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Offwego's Picks for bars and restaurants in Siem Reap

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I've decided to take it upon myself to review some of the new places that are popping up all over Siem Reap. Actually some of them are new and some I'm just now discovering. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta eat at all these places.

Siem Reap is shaping up to be a nice place to hang out in it's own right. Clean ice everywhere, you really gotta dig deep for your dysentery these days. Bob, you should come back.

You can do a search for Samot's here. It's been discussed by certain dogsters. Have some time on your hands; be a wine lover with no agenda and you'll be happy as a clam. The food here is just outstanding; everything else needs work, but you didn't come for the everything else.

A couple of expat restauranteurs have joined forces to bring a true tapas bar to the Passage. It's up near Samot between the video store and an excellent new shop called Poetry. A cozy little spot with a big horseshoe shaped bar; everyone bellies up making the conversation easy. Great house wines and cavas and excellent selection of adult beverages. Sangria on the menu and some rather large jamon hanging from the ceiling that he has shipped in from Spain. Something I never expected to find here. The Picasso plate, for $6 can be shared by two, warm crispy bread with sausage, jamon, goat cheese, olives. SO civilized. Cigars, good music, perfect service, lively conversation. Such a great place to pop in for a libation and snacks on a rainy afternoon.

On Wat Bo Road, just down the street from the swarm of tour buses at Viroth's. (Sorry, Viroths has fallen off my list). Open at 7am for breakfast with Eggs Benedict, homemade Yogurtt and Meusli, amazing $2 dumpling soup, the usual noodles, etc Coffee presses and cappuccino, ahhh. Lunch brings paninis, organic salads, a mile long list of "lite bites" to be shared. For dinner, pasta dishes compete with Brazilian steak and Duck, fish dishes and local specialties. Everything well prepared and very fresh, very nice atmosphere, attentive service, which is a novelty here. Imaginative wine list, good cocktails, interesting shake selections, excellent happy hour deals. I can't push this place hard enough.

Queen BBQ
There4 are some places on Pub Street that do Cambodian BBQ but they seem expensive for what you get. Queen's is a local place although I'm noticing the tourists are starting to find it and now there are some english speaking waiters. Here, the BBQ is all you can eat for $4.50. There are some mystery meats on the buffet; you may want to steer clear of those, but the shrimp, squid, pork, chicken, beef are all delightful. Don't fear the vegetables in your soup. It's all good. Ice cold beer, good local atmosphere. The buffet line looks a bit sketchy but I've never had any repercussions. Get your forks up and go on a busy night when the food is turning over often.

The BBQ places behind Wat Damnak
For the adventurous eater:
Any tuk tuk driver will know where this place is. It's on the east river road, behind Wat Damnak. There's a row of outdoor stands grilling beef. At night, you can smell the searing flesh from 500 meters so that helps make it easy to find. Among the stalls is a proper restaurant. I have no idea what the name of it is, but it's the only place that looks like a restaurant, rather than a food stall. The menu is lengthy and full of things that you might not find edible, but the grilled beef with some steamed rice and all the magnificent sauces they are going to bring you is just amazing and so cheap. Cold Beer, rice wine, local vibe. Chances are good you'll be the only foreigner there, but they do have some menus in English. Just reading the menu is worth the visit. Last trip there I had the "Cow genitals with red ant sauce". I thought "perhaps it's a bad translation", but no, that's exactly what it was. And it was tasty. I would avoid drinks with ice here, but the food is A-ok, even the genitals with red ant sauce.

The Nest
On Sivantha street you can't miss it, as it looks so incredibly out of place! I saw it, I thought "that is SO italian" (I mean that in a good way) and so stopped in to have a drink and chat up the owner who is, well he's italian. The food is excellent, the cocktails are divine and very creative. Those loungy beds are everywhere, I don't even know how to describe it. It's just up the street from the de la Paix so I'm sure all the HDLP people will be flocking there; maybe that's why he gave it that name....anyway if you're missing Los Angeles, or some euro-decadence, come to the Nest for a fix. LA prices too, you'll feel right at home.

East India Curry
Claremont Hotel
On the rooftop of the Claremont Hotel, east river. Great views of Siem Reap and the river at night and so BREEZY. Ah, just lovely and an elevator to take you up. Indian food on the menu, served fresh and with a lot of panache. Last week, I ordered the fish head curry just out of curiosity and it was stellar, though it was a 2 day thing to get it delivered (he has to oder the fish flown up from Phnom Penh). The rest of the items on the menu certainly aren't that much trouble, but everything I've had there has been good, in particular the tandoori dishes are marvelous. And did I mention the breeze?

More to come; so many restaurants, so little time.

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