Phnom Penh Restaurant Reviews: VitkingNovember 13, 2011
Considering that the far western extension of street 450 does not appear on most local maps the street has a lot going on. Running along the south side of the Russian Market and, and its western end ending at the curiously numbered Street 430, the street is home to World Vision and at least seven or eight other NGOs, a Vietnamese cafe, a typical Khmer morning noodle and rice shop, a Protestant church, two Khmer beer garden type places (handy walk from church), the Cambodia Studebaker Driver’s Club and a glorious vegetarian cafe called Vitking.
Now I am not a vegetarian, never even played one on television so I would not expect a vegetarian cafe to hold much interest for me but Vitking delivers on most every level.
Entering Vitking you are typically greeted by at least two friendly young staff. A clean, well designed, modernist affair, with white walls and small splashes of color, Vitking offers its customers a number of seating options, an outdoor patio, typical two and four person tables inside, a couple of large booths, and two Japanese style sit on the floor with pillows tables.
The restaurant is air conditioned, and in the Khmer style it is rare to have all the AC units going at once so the place never approaches chilly but it is at least occasionally cold and always reasonably comfortable. For those with an interwebs addiction free WiFi is available. Professional bathroom inspectors will find Vitking’s facilities top notch.
Vitking’s menu offers five or so options in each of the noodle, rice, soup and sandwich sections of its menu along with some vegetable sides, snacks and desserts. Although the menu is in English it must be noted that wait staff’s English skills are rather poor, so best to order in Khmer or point at the menu item when communicating your selection.
Although they do offer “ham” sandwiches and “hamburgers” of some kind, these items I have not found very appealing either in presentation or flavor, perhaps no surprise there. Depending on the meat being substituted, what you’ll get in these dishes will be bean, mushroom, tofu or some combination thereof. I’ve never found these fake meat dishes satisfying anywhere so it’s not a particular slap against Vitking that these dishes don’t cry out to me. But then I’m not a vegetarian.
However, Vitking’s noodle dishes are another story. A spicy noodle soup with basil and mushroom is a wonderful breakfast option. Served with a basket of greens and soybeans to add to the steaming broth this simple dish is an explosion of color and flavor and very highly recommended. Add the green chiles in vinegar! I’ve enjoyed this dish dozens of times and you’ll never find a drop left in my bowl. 6500R.
Another noodle favorite is the noodle with vegetable hot plate. Staff delivers to your table a sizzling fajita plate with good quality noodles, brocolli, cauliflower, mushroom, carrot and one egg which cooks as it sits on the plate. Knowing when the yolk is cooked just enough so as not to poison you but still runny is a skill learned over repeated visits. Get it right and that yolk turns into a wonderfully rich sauce when mixed with your noodles. This dish I prefer which the red chile paste on offer. It is quite spicy and no doubt a bacteria factory buy hey if you’re living here that will hardly be a jolt to your system. If you’re like me you’ll be lapping up every last bit of that rich spicy sauce when you’ve polished off the noodles and veggies. 6500R. A screaming bargain.
Garlic noodles paired with a vegetable side is another terrific option for those looking for a light lunch. Rice dishes are more pedestrian than the noodle and not as good value. Fried rice or rice with egg will fill a not very hungry stomach, but you’ll probably want a side of greens with that too.
Good quality Illy coffee is served and at 7000R for an Americano (or espresso) it is much cheaper than your typical cup in NGO-land, but it’s hardly the best brew in town or even the neighborhood, CoffeeCorner being just down the street. Staff is used to serving it iced so specify hot or you’ll get yours the way staff likes it. If you’re ok with tea, complementary tea typical of Khmer restaurants is delivered gratis. It’s a bit less watered down than most and is actually quite refreshing hot or cold.
If you’re still hungry after your meal, a range of boba style teas and such are available, everything at cheap to reasonable prices. Fruit shakes will run you 6000R.
Because the neighborhood is chock full of NGO workers and students, expect lunch time to be busy, indeed quite often the place is packed. Any other time of the day (I’m usually there late mornings), you’ll have no trouble. Mornings you’ll usually find a few young Khmer students with their laptops enjoying a tea and noodle dish.
Vitking will cost you a bit more than the Khmer noodle shop down the street but with it’s comfortable atmosphere, air con, wifi, good service and good food, it’s a heck of a bargain and well worth the off-map navigation it may take to find the place.
Vitking is located at the corner of Streets 430 and 450 in Tuol Tompuong II. Really it is. Open 8am- 9pm.