They Really Are The Best Chicken Wings In Town

by Ed Lau on March 27, 2007

So after John told me about Phnom Penh last week, I knew I just had to try it. The problem is…living in Richmond is a bit like living in some sort of bio-dome since you can pretty much get everything you can think of within a five mile radius. As such, very few people I know will actually venture beyond the city limits other than to go to school or work. Suggestions that include doing so are usually met with an unenthusiastic “What? Vancouver…?” With that said, I had to wait until the next time John went so I wouldn’t have to eat by myself. Seriously, some of you need to get outside the city once in awhile…

John, his lovely wife Sarah and I arrived at Phnom Penh just as the lunch rush was coming in minutes prior to noon. When I say rush, I mean it. We were lucky enough to get three seats at a large table almost immediately even if we did have to share the other half with a bunch of downtown intern-looking types. You know…the guys that get a job at a large firm but are confused as to proper business attire so they look like they’re still going to their grad ceremony.

Literally seconds after we sat down, a gigantic wave of people hit the restaurant and there were at least 15 or so people waiting at the door for seats. John had mentioned that this place was very popular and although seating space appeared rather abundant (it was at least twice the size of Pho Lan, our usual Saturday Dot Com Pho destination), there was still a long line-up when we left an hour later.

Phnom Penh doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, it’s in a corner of Vancouver’s Chinatown which looks a little sketchy at best, if you know what I mean. I was a bit skeptical at first since the exterior did not look all that promising but after stepping inside, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and relatively modern the place looked. The walls showed no signs of wear and were decorated with Asian art or one of the many, many awards from various publications around the city.

It was my first time at Phnom Penh so I let John and Sarah order for me, since they knew all the good dishes on the menu and I trust their judgment on food. We ordered three bowls of the dry noodles with…everything, a plate of deep fried chicken wings and something called Marinated Butter Beef, which John described as a “raw frisbee of rib eye covered in all kinds of stuff.”

Phnom Penh Special Dry Noodles

Let me start by saying I’m not a big fan of dry pho since I usually find the noodles bland unless you drown it in sauce. However, the Special Dry Noodles was delicious. My biggest complaint about dry pho is that they usually don’t use the same kind of springy, chewy textured noodles that they use in the noodle soup pho but these noodles had just the right amount of bounce to them. It’s served with a generous helping of beef, chicken, pork, liver and a couple decently sized (and cleaned with no black intestinal tract) shrimp. Squeeze a lime wedge, throw in a small amount of fish sauce in it with some bean sprouts and you’re ready to go. The seasoning is a bit salty but still very, very tasty.

If you must have soup, they do give you a bowl of broth on the side but it’s quite unnecessary as the noodles are already great without it.

Deep Fried Chicken Wings

The chicken wings received very high praise from John and Sarah and it wasn’t hard to see why. The wings were lightly battered, very crispy and well seasoned, covered with generous amounts of fried garlic, cilantro and various other ingredients we couldn’t figure out. You’re given a light sauce with lime and white pepper which really gives them some zesty kick.

Marinated Butter Beef

The Marinated Butter Beef may scare those who can’t handle seeing any blood in their meal but personally, I like my meat rare. It reminds you that hey, this thing was mooing just a little while ago and that animals are delicious. You vegetarians don’t know what you’re missing. The large saucer of rare beef is only cooked lightly on the outer rim and drowned in a soy vinaigrette, covered with cilantro, garlic and other delicious spices. It reminds me of the salmon sashimi at Guu with Garlic on Robson. It’s a very small amount of food since the beef is paper thin but it is just erupting with flavor. If you’re not squeamish, I definitely recommend you give this dish a try.

With three French-style ice coffees, our bill came to $48.00 after tips, which is roughly what we usually pay at Pho Lan each Saturday but we were treated to a much wider variety of food. Entirely reasonable for the amount of food we had although you could easily have lunch for less than $10. The dry noodles are a very good value at only $5.15, although if you’re a big eater, you might want to order an appetizer to go with it. The noodles and two other dishes shared between the three of us was just the right amount of food so that you’re not hungry but not so full that you want to pass out in your seat.

It’s not hard to see why Phnom Penh has received so many awards over the years. If you can be bothered to head to Chinatown and overlook the ghetto-ish neighborhood, it is a great place to grab lunch. It’s open for dinner as well but John says that it is seriously packed with long lineups. If you’re like me and don’t like to line up, you should probably be here on a weekday at around 11:30am.

John also says they used to have a location on Broadway that closed due to a lack of business. I can safely say that if they brought this place to Richmond, they would most definitely see traffic comparable to their location at 244 East Pender. Heck, we could probably alternate between here and Pho Lan for Saturday Dot Com Pho.

in Food and Fine Dining

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Lee March 27, 2007 at 3:15 pm

that beef dish looks AWESOME!


msdanielle March 27, 2007 at 5:05 pm

i don’t know, it kind of looks like an alien pod or something. but hell, i’d still eat it!


Stephen March 27, 2007 at 3:59 pm

It’s like High End Pho…without the Pho Mafia.


Gdog March 27, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Alright, I have eaten here before one time with my brother. That picture of the storefront brings back memories. The chicken wings are REALLY good.


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