Phnom Penh 金邊小館: Chinatown,Vancouver, BC

After breakfast at Yung Soy Drink in Richmond,  Ben and I decided to head over to Vancouver via the Canada Line.  The Canada Line is very easy to use and is very clean.   You can buy full day passes at the station and have unlimited uses of any public transportation such as buses, sea bus, and train.

The main goal to go to Vancouver was not only to walk around, but to eat at one very popular and dare I say, “famous”  restaurants in Chinatown…

Woot! Another thing off my bucket list!

If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain,  it’s good enough for me!  * Can’t believe they didn’t frame that….

I have to admit, getting to Phnom Penh is a little scary.  It is in the East side of Vancouver sooo yeahhhh it was shit scary at least for me, it was maybe for most people just a little dodgy.  You have a lot of suspicious looking folks living and trolling around here so you do have to be careful if you plan on driving to the restaurant.  Park somewhere where there’s tonnes of traffic or somewhere very close to the restaurant so people can see if you’re car is being violated or not.

Other than that, my other tip for this popular restaurant is to go EARLY!  Seriously,  this place opens at 11:00 am I believe so you may want to get there as close to 11:00 am as you can (or whichever time they open…)  OR go during non-peak hours which the wait may only be about a 30 minute wait, never mind peak hours.   This is the thing,  Ben and I went here at around…2:00 pm and it was still packed.  Given that it was a Saturday,  it may not be this busy during the week.  But boy did we wait a long time to get a table, I think it was more like … 45 minutes.

Get here early…. to take this picture Ben and to shuffle his way through to put our name down and quickly took a shot before he met me at the back of the line. Oh, and every table was full and every chair had someone in it.

Given that we’re not locals,  we were willing to stick it out.  The line-up was out the door and when people come here, they not only come as couples, or small group of friends.  No, the come here as groups of families.  Yeah… so wait can be very very long,  but that’s not to say that it’s a bad restaurant.  Lets be honest,  the best restaurants are the ones where there are line-ups.  Regardless of where you are in the world, the last thing you want to do is go into an empty restaurant (unless they were just opening to start their service, otherwise, look the other way).

And be aware that if you do come here as a couple or just by yourself, they will ask you to share a table if it’s busy.  Chances are, you’ll be so hungry by the time they ask you, you’ll be sitting with fellow starving strangers as you eat your meal (just incase you’re antisocial like that, otherwise it’s nice to make new friends).  :)

To the food!  So afterwards we were fortunate enough to get our own table after waiting so long that Ben and I ordered quite a bit for the two of us.

Phnom Penhs’ Dry Egg Noodle #4 – $6.50

Phnom Penh Dry Egg Noodle- Accompaniments: Hoisin Sauce with Sriracha Sauce, Fresh Chili Compote, Blanched Bean Sprouts, and a Lime Wedge

I ordered the noodles to share because I’ve heard good things about them, and because I have a soft spot for Southeast Asian dried noodle bowls like these.  It’s very nostalgic and reminds me of my family’s cooking at home.  Anyhow,  the Phnom Penhs’ Dry Egg Noodle consists of: dried egg noodles (of the wider variety), pork slices, pork heart, pork liver, pork lung (I’m pretty sure this was in there, but I could be wrong), ground pork, blanched shrimp, lettuce, drizzled mushroom based soya sauce, and garnished with cilantro.   It came with the accompaniments of blanched bean sprouts, lime wedge, fresh chilli compote, and a side of hoisin and sriaracha sauce for dipping the meats.

I have to admit, this was a beautifully put bowl of noodles, the colours were great, the meat were done perfectly and the noodles were al dente but the only thing that I felt it missed was the salt.  I think it was little under seasoned.  Now, if you were to compare it to Dong Khanh in Calgary,  I can honestly say that Dong Khanh’s is well seasoned.  I’m sure the reasons why is because Phnom Penh’s noodles just don’t have the “bad stuff”, and when I mean “bad stuff” I mean there isn’t a lot of salt, msg, or pork fat.  I can honestly say if you’re gonna make dried noodles the key is to make sure it was seasoned since there’s no soup base around it.

