On Tuesday afternoon, “Monk”, “Jazzy” and I were downtown, checking out our favorite ski shop to get ready for the upcoming ski season. I also had a late afternoon appointment, so we figured we’d go have dinner at Phnom Penh Restaurant [244 E Georgia St, Vancouver, (604) 682-5777], before we headed home to boonyville Coquitlam.
Phnom Penh is a fairly typical Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant from the outside. It’s on the outskirts of old Chinatown, dirty plastic menu covers is the norm and overly warn ethnic restaurant decor is a mainstay. Regardless, this restaurant is always busy, continually gets great reviews and is a consistent crowd pleaser. Over the past few years, I’d say I’ve been here close to 10 times. When I first went, I was blown away. The food was super tasty, the prices were very fair and the flavours were very reminiscent of “Monk” and my, epic 2007 backpacking trek through Vietnam and Cambodia.
This time around we ordered their signature chicken wings, a crispy oyster pancake, lok lak beef and egg on rice, mixed dry noodles and a chicken and potato curry. We’ve had all these dishes before and they almost always taste great. The chicken wings are deep fried, seasoned with a salt and sugar mixture and served with a lime juice and black pepper dipping sauce. These wings are great, fresh tasting and piping hot. The oyster pancake is a favorite of ours. The texture is probably not for every one, but we always enjoy it. Oysters are fried in a rice flour batter with seasonings and aromatics. The result is a crispy pancake, slightly glutenous, with a bright oyster flavour. “Monk” always asks for lettuce leaves, wraps pieces of the oyster pancake in lettuce tacos and dips it in the fish sauce. The lok lak is one of my usual suspects. It’s pretty simple; stir fried beef, a fried egg, white rice and some chili fish sauce. Everything is better with a fried egg on top. “Monk” loves the mixed dry noodles. It’s a mixture of rice noodles and egg noodles tossed with a savory sweet sauce with ground pork, prawns, liver, tongue and pork shoulder. You fold in some bean sprouts and other condiments and it’s quite a tasty treat. Probably the biggest disappointment of dinner was the chicken curry. The potatoes were mealy and tasted old, the chicken was bland and the whole dish was just under-seasoned and boring. “Monk” has made tastier chicken curries with “just add water” packages.
What can I say, dinner was good, we revisited some of our favorites that we have not had for at least 4 months. Issues and concerns; the decor, service and cleanliness of the restaurant is definitely suspect, the menu never changes, the prices continually increase and I’m starting to think that it’s not a very good value. If I’m in the neighbourhood with a hankering for the oyster pancake or chicken wings, I’ll definitely come satisfy my cravings. On the other hand, I don’t think we’ll be making a special trip to Chinatown to eat here in the near future.
On my chef’s night out scale, Phnom Penh Restaurant receives 3/5 SOB (slices of bacon).