Phnon Penh Garden Restaurant – Oakland

Last week was my 41st birthday and Mike and the kids wanted to take me out for dinner. They wanted to go to a nice place – and so did I so I could doll up with some of the make up I’ve gotten recently from listia – but I really didn’t want to spend much money. Our local Le Soleil might have been a good choice, but I’ve gotten bored with their menu – which has barely changed over the last six years (though my kids still love it). Fortunately, Phnom Penh House came to mind. I’d been there several years ago (see review below) with a group of girlfriends and I’d really liked it. I also remembered it as quite affordable. It was a great choice – the restaurant is quite nice (one of these “Asian Bistros”, as I like to call them, serving modern Asian food in stylish surroundings at affordable prices) – and the food was excellent. More importantly for us right now, they don’t seem to have raised their prices almost at all in the last six years. This restaurant may very well be the best bargain in the Bay Area.
We started our meal by sharing a “Noum om Beng” ($8), a crepe stuffed with pork, shrimp, coconut and bean sprouts, served with one of those ubiquitous light sweet-sour sauces so common at Thai restaurants. It was amazingly good, specially with the sauce. The thick crepe was very light, with some sweetness to it and it reminded me of egg custard. The filling was so tasty that I even ate the bean sprouts (which I usually hate, these ones were smaller and less crunchy that the ones I usually find in my chow mein). The kids didn’t really give it a chance. The portion is large enough to provide a light snack to four people, but it’s so good that you may want to share it between two people instead 🙂
I wasn’t very original in ordering the “sachkor ang” ($9) as my entree. This dish consists of been charbroiled on skewers and served with the same sauce as the crepe. I order this at Le Soleil all the time, so I might have wanted to try something different. But I was glad I ordered it. The beef was very tender and had an amazing charbroiled flavor. Camila loved it and ate a whole skewer by herself. The portion was definitely good enough for one person.
Mike ordered the “moarn bouk” ($9), chicken wings stuffed with lemongrass, bean thread and meat. They were also very tasty. The filling was a bit mild, but the wings themselves were tender and had a great flavor on the skin. The kids liked them (sans filling).
Finally, we ordered the shrimp fried rice ($7.75) for the kids and this was a big hit. It had a light smokey flavor, plenty of shrimp and it was a pretty large portion.
We skipped dessert, as we had birthday cake at home.
In all it was a great birthday meal.
Phnom Penh Restaurant
3912 Macarthur Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 482-8989

2005 Review
Going through my papers I just run across the take out menu of Phnom Penh Restaurant and realized I hadn’t written a review. It’s been a couple of months since my visit, and I cannot actually remember specifically what we had, so I figured I’d just make a general note on it. If/when we go back again I’ll write a proper review.
Phnon Penh has been a Chinatown institution for many years, but they now have opened a second location on Macarthur Blvd. and had given it what I call the “Asian Bistro” look. The walls and furnishings are stylish and trendy and yet comfortable and inviting – making it the sort of place where you can take anyone for any reason. And with a menu with entrees starting at $7.25, you can afford to. The portions are in the small side, so you’ll want to order appetizers.
Phnon Penh offers Cambodian cuisine which in California it can mean anything, but which you can understand as a fusion of Vietnamese and Thai. As I said, i don’t remember what we actually ordered, but the four of us shared several entrees and appetizers. Everything was very good, though obviously nothing was that memorable. I do remember particularly enjoying the deep fried bananas with coconut and ice cream ($4). The dish was large enough to share among the 4 of us.
One word of caution. Phnom Penh’s secret is out (a glowing review in the Express hasn’t hurt) and the restaurant is pretty small. When we visited in a weekday night there were people waiting in line outside the restaurant to come in. But they do take reservations, so call ahead.
Phnom Penh Restaurant
3912 Macarthur Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619

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