We got back to our hotel around 4 pm after our day trip in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It’s still too early to go for dinner, and we were exhausted mentally and emotionally after the day’s experience. So we decided to spend a couple of hours to rest and take it easy for the rest of the day.

For dinner, we decided to go to a restaurant called Romdeng. The restaurant was highly-rated for its authentic Khmer food. It was also unique as it served as a training restaurant run by an NGO to help street kids learning skills to work in hospitality / restaurant business.

Just like the previous night, we went outside our hotel to get a tuk-tuk to take us to the restaurant. The tuk-tuk driver from the previous night was not there, but there was another driver waiting for passengers out there. This time I discussed the price for the ride with the driver ahead of time.

The restaurant was only about 15-minute tuk-tuk ride from our hotel. On the way we got to see more of the night life in Phnom Penh. There were local street-side restaurants everywhere, similar to Bangkok and Jakarta. Romdeng itself was situated on a side street. The restaurant was housed in a big, old house. There were some tables outdoors under the trees, and there were some indoors in air-conditioned rooms. We were seated inside, and the ambience was pretty nice. The walls were decorated with artwork made by some of the students that the same NGO supported.

Since Romdeng was a training restaurant, the service was quite interesting. We had several people taking turns serving our table; the servers were mostly students who came with their teachers to our table. The students would do most of the work while their teachers observing their work. At times the students were not sure on how to respond to the customer’s request, so they would ask their teachers to help. At our table, the students did very good job in serving us. I could tell that some were being extra careful in doing their job as they knew their teachers were watching.

The food at Romdeng was very good. One particular dish that was popular among the foreigners who dined at Romdeng was a local delicacy that might be too extreme to try for many: the deep-fried tarantula appetizer. Cambodians started eating this out of necessity during the hard times, but over time it became a delicacy. We decided to give it a try. It turned out that it tasted not as bad as it looked. It tasted like eating chicken liver. It was cooked similar to Indonesian way of deep frying chicken liver and gizzard, with turmeric, coriander, and soy sauce to spice it up. So after the first bite, it wasn’t really that bad or scary for us.

We also had a refreshing salad dish and a fresh water fish dish. Both dishes were good. To close, we ordered a couple of desserts, a rice flour and turmeric crepe with caramelized banana filling and coconut gelato topping, and banana-filled rice dumplings with palm sugar syrup. The crepe was a great ‘east meet west’ dish. The rice balls were good as well, but they were too filling to have after the meal.

As we paid for our bill, we were asked to fill a survey to rate our dining experience. I thought that was a good way to provide feedback to the program. Judging from our own experience and the other patrons at nearby tables, I think everyone was satisfied with their dining experience. I know personally I would definitely come back to Romdeng the next time I’m in Phnom Penh again.

The photo below was taken as we’re about to try the first dish delivered to our table… the aforementioned deep-fried tarantula appetizer. As you can see, it’s presented quite nicely, though you can still tell those are tarantulas that we’re about to eat.

Deep-fried tarantula

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