new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Romdeng: Grilled Tarantulas for a Cause!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Romdeng: Grilled Tarantulas for a Cause!

Romdeng Restaurant
#74, Street 174,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 9pm, closed Monday.

Romdeng is one of Phnom Penh's most popular upscale restaurants among the tourist-with-a-conscience and NGO crowd. Which makes sense: This classy establishment is run by the well-regarded Mith Samlanh charity and functions as a training restaurant for the group's young service-industry students. Eat a good meal, feel as if you're doing a good turn for the universe. People love that stuff. Thankfully, the food is good, too.

The restaurant is set in one of Phnom Penh's old colonial era-houses and is very pleasant, decorated with artwork made by the kids in Mith Samlanh's various projects. You can sit outside or inside (there's fans). It's a popular place, so reserve or try to get there early.

The menu focuses on authentic Khmer dishes, and they really aren't messing around. Impress your squeamish friends back home by ordering up a plate of grilled tarantula or some stir-fried spicy tree ants - be sure to take LOTS of Facebook bound photos while you're at it, too. My mother was not up for the tree ants, I'm sad to report, but I'll be back.

They've got a great selection of alcoholic fruity drinks here, another thing us expat types really really like. This was a rambutan-passion fruit cooler with some kind of booze in it and just a little hit of mint, and it was absolutely divine. Passion fruit laced beverages cause more terrible expat decisions then anything else around here.

Khmer style shrimp curry, one of the region's real favorites. And this is a good one: Big fat prawns in a slightly spicy coconut broth with a lot of ginger. Served with crusty baguette to sop up the juice. These curries are more like a soup (as we consider it) then what you might call a curry, but it's all good.

These are pork rolls filled with fresh coconut. They came out undercooked, which was worrisome in, well, Cambodia. We sent them back and they fixed it up for us. Once back, they were fantastic: really enjoyed the sweet, marinated pork meat with the nutty crunch of the coconut.

Romdeng, being a training restaurant, is manned by enthusiastic but not 100% on point Cambodian kiddos, most rescued from profoundly unpleasant situations and learning to ply their trade. Show a little patience. Don't throw anything at them. They're cute as hell.

They also sent us the wrong dish - fish instead of a vegetarian stir-fry - but the fish happened to be good. One of our local Mekong river fishes sauteed with a slightly sweet sauce with fresh soy beans. Nice and refreshing. Simple fare.

1 comment:

undercover caterer said...

Looks good but I would have to pass on the grilled tarantulas. Creeepy.