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Offwego's Picks for bars and restaurants in Siem Reap

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Jun 6th, 2009, 01:53 AM
  #1
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Offwego's Picks for bars and restaurants in Siem Reap

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.

Samot
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.

Picasso's
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.

Selantra
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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Jun 6th, 2009, 02:12 AM
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Sounds like such a lot of places since I was there - good excuse to return! Not entirely sure about the cow genitals - presume they were bulls not cows - plenty of those where I am but no red ant sauce. Thanks Lori.
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Jun 6th, 2009, 06:26 AM
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Ah, offwego, such self-sacrifice! Sounds like a major expansion has been going on - thanks for the info.
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Jun 6th, 2009, 06:35 AM
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Conventional wisdom has always said, "You don't go to Cambodia for the food."
Damn! Where were all these places when I was there just a year and a half ago?
Jamon serrano and tapas in Siem Reap? I might just have to come back.
Beef genitals in red ant sauce? I need more explanation on that one.
Way to go Lori. Thanks for taking one for the team. How about a review of that French place across from entrance to Angkor Wat?
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Jun 6th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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and when we were there none of these places existed....red piano was about as good as it got...

can i have a bi-line for your restaurant review??
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Jun 6th, 2009, 08:52 AM
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Thanks for the reviews. I, too, am thinking about how different it was when we were there in 2001. Siem Reap is another place to which we have to make a return visit.
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Jun 6th, 2009, 03:23 PM
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And I thought we would have trouble finding variety and quality to satisfy T's slightly finicky friend.

And no risk of weight loss. Damn!
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Jun 11th, 2009, 09:02 AM
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tonight's dinner pick:
Happy Pizza
(not to be confused with Ecstatic Pizza or Happy Herb Pizza)

You can have pizza, you can have happy pizza or you can have pizza with the happy on the side as a takeaway. Whatever makes you happy. Very cold beer. Very friendly/happy staff. Pizza is so-so but who cares when it's this happy?

Tomorrow, Chez Sophéa and the Angkor Night Tour.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 09:12 AM
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hey are you meeting up with us in bkk at the end of november??
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Jun 11th, 2009, 09:13 AM
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Yes I am. Andy said you were buying.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 12:50 PM
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Lori what is the Angkor Night Tour?
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Jun 11th, 2009, 01:21 PM
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so, what else is new
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Jun 11th, 2009, 08:34 PM
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Hi Jules-well there are night tours now. Angkor Wat is all lit up like Disneyland. Tonight I will go see what all the fuss is about and report back. I have mixed feelings about supporting it. The temples took quite a hit having all the fixtures installed.
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Jun 12th, 2009, 07:23 AM
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Update: There WAS a night tour of the Disneyland Angkor Wat. Then the Apsara Authority started getting a lot of criticism about destroying the temples by installing the lights. They've completed two of the galleries and now the Prime Minister has shut the project down. Probably because he needs a new Lexus and so wants some more permits. The whole affair is boiling in controversy. I'm going to have to read up on it. My thought is that they are using the same lights that they installed already for that stupid night-time "History of Angkor" Show they were doing last winter.

Somehow I have the feeling this "show will go on" but not quite yet. More money needs to change hands I'm sure.

Meanwhile my dinner at the Chez Sophea was underwhelming and extraordinarily expensive for Siem Reap, especially without the draw of having dinner in front of Angkor Wat, all lit up at night. I'd say to give this place a pass, even then. For that kind of money there's about 10 other places in town to indulge an epicurean appetite. This ain't it.
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Jun 12th, 2009, 08:35 AM
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Thanks Lori. This will help a lot with our planning for trip there in November.
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Jun 12th, 2009, 09:09 AM
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Bob is absolutely buying. We will be in evening BKK 11/15-11/17 and 11/25-11/28. Choose your poison.
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Jun 12th, 2009, 10:20 AM
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I never pass up a free meal and yes I know what they say about that. It's too far out to pick a day, but I think your second round through BKK would be easiest for me. If there are going to be others gtg'ing with you keep me posted on that....
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Jun 12th, 2009, 03:05 PM
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Hi Lori,
Who knew there would be so many choices when I come in November!! Sounds like fun and some real changes since my visit 3 years ago. See you soon,
Kathy
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Jun 12th, 2009, 03:11 PM
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Hey Lori
If you are in VN last 2 weeks of November offer of a free meal with Muffin and I. Would love to finally meet you and hear about the PH foundation
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Jun 13th, 2009, 03:52 AM
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Where in VN Smeagol?

I have a friend flying in from the States who has decided to come ashore in Vietnam and then travel overland to Siem Reap. I'm thinking of flying out to meet him and make the journey back...so, it's not out of the question....
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