Phnom Penhs’ Marinated Butter Beef #71 – $13.25

The next dish that came was the Butter Beef for $13.25,  this is another popular dish among food bloggers and it’s basically thinly cut slices of beef that is then topped with a soya sauce vinaigrette, fried garlic oil, fried garlic chips, and chopped cilantro.  I really really liked this dish.  The soya sauce vinaigrette was a little tangy and sweet and the I have to admit, the garlic oil helped it give a nice roasted earthy flavour.   There might be a few people who might worry about this dish being that it’s practically rare beef but it tasted great.  I relate it a beef tartar, but much more flavourful and casual to eat.

Phnom Penhs’ Seaweed Soup with Squid Balls #41 (Small) – $10.95

The next dish we ordered was the Seaweed Soup with Squid Balls for $10.95.  The soup was in a basic pork broth with seaweed, squid balls, lettuce and garnished with cilantro and garlic oil and some fried garlic chips.  This was Ben’s choice when we ordered.   He’s a soup guy and when he saw this soup on the menu he went a little nostalgic because he grew up eating this, so we ordered it.  It wasn’t bad at all, actually it was pretty good but was it worth my while?…. meh-  it’s something I could do with or without.  Oh, and by this time I realized that the fresh chilli sauce given was actually for this soup.  You see, soups with meat balls in them are usually accompanied with some sort of chilli sauce.  It just makes it taste that much better.

Phnom Penhs’ Deep Fried Chicken Wings (Small) #78- $8.25

Ahhh, the last dish,  the one and only Phnom Penhs’ Deep Fried Chicken Wings -$8.25 for a small (shown above).  Nearly, if not all tables in this restaurant ordered this dish.  Some people even ordered the large plate and shared it (small picture above).  The skin is well seasoned with a subtle hint of sweetness and is very crispy.  The batter on these chicken wings were light and the meat was very tender and juicy.  They come out pipping hot so you do have to be cautious when eating them.  You can tell that they were stir fried with a bit of garlic, peppers and scallions just to give it that little extra kick.  But to balance the whole dish out, it came with a lemon and white pepper sauce (literally, I believe it’s just lemon juice and ground white peppers) to give it some tang and to balance the meaty and savouriness of this dish.   If you do go to this place and only get this dish, you’re on the right track.  It’s pretty damn good, if not one of the best chicken wings I’ve ever eaten.

Phnom Penhs’ Iced Logan Drink $4.35

To cure our thirst, we ordered a Iced Logan Drink which was $4.35.  Initially, I wanted to get the Banh Lot #114 for $3.75 which is a Vietnamese style iced dessert that has pandan flavoured green noodles with coconut milk and some sort of melted brown sugar syrup, but they were sold out.  The Iced Logan Drink tasted just like the canned ones you buy from the supermarket, but just with ice.  I’ll be on a mini excursion in Calgary to see if anyone sells this.  *Note to self,  find Banh Lot in yyc.

Overall I really liked Phnom Penh.  The wait was a little long, so I caution anyone who’s going to be there to be prepared to wait.  The menu is quite vast as well so it will be hard to find something you don’t like at this place.  The service was fast and attentive,  no bubbly servers here, just efficient ones.  Our dishes were all out in the first 15 minutes of sitting down and considering how long we waited, we scarf everything down and left within an hour.  Prices I found were a little higher than what I expected, but the portion sizes were good and at the end the food tasted great.  Yup, we’ll definitely be back for sure!

Anna’s Notes

  •  Expect long waits (especially during the weekend), bring your smart phone.
  •  Street Parking Only, but be aware-  Chinatown is a little dodgy.
  •  Must order Chicken Wings #78 on the menu-  the small is enough as an appetizer for 2-3 people.
  •  Butter Beef delicious, but is a bit rare.
  • If you like Southeast Asian dishes, this is the place for you.  Vietnamese, Cambodian, a little Thai (Durian with Sticky Rice also served here # 119) with a bit of Chiuchow Chinese influence-  this is your stop.
  •  Best to bring CASH.  I don’t remember if they take plastic, but like anywhere in B.C. in general-  just bring Cash because you’ll get  out much faster that way.

Phnom Penh 金邊小館 on Urbanspoon

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