Phnom Penh Restaurant Reviews: Tacqueria CoronaJune 29, 2012
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not usually drawn to Mexican cuisine.
Though I’ve eaten my fair share of fish tacos on the beach in Ensenada and was patron to some of the local eateries when I lived in San Diego, I don’t often get a craving for food south of the border.
So, it was more out of convenience that I decided to check out Tacqueria Corona since it’s located only a couple of blocks from my home.
And, within the space of 10 days, I went back twice.
The first time was with three friends and my husband since we were looking for somewhere close to home. The second was with a dozen people celebrating a birthday.
On both occasions, every person at the table raved about his food. One of our friends, who’s lived in Asia six years, said it was the best Mexican food he’s ever tasted in the region and another, who’d arrived from the U.S. two days before our dinner, said it was as good as any Mexican fare he’d eaten back home.
Considering the crowd of people in the place, the word has already spread.
It’s not your let’s-pretend-to-make-a- burrito kind of place. It’s run by an experienced American chef, Will Brown, who has cooked countless fajitas, tortas and fritos in his life since he owned and designed a pair of successful restaurants in New York, along with his partner, the delightful Sopheap Von, who you’ll probably recognise from Pop Café.
Together they make a formidable team. He oversees and cooks in the kitchen and she manages the front of house, greeting, seating, smiling and observing everything with an eagle eye.
It’s a pretty small place and Sopheap and Will have managed to make it homey and inviting. Decorated in the colours of the Mexican flag, the tables are set with green and red cloths while overhead lighting, gold painted ceiling stars, huge painted mirrors and cactus-designed wall sconces bring warmth and a touch of whimsy.
As for the food, it’s delicious.
For starters, the homemade salsa is chunky and fresh and the tortilla chips are nothing like the hard supermarket-style variety – these are light, crispy and served warm to the table.
The menu is a veritable feast of authentic Mexican dishes – nachos, taco plates, burritos, fajitas and quesadillas – all priced between $4.25 and $7.75 for plentiful portions, and most accompanied with warm, soft flour tortillas, fresh off the griddle.
There’s also Vera Cruz Shrimp ($7.50) where you peel your own camarones steamed in beer, Frito Pie ($6.75), fritos smothered in ground beef or Texas chain gang chile with cheese, salsa and sour cream, and meaty hamburgers ($5.25 – $7.50) topped with kick ass barbeque sauce, bacon, chives, cheese or salsa.
On both occasions, I ordered shrimp dishes and each time the shrimp were juicy, fresh and deliciously seasoned with Mexican flavours. Wrapped in soft tacos and accompanied by traditional trimmings, the taco plate ($6.75) was too large to finish (though I did) which led me to order it next time as a plate to share with a friend (quite enough for a hearty meal).
I also tasted my husband’s pollo asada burrito ($6.75) which was filled with succulent strips of chicken, perfectly cooked and imbued with flavour, and a friend’s sizzling fajitas ($7.75) which were equally tasty.
Not only are the main courses well prepared but the accompaniments are equally well considered. One friend commented that the sour cream was the best he’d tasted in Cambodia and another said the stir-fried peppers were seared around the edges, just the way he liked them. You can get your meals with refried pinto beans or black beans and there’s a special on margaritas – order one at full price ($2.75 – $3.75) and get the second for $1.50.
There’s also a huge selection of cocktails and spirits – with various types of tequila, bourbon, single malt Scotch, flavoured margaritas and Mexican varieties (try a watermelon cucumber margarita or beer with tomato juice Chavela).
And, while the restaurant was brimming over with customers on our last visit, all dishes arrived hot, in a timely manner and pretty much at the same time.
From what I can see, there’s not much wrong at Tacqueria Corona. In fact, I’ll have to go back a few more times to see if there’s anything I missed.
14e St 51
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(Open for dinner 7 nights a week and for lunch every day except Sunday.)