When your out of town guests come looking for an authentic Khmer dining experience there are plenty of options. There’s the small-food-big-plate option of Malis, the charity nod of Friends, or for substantially greater authenticity there’s some very good food at Seven Bright (a uniform wearing Lexus class experience), Sovanna for good and cheap, and Langeach Sros 54. My choice is usually the latter. Bottom line, it’s fun and the food is still great.
LS54 is more beer garden than restaurant, it’s got the requisite beer girls in their Tiger uniforms, but, thankfully, no stage, and no amps at 11 to distract from the dining and beer guzzling experience. There is a big screen TV but the volume is usually down so it’s not a bother. Langeach Sros is always packed, with most of its clientele being groups of young Khmers with really nice phones. Barang diners are occasionally seen and usually hustled to the covered back area for some reason, but I prefer to sit in the open on the patio with the noise and hustle. Menus have English translations and while wait staff generally are weak on English skills the walkie talkie carrying floor manager with the hip haircut can get things sorted should communication difficulties arise.
Food at LS54 is a no brainer, everything I’ve eaten there has been top notch. It’s a big menu and I have my favorites but you’re probably safe in most anything you order.
The dish I almost always order is the Goat with Big Black Ant. This is not one of those ‘you’d never know you’re eating a bug’ dishes, you know it baby, it looks like exactly what it is. I’d only say that while the ants may be black they really aren’t that big (hope that helps some readers). In this preparation the ants lend a vinegary flavor to the dish which to my palate works wonderfully with the strong flavors of the goat. I’ve tried the dish with other meat and don’t like it nearly as well. Be prepared to be greeted the next morning by little ant bodies in the commode as the tasty suckers’ outsides are pretty well indigestible. A little weird, it comes with the territory.
Khmer style pork ribs are a real favorite here, and I think they’re among the best I’ve tried. The preparation typically involves a simple soy sauce, sugar, pepper, garlic marinade and that’s what you’ll get at LS54. If you can’t make it to Resaurant 522 near Kien Svay this is a respectable alternative.
Another good choice are the clams in tamarind sauce. Again, a very typical Khmer dish done very well. The sourness of the tamarind with a bit of sugar works magic with the little Cambodian shellfish. Eating them here is probably a lot safer than the ones you see on the streets being wheeled around on a baking sheet in the hot sun.
For a vegetable dish, there’s nothing wrong with fried morning glory with garlic, it’s a great dish which is why every Khmer restaurant in the universe must serve it. There are plenty of other fried veggie dishes involving greens we don’t seem to have English names for, but I’m happy with to stick with the mainstream choice here.
You can also go the hot pot route at LS54. It’s never been a particular favorite meal of mine, especially in hot weather, but it is popular at LS54.
Your most momentous decision of course will be which of the beer girls you make happy and which you send home crying. With a group of people no doubt the best way to go is to order an Angkor beer tower, a great invention if there ever was one. No brew pub on the premises but the Angkor is probably the most appropriate accompaniment for your goat and black ant anyway.
One doesn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive; service is usually amazingly quick for such a big operation (I guess that’s where the walkie-talkies come in). Indeed I swear on my last visit one dish arrived before we even finished ordering.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this place, the only problem is that it’s crowded enough that unless you arrive early you may end up sitting in the back with the crying kids and English teachers or upstairs in the sweatbox there. Getting there like you were chasing an early bird special is therefore a good idea.
Langeach Sros 54 is located on the north side of Street 178 (#15A) between Norodom and Street 51.