Friday, September 4, 2009

PHNOM PENH HOUSE - Oakland's Cambodian Gem

We recently returned to one of the other of my favorite Asian cuisine options in Oakland. This place is phenomenal. The food here is authentic, fresh and delicious, as evidenced by the crowds and the lines out the door after twelve of a weekday.

On this occasion we brought along our PFC, so were able to order all our favorite dishes. It was hot out, so we began by ordering the Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp. This dish consists of shredded cabbage, carrot and papaya. It is this really light combination with just the right amount of acidity. The shrimp are moist and perfectly cooked. It's the perfect chilled dish to offset the oppression of summer heat. I imagine that since it gets hot in Southeast Asia as well, the folks who brought this cuisine over already know that, but it's still a treat for us Oakland natives on a sticky hot summer day.

Even when it is hot out, I am pretty much incapable of avoiding spicy, so we followed the lovely light salad with an order of their Skewered Beef sticks. The beef is pretty much a straightforward barbeque, cooked on the tiny bamboo skewers. They are accompanied by a light dipping sauch, tangy and perfectly seasoned to mesh with the smoky barbeque of the beef. It is really moist, and I love the smoky flavor. Not sure what is used to spice the meats, but I love it.

After the beef, we shared a platter of the Barbeque Chicken, which is lovely smoky chicken slices served crispy and moist with a bit of vegetables, also accompanied with the traditional light dipping sauce; the Shrimp with Green Curry a lovely carrot, greenbean, mushroom, curry and shrimp dish which is extremely spicy. I love it, but this dish is not for those of you who are faint of heart. To try something new, we ordered their Basil Fried Rice with Prawns. It seemed a good choice to accompany the other dishes and give us a bed for the magnificent curry sauce that the shrimp comes swimming in. We had not tried this before, and the gentle hint of basil that permeated the fried rice was really tasty and aromatic.

This restaurant is simple, unpretentious (although I love myself a pretentiously delicious meal on occasion) and it is decorated modestly in a fairly traditional scheme. The restaurant is open for lunch daily, although I believe it is closed Mondays. There is also a dinner menu, but I've never been for dinner, so cannot attest to the offerings.
One thing we did not have on this occasion, but which you should try at some point, is a sampling of their fried bananas with ice cream. Not sure what the official name of that dish is, but I have never, ever had anything quite as light as those fried bananas. They come in a batter that is flecked with something that might be poppy... who knows, who cares, they are delicious. Light banana-y balls of hot airy yum-tastic dessert. So good. Lightest tasting fried food I have ever had.
Prices are extremely reasonable, this is a great deal for a meal. Parking sucks, be prepared to drive around before finding a spot.
Bon Appetit!
Phnom Penh House
251-8th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Price: Inexpensive
Dining Time: Can get out in an hour if needs be. If you arrive at noon, however, there can be a wait. If time is an issue, get there by 11:45am
Table size: Adequate, but can get cramped if all dishes arrive at once

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