When you go to any country in Asia, everyone knows that you can eat virtually everywhere. And have a decent meal for under a dollar if you want. Going to a fancy restaurant might even be a little bit silly when you can find a foodstall with mouth watering goodies on every single corner of the street. When – in fact – you smell food or something roasting on coals (and yes, that would be food too) 24 hours a day. You really do not need a guide like the Lonely Planet or any other one to tell you where the food will be good. You just sit down and order (using some sort of common sense obviously. Busy is good, quiet not so much. Clean.. well you know the drill)
But once in a while every so often, you just want to get your appetizer before your main and drink a nice glass of wine and relax a little bit in a different atmosphere. So when we were in Siem Reap and I was reading through the respective chapter in my Lonely Planet my eye just fell on The Sugar Palm. It sounded promising and even though I am always a little hesitant when it comes to restaurants mentioned in the LP (quality can deteriorate rapidly if too many people visit!) we decided to give it a go regardless. So on our first night in Siem Reap we set out to find the place supposedly in the same street as our hotel. Our diner for two had grown into a dinner for 6 as we had some people of our group tag along and while talking we walked the street.
However – not expecting the restaurant to be that close – we only started paying attention when we had walked for maybe 500 meters and you’re guessing where this is going… We never found the restaurant. One of the guys in our group started to get annoyed and he wanted pizza. We never did end up eating a pizza but we did end up at a Osteria…. Usually it is a bad idea to eat Italian in a country like Cambodia… and that was true this time as well! Even though the place was run by an Italian, I don’t think he had ever seen a kitchen before setting food in Cambodia. Maybe he thought that because he was an Italian, he could get away with starting an Italian restaurant… We should have known ofcourse, but we went along with the group and we still had a good time, but crappy food.
The next night Tom and I sneaked out the door together, not feeling up for a repeat of the night before and we really wanted to eat at the Sugar Palm together. And as expected we found it literally 150 meters from the hotel…It was a little bit hard to find due to the fact that the restaurant is upstairs in a wooden house, so you only see the sign outside and not the actual restaurant. And I have to say; we were not disappointed! The food they serve is traditional Cambodian food.
Ofcourse, for Cambodian standards, this is an outrageously expensive restaurant and knowing what some of the Cambodians earn per month… it was twice their month salary. (I think we spend roughly 50 dollars, if I remember correct) We had a delicious wine (the most expensive element on the menu) from Australia (Mad Bay) to start the evening of. Our waiter was a bit slow in his movements but VERY meticulous in what he did. Before serving us the wine, he inspected the glasses closely and even sending them back to the guy behind the bar, because there was a spot on the glass. We ordered a traditional sate for our starter which was absolutely delicious and we both picked the beef with basil for our main course. And man… that was good!! It was the first time I had beef cooked properly in Cambodia. Usually beef tends to be a little bit on the chewy side. But this one was wonderfully tender, spicy and just fabulous.
And for the first time since being on our trip (and this was close to the last days) we actually got the food in the right order. Even though most restaurants have huge huge menu’s and somewhere they have appetizers on the menu; I do not think they actually know the concept of an appetizer. In one place in Laos we ordered a slice of toasted garlic bread as a starter and what we received was a complete baguette toasted with ham and cheese and yes garlic too. But that was an entire meal… not an appetizer by any means..So that quickly became the guessing game, which meal we would get first. If we had ordered dessert we would probably have gotten that first. Haha… O well, that is part of the charm of going to foreign countries isn’t it?
In any case, if you’re in Siem Reap (and if you’re going to Angkor Wat, you’re probably staying there) going to The Sugar Palm is definitely recommended! We loved it! (they also have a smaller place in Phnom Penh but we did not eat there)
Siem Reap, Cambodia