Having never tried Phnom Penh, but heard much about it, Flowerbunny and I finally decided to go check it out with three of our friends. As soon as we arrived we were greeted with an enormous line. The restaurant was super crowded, and from what I hear it's pretty much always this way. The restaurant is looks like a typical Chinese restaurant; kind of dirty, a few decorations, but nothing fancy. This place is far more emblematic of a dive than a few of the places that Guy Fieri visited while in Vancouver. It's strange that he didn't come here, especially given that they have some signature dishes for him to try.
While waiting we got the chance to look at the many awards on the wall. There's actually a menu signed by Anthony Bourdain up there too.
Even before we saw the menu, we all knew we'd be getting an order of their famous deep fried chicken wings. We decided to split a couple dishes and then each order a main for ourselves.
After ordering, they brought out a few bowls of condiments which I don't think anyone used.
A few of us decided to try some of the drinks on offer. Two of our friends ordered a Vietnamese Coffee, and a Lime soda. I didn't try either of these.
I ordered a Lychee slushie which was very good, and refreshing. There was bits of real lychee in it which I liked.
First up: the wings! If there's one dish Phnom Penh is known for, it's their Deep Fried Chicken Wings. After finally getting to try one, I understood why. These are, in all honesty, the best wings I've ever had. It comes with a lemon juice and pepper dip but they don't really need it in my opinion. The wings are perfectly fried, so the skin is thin and crispy. There is sauteed garlic on top and somehow this seems to impart a wonderful, but very mild garlic flavour to them. They're juicy, and crispy and delicious.
They were so good that we had to order another plate! We all agreed that even if it made it so we couldn't finish our mains, we had to have more of those wings. They were that good.
Our other 'appie' so to speak, was their Marinated Butter Beef. This is another one of their signature dishes. As you can see from the picture, this comes with a huge pile of cilantro on it. I really don't like cilantro, but I tried some of the beef and it was very good. I didn't find it chewy at all, and it had a really nice, juicy flavour to it.
For my main, I had the Luc Lac Filet Beef on Rice with Egg. The one disappointing thing about this dish for me was the beef. It is that typical cornstarch coated beef that you find in most Asian restaurants. They do this to tenderize it, but I find it usually just makes the beef chewy which it did here. Had they used a braised stewing beef, or short rib, I think that texture would've been far more preferable. That being said, the sauce on the beef was really tasty, and I am generally of the opinion that putting a fried egg on top of pretty much anything makes it better. This was definitely a solid dish.
You can also get the Luc Lac Beef with fried rice instead of white rice, which one of our friends did. I didn't try it but I'm sure it was good.
Flowerbunny had the BBQ Lemongrass Chicken and Vietnamese Ham on Rice. She thought the chicken was just ok, but nothing special. As for the ham, she found it spongy and kind of weird. I'd say probably skip this dish if you go here.
I think this was the Phnom Penh Two Kinds Of Noodle (No Broth). I didn't try this but it definitely came with a lot of stuff in it.
Several of our entrees came with this pork broth soup. We didn't really drink much of this, but I had a sip and it was decent. It had a mild pork flavour, pretty standard soup.
Overall Impressions: Phnom Penh is probably the best place in town for wings. However, be prepared to line up. From the sounds of things the place is always busy, and with good reason. Maybe next time I'll just grab some wings for take out. The Luc Lac and the marinated beef are quite good as well, but it seems like if you stray from their signature dishes it can be hit or miss.
224 E Georgia St