Our little town of Siem Reap is home to a dining scene that makes it easy to sample cuisines from right across the world – but it’s also a fabulous place to discover the highlights of Cambodia’s own unique, complex and exciting food culture.
Cambodian restaurants to suit all budgets in Siem Reap serve up local Khmer specialties that ought to be must-tries during your visit to Angkor Wat and the rest of the city – these are some of our favourites.
Cuisine Wat Damnak
At Cuisine Wat Damnak – one of Cambodia’s most renowned restaurants, previously appearing on the list of Asia’s 50 Best restaurants – chef Joannès Rivière combines locally sourced ingredients and traditional Khmer recipes with contemporary French techniques to deliver fortnightly rotating set tasting menus that are unlike anything else you’re likely to eat in Siem Reap.
The setting in a traditional wooden house is charming and romantic, the food and service are both exceptional and, for a fine-dining experience like this (albeit with a relaxed, down-to-earth and friendly atmosphere, where the focus is undoubtedly on quality food rather than pomp), Cuisine Wat Damnak represents exceptional value.
Tuesday to Saturday, 6.30-9.30pm; between Psar Dey Hoy market and Angkor High School, Wat Damnak Village; 077 347 762; www.cuisinewatdamnak.com
One of Siem Reap’s many not-for-profit, NGO-operated restaurants, New Leaf is most often recommended for a coffee, a browse of the extensive selection of books and souvenirs, and perhaps a light snack. But it’s also a great spot for its accessible, delicious and affordable short menu of staple Khmer dishes (alongside western comfort foods).
Expect well-executed plates like beef lok lak, Cambodian curry, grilled pork and rice, and amok, all in an attractively decorated, open-air setting with a relaxed, traveller-friendly ambience, and just a short stroll from the very centre of the Pub Street area.
Daily, 8am-9.30pm; Street 9 (near the Old Market); 063 766 016; www.newleafeatery.com
This popular NGO-run training restaurant, with sister branches all the way from Phnom Penh to Ethiopia, has a frequently rotated menu centred around small tapas-style dishes. There’s a mix of local and fusion dishes, and this is somewhere that’s not afraid to let true Khmer dishes loose on tourists.
Be sure to try the prahok k’tis made with the local speciality of fermented fish, as well as stir-fried beef and red tree ants. Prices are reasonable, there’s both indoor and outdoor seating, and a small shop means you can pick up souvenirs, too.
Daily, 11am-10.30pm; B Phum Slokram (between Wat Polanka and the Catholic Church); 017 363 284; www.tree-aliance.org
Another romantic Siem Reap restaurant set in a traditional wooden house, at Mahob the focus is firmly on locally sourced ingredients. Dishes take traditional Khmer recipes and give them fresh modern interpretations, even if sometimes only subtly, and deliver the opportunity to taste a wide array of popular Cambodian staples.
The beef lok lak at Mahob has a particularly large troupe of fans; phraok makes another appearance, and other recommended dishes include a local ‘out of pot’ soup with salted fish and quail eggs, and clams cooked with tamarind and basil.
Daily, 11.30am-10.30pm; 137 Traing Village (just off Charles de Gaulle Avenue); 017 376 038; www.mahobkhmer.com
The Sugar Palm
With branches in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, the Sugar Palm serves up generous portions of authentic home-style Khmer cooking. Based on recipes passed down through the family and perfected by the Cambodian-New Zealand chef, dishes again include the infamous prahok k’tis, alongside the likes of squid with fresh Kampot peppercorns, and pomelo salad.
Meals at the Sugar Palm are affordable and the environment casual; it’s open for lunch and dinner, but is especially popular in the evenings.
Monday to Saturday, 11.30am-3pm and 5.30-10pm; Taphul Road; 063 636 2060; www.thesugarpalm.com
Arguably the finest of Siem Reap’s fine-dining restaurants, Malis follows in the footsteps of its original branch in Phnom Penh – but many agree that this second coming is even better. The restaurant has a grand and beautiful, high-end riverside setting, and it’s heralded as a great place to try a dizzying array of Cambodian foodie delights for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Expect traditional Khmer recipes paid due respect and done real justice in their execution, including numerous hard-to-find dishes from Siem Reap and beyond. The extensive menu covers everything from noodle soups and congee to the likes of grilled pork and rice, famous staples such as nom banh chok, refreshing salads, Kampot crab, and rich, complex curry and prahok dishes.
Daily, 6am-10pm; Pokambor Avenue; 015 824 888; www.malis-restaurant.com
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to best explore the best of Siem Reap’s Cambodian restaurants? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – and we can help you book tables at and arrange transport to all our favourite restaurants, to ensure you can make the most of your stay. Click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool. And of course, our own on-site restaurant also serves an extensive range of delicious local and international fare, too!
Which are your favourite Cambodian restaurants in Siem Reap? Do you have another favourite that we’ve forgotten? Let us know in the comments!
Malis, Cuisine Wat Damnak, Mahob Khmer and The Sugar Palm photos by respective restaurants; all other photos by Chris Wotton