Phnom Penh Restarant Reviews – Lian Rong Dumpling HouseAugust 1, 2008
The bubbly blue-jeaned waitress sings “ni hao ma” as she deals two classy-looking, professionally printed menus onto the table next to a teapot and cups. Although a comprehendable English speaker, she provides me a small dose of Mandarine (because she knows I am learning). Illustrated with pictures and nearly void of the notorious spelling, syntax and grammar errors, the menu at Llian Rong Dumpling House has a few unique surprises which seperate it from average Phnom Penh Chinese slot. We order liter bottles of Chinese Tsing Tao beer (at $1.50 each) and take several minutes to look over the fifty or so menu selections.
A handful of dumpling varieties, including “pork and onion” catch my eye. I attempt to compliment them with “Egg and Seaweed” soup but they are out. So I take a chance on “Country Carrot” soup, which is an interesting selection I have never encountered before.
My buddy hones in on the fried “Soft-Shell Crabs”. He negotiates with the waitress over the $5 price – which he claims was only $4 a few weeks ago. The owner interjects politely and appeases. A first choice vegetable dish of “Steamed Cabbage and Mushrooms” is bumped off for “Spinach Sauteed in Fresh Garlic”. Finally, sizzling “Hot Beef Plate” will add girth to the feast.
While waiting a remarkably short time for the first course to arrive the TsingTao stimulates our palletes in preparation for the onslaught of different tastes to come. It is a light, bubbly, slightly-dry and fruity brew – a perfect compliment which does not overpower a heavy meal. It reminds me of the floatiness of Saigon Beer from Vietnam.
The siizling beef cracks and gurgles on its molten black slab as the waitress sets it before us. Green peppers and onion add to the spicey fragrance of the dish. The tender beef shreds in the mouth while the crunchy stir-fried vegetables act as a counterforce to the thick brown spicy pool of brown gravy.
The waitress slides a large white bowl of glutinous white-yellow broth suspending white carrot slices springled with whole peanuts. The white carrots are a mellow suprise from the expected orange acidic ones. The carrot adds firm texture to keep the mouth in action while the broth works its way to the tastebuds – a nice departure from more complicated soups with larger vegetables and tangier broths to tackle. It is light enough to leave plenty of room for the main course.
My friend’s soft-shell crabs arrive like a king on his float of flower tomato sculpture and sliced cucumber lining. Without the usual armor which makes crabs tedious to eat – these are all meat. We throw them down faster than popcorn during a horror movie. Although they are tasty it seems that the deep-frying process may have drained some of the true essence. I would be happy to try the same dish roasted or grilled.
The sauteed spinach was typical and delicious. So too were the pork dumplings which I could not finish and had to take home.
All-in-all it was a satiable and relaxed experience. The one small missing perk was a desert plate of fresh watermelon, which is given at some of the other places in town. The bill of just over $18.00 for two was fair and average for such a treat. The service was professional and the staff friendly and competent.
Lian Rong Dumpling House ($15-25 for two), Monivong, Phnom Penh