Another restaurant from the fantastic Friends International http://friends-international.org/shop/romdeng.asp, Romdeng was top of my list of places to eat at in Phnom Penh. Whilst the menu at Friends is styled as “tapas” and featured a really eclectic selection of dishes, Romdeng is far more “Asian” in style and gives you a better overview of Cambodian cuisine.
You may have seen in my earlier post that we went a little bit crazy the night before and so we restricted ourselves to a slightly more restrained selection at Romdeng. To start, we shared Crispy Duck Spring Rolls with Spiced Persimmon Sauce, Lemongrass Marinated Chicken Brochettes with Green Papaya Pickles, Three Kinds of Mushroom Dip with Lemongrass and Roasted Chilies with Crispy Prawn Crackers and finally a Chili and Lime Scented Pomelo Salad with Prawns, Mint and Toasted Coconut.
Whilst it would be tough to pick a favourite, I think both D and myself were completely smitten with the mushroom dip. It was just so intensely savoury, really rich and mushroomy with a little chilli kick at the end, just delicious!
At Marum I had tried the Red Tree Ant Fritters and having failed in my attempt to order anything weird and wacky at Friends I decided (without much objection it should be said!) that we should try their “signature dish” of Crispy Tarantulas with Black Pepper and Lime Sauce. It is safe to say I hadn’t been expecting them to come looking so, well so spider like! There was no messing around, the tarantulas were huge! It took a while for us to stop taking photos and calm down enough to approach them with a mind to eating them. I have to be honest, I was really struggling with the whole idea until DT literally grabbed one and threw it into her mouth! Reassured that it was just like eating a soft shell crab ( a giant hairy black one) I managed to eat 1 1/2 of them and I have to say they were surprisingly tasty! I’m not sure I would order them again as there ae just so many other great things to try but if I was ever to find myself in a “Survivor” style situation then they would definitely be one of the first things I would try to cook as they were indeed very much like soft shell crab (not all that shocking I know!) after all.
For our main courses we shared Romdeng’s Famous Amok in Banana Leaf; both a Fish version and a Pumpkin, Mushroom and Zucchini one with Tofu as well as Pork and Pumpkin Laap with Fresh Local Herbs which is a speciality of their restaurant in Vientiane. Other mains included Five Spice Crispy Pork Belly Stir Fried with Kampot Green Peppercorn and Pickled Cabbage, Chicken Stir Fried with Spicy Basil, Grilled Zucchini and Red Chili and Crispy Rice Noodle and Tofu Salad with Sweet Potato-Coriander Spring Rolls.
Both of the Amok dishes were outstanding – I actually think the veggie version might have been my favourite as the veggies were just cooked so beautifully and were perfectly spiced. Whilst it was a far more delicate dish, I also really enjoyed the Pork and Pumpkin Laap which although essentially the same as Laab here in Thailand (which originally comes from Laos) it was done in such a light, fresh way that it was almost unrecognizable.
We finished with a few desserts, Pumpkin and Egg Custard, some Fresh Fruits and Mango with Black Sticky Rice all of which disappeared pretty quickly even though our attempt at being restrained had ummm……. well not quite turned out that way! With 3 bottles of Rose, our bill came to less than $20 USD per person which is truly impressive when you look at all the great food we enjoyed.
Service again was excellent and this time we even made it upstairs to their shop where I went crazy buying jewelry and note books and loads of other things I don’t really need but couldn’t resist!
Dinner at Romdeng is an absolute must – its up there with a trip to the Royal Palace, a sunset cruise on the Mekong or a visit to the Killing fields and is definitely somewhere I would happily eat at again and again.