Phnom-Pehn restaurant KingstonRegular readers know that I have an affinity for Italian pies, so when it comes to writing reviews of restaurants in the Limestone City, Kingstonist may be somewhat biased towards establishments that serve glorious wheels of pizza. That said, I also have a penchant for all things spicy. Be it Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican or Italian, I simply love dishes that make me sweat while I eat. The aftermath of a spicy meal makes me feel as though I’ve had a great workout, which is an awesome way to temper the guilt associated with less healthy menu options. Last Friday we ventured out in search of two things: spicy food, and a new restaurant experience. We ended up at Phnom-Pehn, a popular Cambodian and Thai restaurant located right around the corner from City Hall.

The curb appeal of Phnom-Pehn is pretty much on par with any other Thai, Vietnamese or Sushi resto in the city. A large colourful sign adorns the facade, while your view of the inside is somewhat obstructed by blinds, menus and the like. In my mind, this can either serve as an deterrent, as some less adventurous folks may be apprehensive about what lies inside. For me, the imperfect view of the inner workings of Phnom-Pehn added a bit of mystique to a place that I’d already heard so much about. As soon as you step foot in the door, you are greeted by fantastic painted murals, modest decor, and an establishment that is truly well kempt.  Although it might be in need of a decorating upgrade, I wasn’t there to look at the carpet, or inspect the paint job.

We were quickly seated, and brought menus as well as large glasses of water, which are essential if you’re preparing yourself for large quantities of spicy food. Their menu was massive and all around delicious, so much so that I had difficulty deciding what to order. This rarely happens to me.  After consulting our waiter, I decided on spring rolls, and a simple dish of mixed vegetables, chicken, and rice with green curry. Just as fast as orders were placed, appetizers arrived back at our table along with our drink order. The spring rolls were tasty, although I personally prefer those served at Mekong. We finished our appetizers just in time for the main course, which ended up being massive plates of food. We dug in immediately, stopping only to wipe our brows, and to put out the fires in our mouths.

From my experience, Thai cuisine has three main elements: hot spices, coconut milk and nuts. Although one could easily argue that sweet ingredients are just as prevalent, keep in mind I sat down in Phnom-Phen looking for a spicy workout. I can honestly say that it was a great meal, however I think this experience made me realize that I prefer Vietnamese over Thai. Personally, I found the green curry was too rich, as a result of the coconut milk. That said, if you’re a big fan of coconut milk, as is the case with my partner, you’ll probably be in heaven at Phnom Pehn. To get a better taste of our latest dining adventure, check out our Flickr for more food porn goodness.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

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