Asian, Khmer, Vietnamese; Price: $$$
Opening hours: 11:00-22:00
The first on the list is a restaurant that has changed my conception of where you can find a restaurant in Phnom Penh. After finally locating where it is, I think no other hidden restaurants can fool me again.
My friend and I were looking for a place for a group dinner when she recommended “a good Khmer-and-Vietnamese restaurant just across Canadia Tower on Monivong”. I was surprised there was any RESTO there, not to mention a good one because the picture I have of the area was an old white-building block that was home to a phone shop, police station, and pharmacy. Yet, surprisingly right next to the pharmacy was a stairway I had never noticed before.
It was the stairway to “La’Baab”.
Atmosphere at La’Baab
I climbed the worn down stairway hesitatingly, questioning whether we had made the wrong choice. That was until I reached the second floor and began to see increasing decorations starting from the last flight of stairs. Sure enough, I knew we made the right choice when we reached the front door of La’Baab.
By way of comparison, the dining area could only fit three small cars, but it was cleverly decorated in a traditional Mekong-ish, wooden-house style, giving it a warm and elegant ambiance. Wooden tables and chairs were set up for groups and families, but there were also a few tables for two. At its maximum, the space can accommodate about 40 people at a time. With the 1960’s floor titles, wooden ceiling, artworks about the Mekong, and dim lights in late evening, we were ready for riverine dishes treat.
Food at La’ Baab
At a glance, the menu is overwhelmed with fish and vegetable–that is, what a typical Khmer and Vietnamese meal is known for. We ordered Vietnamese spring rolls and satay beef, as starters, and green curry, korko, and stir-fried mushroom–served with steam brown and white rice–as main courses. The drinks menu offered a selection of beverages suited to traditional Khmer and Vietnamese palates, such as chilled lemongrass drink and tamarind juice. The foods and atmosphere made our gathering at La’Baab was one of the most gratifying ones.
How to Find La’Baab
La’Baab is on the 2nd floor of the block on the corner of Russian and Monivong boulevards, above Pharmacie De La Gare. When you are there at the entrance, climb to the second floor and there you will find La’Baab to your left.
Note: The resto can be very crowded, especially in the evening. Make sure to call for a reservation in advance at 099 335 666.
2. Bistrot Langka
French; Western; Price: $$$ Opening hours: 18:15 Facebook: www.facebook.com/bistrotlangka/ Map here.
The experience at La’Baab made me curious how far a resto could go in terms of hiding, and that reminded me of a petite French resto located in a small alley in Boeng Keng Kang 1, near Wat Langka. I had been to Bistrot Langka with colleagues before, but I wanted to go there again, to introduce it to a close friend, as well as to explore the area.
Driving south on 51 (Pasteur Street), we turned left on the corner with 294. Bistrot Langka was a 60-second walk from the corner, sitting in the mix with other tiny restaurants, shops and houses. We arrived about 10 minutes before it was open, just enough for a quick walk-around. The hood was cozy, shall I say, so we parked our bike in front of a small clothes store just opposite and commenced the stroll.
Besides Bistrot Langka and the clothes shop mentioned, there are around 15 other businesses, big and small, in this alley circle. Among them, Patio Hotel is the giant and most well-known. Mini Banana–a guesthouse–arguably has the most exposure, especially with its readily apparent yellow signboard. It was also captivating to see how SaKaNa Lab, a mini Japanese restaurant, managed to look intriguingly Japanese in ta limited space and diverse surrounding, challenging a competitor not too far from it–Sushi Lab. The small houses nearby were reminiscent of 1950’s houses in Singapore (as portrayed in movies). It didn’t take long for us to come full circle. It felt as if a block full of restaurants, lodging and traditional brick houses had been shrunk by 2/3 and squeezed into the space between the surrounding high rises. But Bistrot Langka stood out from the rest.
Atmosphere at Bistrot Langka
The coziness continued inside Bistrot Langka, though with a more romantic feel. It’s a two-story flat that has been turned into a French restaurant. On the ground floor, the space is shared by several tables arranged along the flat’s length, around a reception counter. A staircase leads to the first floor, which has a long sofa, perfect for a group of six to seven people, and a few tables for two perfect for a simple dinner date.
Food at Bistrot Langka
Bistrot Langka offers a three-course menu and a variety of drinks. As they say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, we made sure to order at least a starter and a drink to go with our main course. For starter, we shared a plate of hummus and pita. Afterward, I had a grilled mackerel. My friend had a shrimp risotto, with a glass of Rosé. The food was the most satisfying in a long while. We would have gone for the tantalizing desserts, had we had enough space in our stomach. We left the Bistrot promising to go again.
Note: Do make a reservation beforehand at +855 70 727 233.
How to Find Bistrot Langka
One clue to find Bistrot Langka is to look for the signpost of “Patio” instead when you are on the corner St. 294 & St.51. Once you find the sign, head straight into the alley, and at the end of the path, you will find Bistrot Langka.
3. ARTillery Phnom Penh
Vegan, Vegetarian,Non-vegetarian; Price: $$ Opening hours: 7:30-21:00 Website:www.artillerycafe.com Map here.
Like the two restaurants above, this last one is highly-recommended not only because of the food they serve, but also the atmosphere and artistic surroundings that make it even more special.
ARTillery Phnom Penh is a cafe shop that serves vegetarian and vegan food, located in an alley called “240 1/2 Alley”, just several hundred meters from Royal Palace. The alley is also home to a pub, clothes store and souvenir store, whose doors are beautifully painted in complementary to the colorful street walls of the alley.
Atmosphere at ARTillery
Like its neighbor, ARTillery is painted in ocean-blue theme both in the outdoor and indoor settings. At the outdoor setting, tables are arranged under the extended roof of the buildings, ideal of morning coffee & breakfast. While, indoor setting lies a big sofa that fits around six people, and a few tables in the rest of space.
Food at ARTillery
The food menu offers vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options such as salad, sandwich, and smoothie. For instance, their menu includes: avocado toast, green-fa waffle Benedict , smoothie bowl, and herb chicken sandwich.
How to Find ARTillery
If you are coming from corner street 19 & 244, just a few meters from the corner street, you will see a sign poll called “240 1/2 Alley“. Just turn left at the poll. From there, you will reach Bong Bong Bong, AIM Shop and then ARTillery to your left.
Check out another article here if you love to explore other vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Phnom Penh.