Phnom Penh Mini a new Cabramatta Restaurant
A new challenger comes to town. How does cutely named Phnom Penh Mini Restaurant fare against the established Cambodian-Chinese eateries in Cabramatta?
Phnom Penh Mini Restaurant has now moved to the old Battambang location in one of the many arcades snaking off John Street. There’s a general nostalgia for the home country with many migrant communities. So it’s not surprising restaurants are named after cities from home: Battambang takes its name from the second largest city in Cambodia, while Phnom Penh is the country’s capital.
During our visits to Cambodia, many of the everyday eateries differentiate themselves from more formal restaurants by adding “mini” to their name. It’s a cute touch to carry that tradition to Sydney. Sure enough, Phnom Penh Mini Restaurant is typically simple, three rows of grey tables and black chairs with and lots of practical tiling, mirrors on both side walls, beneath the menu boards.
There are over 20 dishes on the laminated picture menu, including nom banh jok; a popular street food consisting of rice noodles in a blended fish broth rich with lemongrass and kaffir lime and topped with a range of mints, bean sprouts, green beans and morning glory, somlor manchu kreung; a hot and sour spicy soup often called Cambodian beef soup.
The most popular, and first dish on the menu is Phnom Penh noodles, a Chinese-Cambodian flavoursome, clear soup containing thin rice noodles, an impossible number of different meats; pork, congealed blood cubes, fish balls and prawns. Fresh bean sprouts, chilli and lemon come on the side, to be added to taste.
They face stiff completion when it comes to Phnom Penh noodles; the most popular bowls are served Dong Son, xxx and of course the two Battambang restaurants in Cabramatta. Noodlies loves the soup version at both Dong Son and Dong Vu, while the dry version at Battambang can’t be beaten.
All the ingredients and sides are there, but in the end, like many soups (including pho) it’s the broth that makes all the difference. The soup is tasty but doesn’t match the profound flavour Dong Son manages to extract from a clear soup; a flavour which stays until the last gulp. In comparison, at Phnom Penh Mini Restaurant, there’s a soft umami reward with the first sip but it doesn’t last the distance, especially towards the end of the bowl.
Cabramatta is Cambodian ‘mini’ restaurant heaven, with at least five in town. Phnom Penh Mini Restaurant is a great addition to the local south-east Asian flavours of the area. When it comes to a bowl of Phnom Penh soup, this challenger doesn’t quite go the distance against the reigning champions.
Phnom Penh Mini Restaurant
15/73-79 John St, Cabramatta NSW
(02) 9727 6177