City: Phnom Penh
Rating: 5 out of 5
Seating: Indoor (Open Air)
The Ninja Dining Bar in the BKK1 area of Phnom Penh is easily the restaurant I frequent the most in the city. There are many great restaurants in Phnom Penh, but sometimes when having ethnic cuisine, the taste can fall short of expectations. For example, when frequenting Korean restaurants, they will often be fine but pale in comparison to what I am used to back home in the States. I often say that an establishment that may get a rating of 8 out of 10 here, is really a 6 back home. Japanese cuisine can also be tricky and is often not handled well by many restaurants in Cambodia. But the Ninja Dining Bar is not one such place and their food is as good as any I have had anywhere else.
They have many great lunch sets that start at only $5. I'll often get one and an appetizer and the entire meal will only cost me $7.50. I highly recommend the Katsudon set, which is a rice bowl topped with a fried pork cutlet, covered in a scrambled egg that has been cooked in sweet dashi sauce. It comes with a salad, a miso soup and some pickled vegetables and offers great value. The aforementioned appetizer I get is the Japanese version of fried dumplings, called gyoza. They are cooked to perfection with slight browning on the outside skin with a juicy and meaty filling. And I know they are fresh because I have been back in the kitchen and seen them make it by hand.
They also have many great entree specials during dinner of which my favorite is they curry. You can order it with your desired level of spiciness and is rich and full of flavor. Japanese curry is not an easy dish to make as after it is cooked it has to sit for a few days. Many restaurants do not practice such patience but rather serve it right away. But one can tell that at Ninja they prepare this dish with all the love and patience it deserves. You can get the dish with just rice or also have the tonkatsu curry in which a pork cutlet comes with the curry. Ninja also offers a wide variety of BBQ items such as chicken liver or thighs, pork belly and salmon. You can see the cooking staff cook these to order as they grill them right at the front entrance.
The decor inside is typical of Japanese restaurants that I remember from back home. The staff is both friendly and attentive, greeting every customer with the customary "Irasshaimase!" or "Welcome to the store!" The seating is indoors but they do not have any air conditioners. But there are plenty of fans along the walls and the staff will turn them on at your request. The prices are reasonable, the food tasty and the ambiance is lively filled with a diverse and eclectic group from around Phnom Penh. Whenever you're in Phnom Penh, Ninja Dining Bar should be high on your list of restaurants to visit.
Cambodian Food Scene
Cambodia is surprisingly filled with many great restaurants, from inexpensive to those closer to Western prices. These are just a collection of my favorite places to eat throughout the country.