Restaurant review- Shiva Shakti

Posted on by Steven Lee


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SS outside

I’m sure you know the feeling. It doesn’t matter how many great food choices you have at your fingertips – and, let’s face it,  Phnom Penh probably has more good value quality food choices than any other city of a similar size – there are still times when only a damn good curry will do.  I guess it’s part of my British heritage where chicken tikka masala has replaced fish and chips as the national dish, but I’m sure it’s the same with other nationalities too.

A couple of good curries, some nan, a side dish or two and, of course, tons of pickles and chutneys all washed down by a couple of beers.  It’s a perfect meal.

However, despite its growing reputation as a foodie town, I have to admit I’ve been disappointed by the Phnom Penh restaurants I’ve tried so far.  They are ok – they don’t serve bad food, but there isn’t one that has stuck out from all the rest as being my go to Indian place.  None of them have tempted me back more than once or twice.

Until now.

A friend and I were deciding where to go for a curry and after discussing and dismissing the usual names, he suggested Shiva Shakti, a place I’d never heard of before.  I’m glad he did.  I liked it, and I’ll be back.  Again and again.

I’m tempted to introduce Shiva Shakti as a great new addition to the Indian restaurant scene, but that’s not the case, despite me thinking I had a pretty good handle on the Indian restaurant scene.  Evidently it’s been around for over 15 years at an old location (the site of Spice Garden, its sister restaurant at Independent Monument) and was once regularly frequented by local neighbor HE.  What’s good for HE is good enough for me, although I find it hard to imagine him wandering over the park to before sitting down to a prawn madras and a pint.

What is new about Shiva Shakti, though,  is its new location at the very end of Street 63, a couple of blocks across Mao Tse Tung Boulevard.  It’s not the most convenient location – and frankly, the owners need to do a better job telling people where they are – but the trip is worth it.  It’s a great venue and damn good food.  I can forgive them for being a bit off the beaten track.

The first thing to say about Shiva Shakti is that it’s a very nice venue, with a great ambience.   One of the thing that frustrates me about most of the better known places in town is that the they are all a bit . . . well . . a bit spartan at best, and shabby at worst.  They’re the kind of venues that you want to get in, get fed, and get out as soon as possible.  They’re not places to linger and talk with friends over a nice meal – crap furniture, fluorescent lighting and bored staff playing Angry Birds is NOT what I’m looking for in a good restaurant.

Shiva Shakti is nothing like that.  Its new location is very very nice, what looks like a restored shophouse with many original features, including the French colonial style tiles in the main dining area.  What really makes Shiva Shakti stand out though is the attention paid to the decorations; ancient electric fans, some superb original Indian cabinets, beautiful Indian sculptures and paintings and – best of all – soft and subtle lighting. It creates a great first impression and that’s just what a good restaurant should do.  Mount Everest and Taste Budz, please take note.

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But it’s all about the food at the end of the day, isn’t it?

And Shiva Shakti doesn’t disappoint.  It describes its menu as classical indian moghul cuisine,but most of the dishes on the extensive (148 item) menu wouldn’t look out of place at your typical Brick Lane or Bradford curry house.  Only they are very much better here, or at least the ones I sampled are.

You can tell a good indian restaurant by the quality of its samosas. Frankly, those at Shiva Shakti are pretty much the best I have had at any Indian restaurant anywhere in the world.  Instead of being dense, greasy and filling, these were light, fragrant and bursting with subtly flavoured vegetables, the perfect start to a good Indian feast.  We ordered a second serving, they were so good.   From memory the were around $4 a very generous portion.

We also ordered something from the Tandoor, a chicken garlic kebab, which turned out to be a beautifully tender piece of chicken breast spiced with garlic and roasted over a charcoal fire and served with mixed salad, min and sesame chutneys.  Again, it was very very good.

Best of all were the curries.  I know purists will say that a real Indian wouldn’t eat a curry as we know it.  I couldn’t give a toss.  I love the curries we get served in western Indian restaurants, authentic or not.  We ordered a chicken vindaloo for a bit of heat, and a daal makhani.  Both were very good, very generous in terms of quantity, and both packed a good punch.  I love vindaloos, and this didn’t let me down.  Like all good vindaloos it isn’t meant to be about the heat; it’s more about the tart vinegar flavor.  Let’s not mince words; Shiva Shakti does a fucking good Vindaloo.

