Siem Reap, home to the magnificent Angkor, is also home to many restaurants serving amazing Khmer food. Outside of Cambodia, Khmer cuisine is still underrated and we admit we knew very little about it before our trip. The food we had in Siem Reap was so flavorful and delicious, way beyond our expectation.
Khmer cuisine also uses ingredients popular in Vietnamese cuisine and Thai cuisine, such as lemongrass, turmeric, coconut milk, fish sauce, and fermented sauce. However, the way they combine ingredients give Khmer food a distinct taste. Every dish is packed with contrasting flavors, sweet, sour and savory.
We ate at quite a lot of places during our trip to Siem Reap a few months ago and below is the list of the restaurants we like the most.
Cuisine Wat Damnak
Named one of Asia’s best restaurants, Cuisine Wat Damnak should be on your list of must-try restaurants in Siem Reap. Chef Joannès Rivière and his team serve elevated Cambodian dishes using Cambodian flavors and French culinary techniques.
Reservations can be hard to make since this restaurant is very famous in Siem Reap and they only open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Therefore, you should try to book as far in advance as you can. Don’t wait until you arrive in Siem Reap to make reservations.
In fact, we were unable to dine here since the restaurant was completely booked. However, Chef Rivière recently held a special dinner event in Saigon and we finally had the chance to taste his food. His dishes had a familiar taste of Khmer cuisine, but the flavors were complex and interesting.
The dish that stood out the most for me that night was the Mekong langoustine soup with coconut and peanut broth (photo above). The langoustine was cooked to perfection, sweet and juicy and the broth was a flavor bomb, kinda like a Khmer version of lobster bisque.
The Damnak Lounge is one of the fine dining restaurants serving elevated Khmer food in Siem Reap. We were served very good freshly-baked bread while waiting for our food. At fine dining restaurants, if the bread is good, it is highly likely that the food will be tasty and we were not disappointed.
I was especially impressed with their chicken and vegetable soup which had the bold flavors of Cambodian curry and was presented in a very elegant way. The only part of the meal we didn’t really like was the desserts, but everything else was delicious. Service was very attentive.
The Damnak Lounge is located inside Lotus Blanc hotel which has daily Khmer cooking class in their garden. The instructor of our private cooking class was the sous chef of the Damnak Lounge and the fish amok (Cambodian steamed curry fish) he taught us was the best fish amok we tried in our Siem Reap trip. We highly recommend the cooking class at Lotus Blanc.
Malis is conveniently located in Siem Reap center. During our one-week stay, we ate here many times and always enjoyed our meals. We strongly recommend Malis if you want to try traditional Khmer food. The restaurant is spacious with beautiful interior.
Some of the dishes we liked the most at Malis were: pork and pumpkin stew (samlor korko), steamed chicken curry and rice in lotus leaf, crab curry and crab fried rice. Their fish amok was okay, but a little too sweet for me.
Malis also has breakfast service and their free-flow breakfast, which cost less than $10, is probably the best deal in town. The free-flow breakfast includes a number of noodle dishes, rice dishes, and egg dishes. It was way better than the overpriced breakfast at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, where we stayed.
Embassy is also a fine dining Khmer restaurant in Siem Reap. It is run by two sisters who are also the chefs of the restaurant. When we dined here, all servers were also female. I love to support women-owned businesses, especially restaurants :).
The food we had at Embassy was tasty with beautiful presentation, however, we felt that the seasonings were a little too heavy-handed. The entrees were sweeter and saltier than how we would like them to be. Overall, very good food, our only comment was the flavors could be slightly adjusted to be more refined.
Spoons cafe serves delicious Cambodian cuisine in a casual and relaxing setting. There is no air-conditioning but we felt fine. Spoons is also a training facility where underprivileged young adults are trained in cooking and hospitality service.
The food at Spoons was good and we were happy that our meal helped support the training of young people from difficult backgrounds in Cambodia. Siem Reap may have a lot of modern amenities, nice restaurants and hotels. However, if you travel outside of Siem Reap just 15-20 minutes, you will see a completely different picture. Many Cambodian people struggle to make a living in the countryside.
This is not a Khmer restaurant, but I include it in case you want to take a break from Cambodian food :). The Glasshouse is a sandwich shop located at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. It is a quiet place to chill and relax with tasty sandwiches and delicious gelato.
Besides the restaurants mentioned above, we also ate at Chanrey Tree and Mahob restaurants. Both are popular but we didn’t like our meals there. Food was just so so at Chanrey Tree, and terrible at Mahob. I don’t recommend these two places.
I’m sure we will return to Siem Reap since there are still temples we haven’t visited and Cambodian people are among the nicest I have met when traveling. And I’m happy to visit this small town again just for flavorful Khmer food. I would love to hear if you have other suggestions for must-try restaurants in Siem Reap.