Phnom Penh: Perhaps Vancouver’s Best Asian Restaurant


People often ask me about my favourite restaurants in Vancouver, and I always feel like maybe I shouldn’t share too much or word will get out and overrun my secret spots—although I did publicly declare a few faves a couple years ago.

There’s no question that Asian cuisine is my favourite food to make and enjoy, and perhaps my all-time favourite restaurant in Vancouver is……Phnom Penh. This Vietnamese-Cambodian restaurant nestled just inside Chinatown really has figured out the secret. I can’t believe I haven’t written more about this place—perhaps I just didn’t want anyone to know!

A primary tenet of all successful restaurants, regardless of style or ethnicity, is consistency. And having gotten to know the owners and managers of this family-run business over the years, I highly respect the integrity and traditions behind their bullet-proof menu. Each recipe has been handed down from previous family members through the generations or collected in their extensive travels. I’ve been eating there for many years and have yet to find a dish disappoint.

Having tried nearly everything there is to offer on their robust menu, my favourite thing to do now is to let Solange or one of her staff order for us, often surprising us with impromptu delights not on the menu, but improvised for us on the spot using whatever is fresh. Things I do recommend you try when there would include the hot and sour soup with prawns, butter beef served nearly raw with lime, soy & fish sauce, tamarind crab, salt & pepper squid, green papaya salad with beef jerky, and of course iced Vietnamese coffee. And if you’re lucky and Solange has made her special Cambodian fermented black Thai rice dessert, you’re in for a real treat indeed. This chewy, sweet dessert has a beautiful dark cherry flavour—not dissimilar to port really—and tingles on your tongue. It’s quite an experience.

When you walk in the door you are greeted by numerous awards on the wall and even a hand-written note on a take out menu by Anthony Bourdain himself (who apparently smoked eight cigarettes and drank four iced coffees in one sitting), that tells how much he enjoyed the best Vietnamese food in Vancouver. And while not the cheapest Asian cuisine in the city, it’s certainly a lot more affordable than many of the alternatives and can hold its own against any local fine restaurant. Just don’t tell anyone!

Phnom Penh is located at 244 E Georgia Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown, (604) 682-5777.

Phnom Penh on Urbanspoon


9 Responses to “Phnom Penh: Perhaps Vancouver’s Best Asian Restaurant”

  1. Posted on February 11th, 2009

    I used to eat there regularly when they were on Broadway near Oak. I thought they went out of business, not realizing they had moved. I guess I’ll have to go try it out again!

  2. Posted on February 17th, 2009

    Pnomh Penh is a short walk from my house, so we eat there a lot. The black pepper squid is one of my regular cravings, and I like the papaya salad a lot. Stay away from the frogs legs, though – unless you are looking for a quick fat injection.

  3. Posted on February 26th, 2009

    Ohhhhhh.. Since I have moved, I sometimes dream about their lotus root. I hope to find some in Thailand.

  4. Posted on March 14th, 2009

    I’m heading there tonight, not having been there in months. Funny that, even though it’s one of my favorite Asian restaurants, I tend to forget Chinatown in general.

  5. Posted on March 26th, 2009

    I don’t get the hype about this place. Finally tried it out and was extremely disappointed. Started out poorly with their uber sticky menus. Their shampoo handsoap didn’t help much either. Food was tasteless and greasy, the menu being overpriced and lacked vegetarian options. To top it off, I foolishly paid with credit card. 5 days later I received a call from my credit card provider saying an unauthorized charge had been made and they needed to cancel my card. Pnomh Penh was the ONLY time I used my card this month. Coincidence….NOT! AVOID THIS PLACE AT ALL COSTS!

  6. Posted on May 13th, 2009

    I’m Cambodian and I did not find any true authentic Khmer dishes on the menu. This is just a Vietnamese restaurant. Don’t be fooled by the name.

  7. Posted on May 13th, 2009

    I think it depends what you order. Their pho is underwhelming, but that’s what I get for ordering pho from a place without ‘Pho’ in the title.

    The fish cakes are delish (all sweet, succulent and gingery) and the butter beef is mouth-meltingly unctuous.

  8. Posted on December 4th, 2011

    This is by far one of the most solid Asian meals in Vancouver. The must-haves are #35 (luc lac beef on rice w/ fried egg), butter beef, and their famous crack-like chicken wings. You can actually make a reservation if you have a party of 6 or more.

  9. Posted on July 31st, 2013

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Ie.

    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d
    post to let you know. The design and style look great though!
    Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Thanks

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