#215 Street 13 Phnom Penh
Tel: 012 802 072
Friends, a training restaurant operated by children's NGO Mith Samlanh, is a real favorite among both tourists and PP's Ladies Who Lunch set, of which there are many. It's so popular that I've actually been turned away during dinner hours, which has never happened to me in Phnom Penh before or since.
It's easy to see why: Friends has a friendly dining space, a cheap-enough menu with a combination Western and Asian menu, a variety of interesting blended drinks and the vague sensation that you're both having a tasty lunch and doing something for the children. The combination is unbeatable.
Parmesan crusted fish with ratatouille was simple and good - reminded me of childhood dinners, in a good way. Nice crispy cheesy crust and a good ratatouille without an inordinate amount of olive oil and plenty of eggplant. They love eggplant here. Portions aren't immense here, as an aside, so you might want to take the ravenous elsewhere.
This strawberry passion fruit shake was on special and was absolutely superb. My mother and I were pretty openly fighting over the last dredges of it. Tourists in Cambodia need to cowboy up and try the occasional fruit shake in the nicer restaurants here - nothing beats the heat better. (Hint: if the place is air conditioned, you're probably going to be okay. Although NOTHING is guaranteed when it comes to food poisoning, but is it in the USA?)
My aunt had the black bean burger, which is very tall and served with a bunch of grilled vegetables. Zucchini on a burger is a bit unusual, but hey, it's black beans. Served with an aioli sauce and nice and spicy. My aunt gave it a two thumbs up.
My mom had Friends reputedly famous meatballs, which were indeed good in that "snacks you eat at Super Bowl parties" way, with a sweet, vaguely Asian sauce. They're served over rice and make just enough for a light meal. Would order again.
Khmer fries? Yeah, that means cassava. I can't say these were great - mmm, starch - but they were definitely different. Also, the curry mayo on the side was good.
Other suggestions here: creamy pumpkin soup with a bit of creme fraiche, pork stir fried with sesame and mushrooms, and the Asian coleslaw. As I write this, I am remembering that I need to eat here more often.
And you are helping the children by eating here, in a more direct way then the usual "10 percent of your bill will go to X foundation Cambodian street kids, who often go on to get well-paying jobs elsewhere. This is verified by the number of lovely restaurant and hotel staff I've met who cut their teeth through Mith Samlanh's training restaurants. Good job, guys.