I was walking to the Siem Reap night market a few nights ago, and I stumbled upon an advertisement for King’s Road of Angkor. It promised “an authentic, modern vision of a traditional Khmer wooden village” with world-class dining options. When I saw their array of international restaurants included pho, I knew I had to visit.
And so I set out from my modest guesthouse on bike, eagerly anticipating the elegance that would await. When I arrived outside, I was impressed. Having visited the floating village of Kompong Khleang the day before, I saw a resemblance in the wooden roundhouses and cottages. Yet, the white limestone floor-tiles, the well-kept grass, and the glass-paned windows reminded me that villages of the Ton Le Sap Lake were worlds away.
I found Pho 24 tucked away in the back. I immediately noticed that the place was empty – never a good sign – but I ventured onward. The staff greeted me eagerly, and gently placed a menu into my hand. The pho special was the first thing on the list, so I ordered that and a plate of deep fried spring rolls. The spring rolls were excellent – crispy, with a delicious filling and equally zesty dipping sauce. I expected the pho to be of equal caliber, but when it arrived, I was rather disappointed.
While the normal garnishes and sauces were provided, I found the quantity of each to be lacking. The broth lacked the aroma that comes with the best pho and the amount of meat in my soup didn’t make things better. Upon tasting, I was immediately hit in the taste-buds with a wave of salt, uncharacteristic of pho. I got the impression that the salt was meant add flavor to an otherwise bland broth, but it wasn’t enough to mask the source of the problem.
Curiosity also killed the pho. Seriously though, who puts vinegar out in a pho restaurant? Being a somewhat adventurous eater, halfway through my bowl, I decided to try some of the unknown liquid next to the hoisin and chili sauce. Bad idea. My soup went from already quite salty to extremely salty and sour. While the whole mess was my fault, I would just like to warn my fellow pho-natics that vinegar + pho = no-no. Please don’t make the same mistake.
Certainly, not everything about the place was bad. The rice noodles were done right, the meat was high quality, and the garnishes were pre-cut. The lighting, the porcelain plates, and the overall atmosphere of the place was great. The view outside was wonderful, the bathrooms – very clean. The staff was also probably the friendliest I’ve met in any pho restaurant I’ve visited. In the end though, it’s not the service or the décor that makes a dining experience exceptional – it’s the food.
Final rating: 5/10 (I originally gave this a 6, but decided it was too high)