We mopped all this up with a couple of garlic naans, again nice and light with no oily residue, and a couple of beers.

Shiva Shakti is not the cheapest option for Indian food in Phnom Penh, but it is very good value.  It is not a riverside curry house.  The curries are probably a dollar or two more than you would pay in many other places around town, but they are worth it.  I will definitely be back.

A final thought.  They say the way to judge a good Indian restaurant is to count the number of Indians eating there.   In Shiva Shakti’s case, the other tables eating when I was there were predominantly Indian, which has to be a good sign.

people eating

All in all, Shiva Shakti is good place to go. No, it’s a very good place to go.  A damn fined Indian restaurant.  Their new location isn’t ideal, but it’s not too far a trek if you’re in the mood for a really good Indian meal.   In fact, the location could well work in their favour if they market themselves as a cut above other Indian venues and position themselves as a ‘destination’ restaurant, somewhere to go for a special night out, rather than randomly dropping in for a quick feed as you wander between bars on the riverside.

Highly recommended.

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9 Responses to Restaurant review- Shiva Shakti

  1. sean says:

    That’s the second time this website has reviewed this restaurant actually, although the first review was done at its former location on the corner of Sihanouk/Norodom by KiR et al.

    One thing not made clear in this review is that Shiva’s is not only a bit more expensive than other curry houses in Phnom Penh, it is by far the most expensive. I ate there once and I would still say that I prefer Sher E Punjabi on the Riverside.

    • anita says:

      No comparision in the two restaurants you are talking about a mercedes and a hand me down Toyota! Get the picture?

      I am an international foodie and can vouch for Shiva Shakti. It has class and fare.

      Sher e Panjab is mediocre with an owner who fawns over his customers which is very irritating.

      • sean says:

        Saying thing like “I’m an international foodie” actually makes you sound extremely narcissistic and very ignorant to be polite. Asking if I “get the picture” makes you sound as though you may be affiliated in some way to the restaurant. If the intention was to give some weight to your statement then I would call that a fail on every level.

        I do not think that Shiva Shakti warrants the price that it charges and that is the point I was trying to make, especially at its cuurent location, tucked down a back street behind the National Assembly. There is very good Indian food avaiable at much better locations around Phnom Penh and in this regard I would not recommend Shiva Shakti to anyone visiting Phnom Penh or residing there, much less think it warrants an article….

        • Raj Kumar says:

          Dear Sean i m sorry but Shiva Shakti is one of the Most antique and well decorated with antique things and one of the most oldest Indian restaurant in Phnom Penh Since 1999. And of course i m agree with Anita that no body can compare Mercedes Benz or Audi with Toyota or Ford. If you want the real taste of Indian food you have to pay 1 or 2 bucks extra than others. Shiva Shakti got the recommendation letter from King of Cambodia. Anjelina JOLIE and Billy Bob THRoNtON is also visit and recommend this place.

          • Jean says:

            I was there twice and think it doesn’t deserve to bepraised praise they don’t know how to do chapattis properly and their dal is average. Much better and cheaper is available in the center.

  2. nol says:

    shiva shakti costs far too much for it’s food…..don’t go!

  3. Octavio says:

    Anyone that deems themselves a “foodie” is automatically disqualified from being trustworthy on any level. These people know little about the industry nor spend any time in the kitchen preparing meals. They also tend to rate “ambiance” above what is really important…the food. Indian food should never be a costly affair, and Phnom Penh has plenty of great Indian food options as mentioned above. Leave these “to be seen” places for the mindless people who frequent them and think that spending additional dollars on curries automatically makes them better.

  4. Whos The Daddy says:

    I have eaten in many of the best curry houses in the UKs Northern Cities. To date, I’m looking forward to trying the food at Shiva and seeing if it ranks with Leicesters best “Shimla Pink”. Will report back on my forthcoming mission.

  5. rissh says:

    Best plain lassi I’ve had since I was in India, back in ’97!!!
    Has anyone had a better one?

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