Tired and worn out from exposure to heat I was not used to, I headed back to my room at Two Dragons. It’s been a while since I’ve had my breakfast at Khmer Family Restaurant and my stomach was becoming vocal about getting some more food so I went for walk within the vicinity of Two Dragons guesthouse to see where I could have supper. The Home Cocktail Restaurant is only 1 minute walk from Two Dragons, around the corner, directly on Wat Bo Road.
Since my first introduction to Cambodian food I’ve been using Khmer Family Restaurant as benchmark. While my happy day special which included food and Angkor Beer cost only $3, I decided to give the Home Cocktail Restaurant a try even though their set was listed in the menu at $4. But unlike Khmer Family Restaurant, $4 at Home Cocktail Restaurant also landed me with a starter (2 springrolls with spicy, yet tasty dip) and a desert (fried banana – so yummy).
While dining at Home Cocktail Restaurant I have noticed rather unpleasant way Khmer establishment treat their customers. A person who is serving you will be there, right behind your shoulder at all times. From their standpoint this means that they are always there, ready to serve you. However from your standpoint it looks extremely awful, makes you feel uncomfortable and pressured. This wasn’t an incident isolated to Home Cocktail Restaurant, it’s all over you place and bit by bit you will be taking it for granted, yet it always makes for a very unpleasant feeling. I will elaborate on this later.
It is necessary to point out that my server at Home Cocktail Restaurant was very courteous and professional at all times. Food was absolutely delicious from first bite at the springroll, through main course all the way to desert. I have subsequently visited Home Cocktail Restaurant several times while I was still housed at Two Dragons. That only lasted for one week so after I have moved out of there, it was also the end of me eating at Home Cocktail Restaurant.
It is an amazing restaurant which I would not hesitate to recommend. The decoration and overall feel of the restaurant is very rustic so aside from eating local food, you will also feel local from the outside. I really liked it there. One day I dined there during heavy rainfall and the only unpleasant thing were mosquitoes. The thatched rooftop covering the patio, bamboo chairs, wooden walls with large cart wheels made for pleasant stay while rain was ravaging just feet away from me. Home Cocktail Restaurant = great dining establishment.
Every visitor heading to Siem Reap (gateway to the temples of Angkor Wat Archaeological Park) who does a little research on Siem Reap will have heard of Pub Street. Pub Street is the center of tourist life in Siem Reap. It’s a small street on which there is one restaurant, bar or club next to another. No excessive research is needed as Pub Street is an important and always mentioned part of Siem Reap so you will have heard from it soon once you start doing your research on the town.
It was no different with me. Knowing I was heading to Siem Reap, I went to read up a bit on it to get a general idea about this town and Pub Street was a reoccurring mention in virtually every report. When I got to Siem Reap, I was aware of Pub Street, I just didn’t quite know which one it was. Pub Street is just a nick name given to a street because it houses so many pubs. It’s not an actual name given to it by the municipal government.
Perhaps that was the reason why I was unable to find Pub Street on the map of any of free publications available to Siem Reap visitors, including Angkor Siem Reap Visitors Guide and OutAbout Cambodia. But not knowing which one Pub Street has bothered me not. I knew I was gonna stumble across it sooner or later.
Then when I had my first Cambodian meal at Khmer Family Restaurant during my first wander through Siem Reap on foot, I spotted the sign saying “Pub Street” and containing an arrow. I noticed that sign after I had left the restaurant and wanted to do some more walking around town. The sign suggested that Pub Street was close, little did I know the sign meant that this was the beginning of Pub Street. Without even realizing it, when I took my turn in order to get to a restaurant and have something to eat, I have actually turned to Pub Street and wandered down it. The Khmer Family Restaurant where I had my food was also located on Pub Street, I just wasn’t aware of it.
That was my introduction to Pub Street. A few days later I found out the street on which I had my first Cambodian meal – Street number 8 is Pub Street. Why out of all streets crossing Thnou Street down which I was walking I took a turn when I hit Street 8 in order to see if there are any restaurants where I could eat – I do not know. I found Pub Street without looking for it. And since Khmer Family Restaurant offered reasonable priced, good quality food and had fast WiFi internet free for their customers, I was on Pub Street every day of my stay in Siem Reap.
As big fan of Asian food, I could not wait to have my first Asian meal in an Asian country. Sure, I did have my authentic Korean dish aboard Korean Air flight from Vancouver to Seoul, but I wasn’t quite in an Asian country yet. Now I was – Siem Reap in all its glory.
Since there was no buying for me at the Center Market, I continued on, told 500 other Tuk Tuk drivers that I was fine and didn’t need any ride, weed, cocaine, bum bum (that’s what they call the act of fornication) or anything else and turned left on Sivatha Bulevard, which appeared to be the main street in Siem Reap, according to the map in the Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide. The map also suggested that there was a high concentration of stuff to the left which is why I turned there, instead of heading right.
