The week that, "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain" was released, we finally made the pilgrimage to Phnom Penh, the long-time Chinatown fixture and one of Vancouver's most acclaimed restaurants. It is not a high-end type of acclaimed restaurant but a little more of a low-key with amazing food type of place that should be on every foodie's must-dine list. It is also famously one of Bourdain's Vancouver stops bringing the little restaurant almost instant crowds that we still see today.
We arrived at Phnom Penh at 11:30 am on Saturday (they open at 11:00) and there was already a 30-minute wait (it turned out to be a little less than that) and by the time we were done, the line up stretched down the block. Fortunately, they will take your name and text you when your table is ready so that you don't have to just hang out on the street.
Of course, we ordered the famous Phnom Penh Deep-Fried Chicken Wings frequently reviewed as the best wings on the planet! We've had a lot of great wings in recent months but these would definitely land near the top of the heap! They are first of all lightly breaded or battered and fried but still moist and tender. They were covered in garlic when they arrived and we were struck by the lime and black pepper dipping sauce. Not sure if they are the greatest wings ever but they must be close.
Among the other most well know dishes from Phnom Penh is the Filet Beef Luc Lac (Shaking Beef?). This was beef marinated and cooked in a sauce that included oyster sauce, garlic, sesame oil and soy. It was silky and tender and very rich and served over rice with a runny sunnyside up egg. Very nice and a meal all by itself.
Next up was their Stew Beef with 2 Kinds of Noodles. This was a generous bowl and despite the fact that some items here are a little on the pricy side, this dish could easily serve as lunch all by itself at only about $13. There was a generous amount of tendon and tender brisket as well as the noodles. The broth was rich and flavourful and we would definitely order it again.
We don't often have room for dessert (this was no exception) but the Durian with Sticky Rice was too tempting to pass on. The durian was basically in sauce form with a few tasty chunks. It was a creamy and excellent dessert that I'm not sure that anyone could replicate at home without an outside kitchen (although, durian is probably available either frozen or in cans). It was not overly sweet but velvety in texture and deliscious. Very nice!
Not an unpleasant or uncomfortable room but always busy and noisy in a good way! Service was efficient and very friendly and our server was careful and gave excellent advice! If you've never been here, of course, a visit to this institution needs to be on your list.
Food 4 1/2 out of 5
Service 4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort 4 out of 5
Value 4 out of 5
BTW, the Anthony Bourdain movie brought back pleasant memories (I watched his shows religiously and have his books) but we knew that the ending was going to be rough. It was a personal journey through his life and I didn't feel like he was put on a pedestal or anything like that. AB did serve to open the minds of a lot of people to the variety and wonder of world cultures and the difficulties too, that our fellow humans face. It is not an exciting movie but it may be of interest if you were a fan.
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