allow you to bring it in. I know this because one of the guests was asking this very question and the waitress suggested places close by to buy it. My suggestion as a complement to the lemony and lime taste of fish cakes and Chha Kreoung Marass Prowt would be to pick up some Coronas and some cut lime and have it in your car. Then ask if you can bring them in. The Corona beer and the outstanding dishes above would make for a perfect meal.
I would recommend taking a big group so that you can try different foods and share like a family. However, dinner for two is always an option ordering the foods above. I wish I could live close to that place so I could eat it everyday. Please remember they serve lunch and dinner. The food is the same but the portion and costs are different. Definitely go here for lunch so you can save money and try more things. What I like to do is order something I know is good and an experimental dish to try. You’ll never know if the new dish will become your favorite.
On the down side credit cards are not accepted, so bring enough cash with you. The prices are so low it will not give your wallet too much of a hit.
Overall: Try this restaurant, you will not be disappointed. Try a variety of things. One or more of the dishes should hit the spot.