There is a large corner building that houses Canadia Bank, which had the sound of Canada to its name – my homeland. That’s where I slid to the 2 Thnou Street and followed along passing by a number of massage parlors, pharmacies and other shops. The thought of eating my first Asian food in Asia has driven me forward so I have disregarded all other, albeit attractive shops and focused strictly on restaurants. At one point I spotted one right on the corner of 2 Thnou Street and Street #8 and walked in to check the menu. I was immediately approached by the server who stood by my side as I was checking what they had for eating. Given information I have gathered from on line research, I believed that this restaurant was a bit overpriced so I excused myself, much to the disappointment of the server who believed I was a sure fish and followed up that Street 8 where there seemed to be one restaurant after another on both sides.
One that immediately caught my eye was called Khmer Family Restaurant. Not only did the name applied that this was a locally run restaurant with local management so my purchase would support locals, but the name also suggested that I would be eating local food, which would certainly greatly enhance my first dining experience in Cambodia. Khmer Family Restaurant it was. I stepped in, seated myself on a patio under the fabric roof as heat within the walls of an establishment without air-conditioning would be unbearable and asked for a menu and a $.50 draught beer they had advertised on the sign facing the street.
I was served by a beautiful Khmer girl and ordered Curry Fish with Rice. It was still early morning, but closer to about 8am by now and the temperature outside reached truly intolerable level. I did not want to know what it’s going to be like during mid day hours. As I was sitting on a patio close to the street, I was being repeatedly approached by street people. Little girl – could not have been more than 6 years came to beg me to buy a bracelet from her. Realizing these kids are trained to play with tourists’ feelings and used as easy tools to get money from otherwise refusing foreigners, I stood my ground and respectfully declined. Afterall, weight of my luggage was enough of a burden as it was. Adding to it with keepsakes was not an option by any stretch of imagination.
Kids kept coming. Both boys and girls, couples and groups, selling t-shirts, postcards, guide books, scarves, and everything else that can be sold. I was approached by someone twice a minute. Victims of landmines were the most difficult to turn down. Those people miss limbs, some miss parts of their chest or several limbs. Many don’t speak English and bear signs with well tailored sales copies that will hit the sympathy nerves of even the hardest to break individuals.
I remember that one guy coming with clutches bearing a box tied to his neck and a sign in his hand which said that he’s not begging, only trying to work which is hard now that he’s got no legs. So he’s selling guide books. It was extremely difficult to turn that person down, but I’ve only been out in the open for 30 minutes and if I already started spending on items I don’t need, where would I be in a week from now?
When my meal was served to me, my eyes started to glitter. The presentation was awesome and when I took my first mouthful, I was in seventh heaven. The curry fish was served in a bowl made of fresh banana leaves held together by staples (lol, that one part kind of spoilt it all, but still impressive presentation), and dose of rice was served on a side of a larger tray that housed both. It looked fantastic and tasted even better. My taste buds were having the feast of the lifetime. It was a delicious dish which along with draught beer cost a total of $3 US. Wow.
My first impressions after dining at the Khmer Family Restaurant were more than positive. I could not have asked for a better place to have myself introduced to the local kitchen and have my first normal interaction with local people (only Khmer aka native Cambodians work at the Khmer Family Restaurant).
Licking myself all over after finishing my meal, rejecting offers from dozens of other people who attempted to sell me something, then rejected dozens of Tuk Tuk drivers who pulled over just to offer me a ride somewhere after I’m done eating, hanging on tightly to my camera bag so someone doesn’t snatch it, I went to pay for my bill. I left a generous $1 tip, which is a ridiculous amount to pay as a tip, but given that my total bill was $3, my $1 tip represented a 33% uppage. That’s perhaps why that gorgeous girl who served me my breakfast was so surprised and asked if I was serious that this $1 was for her… Hmmm, even though broke, this dining experience at the Khmer Family Restaurant in Siem Reap made me feel wealthy for a minute.
I have tried many restaurants after this initiation to the world of Cambodian dining, but Khmer Family Restaurant remained my favourite for a few weeks. Given that this was my first dining experience in Cambodia, I was generally happy with my choice. An amazing restaurant with great food, fair prices and as I have discovered later – great internet with free WiFi for customers. I was about to become a loyal customer but it didn’t last very long. Unfortunately, being a Khmer run business, they don’t care much about establishing a loyal clientele and are extremely lazy so when something needs attention, instead of taking care of it, they’d laugh at you for their inability to resolve it.
For example, when internet wasn’t working, I asked if someone could take a look at the router thinking that it may need restarting, but when after 45 minutes nobody bothered to take a walk upstairs to take a look, I had to ask again which was responded to by everyone having themselves a good laugh that I haven’t had any internet access for almost an hour. When this unprofessionalism (not necessarily limited to the Khmer Family Restaurant, as it is the nature of all Khmer run businesses) got in the way of me requesting to have the cook stop adding MSG to my food because it was making me sick, I knew it was time to quit patronising this establishment. Not only would no one bother to follow my request to quit adding MSG to my dishes, they even had themselves a good laugh at me because it was their food that was causing my intense stomach problems. Needless to say, what started as a good relationship was swiftly ended when their true colors showed up. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour is typical of any Khmer run business.