Good Dream restaurant offers high-quality steaks and perfect beer snacks for a quintessential Khmer eating experience, all at a bargain. Writing by Joanna Mayhew. Photography by Charles Fox.
While there are few reasons to ever head to the capital’s far south end, Good Dream should be added to the list of exceptions. Though a bit hard to locate – hidden among other nondescript storefronts, a stone’s throw from busy Monivong Boulevard – the eatery is well worth the effort to track down.
Open since 2003, the Khmer restaurant has gradually earned a cult following among expats. While on the surface it appears like any run-of-the-mill beer garden, Good Dream has a secret weapon: the $6 steak.
Served on a wooden cutting board, the thick cut of local steak is topped with a mound of sweet butter, and speared with a knife and fork. The tender meat was cooked an even medium-rare, and infused throughout with large garlic cloves. While the butter was overly sweet on its own, it melds well with the meat.
The steak can either be paired with pepper and lime sauce, tuk marike, or liquid prahok, which – if you can get past the off-putting creamy pink colour – adds a complementary sour taste to the mix. The dish is accompanied by a plateful of sliced green bananas, aromatic herbs, lemongrass, cucumbers and carrots – perhaps to make you feel a bit better about consuming the large portion of meat.
While steak is the main draw, the outlet’s other beef offerings are worth sampling. The dried beef, presented in long strips, is served hot. The meat is rubbed with red chillies, dried, marinated and cooked, and the heat – both in spice and temperature – provides a nice touch to the flavourful dish. The beef, though chewy, is not overly tough, and – as with most things on Good Dream’s menu – pairs perfectly with a cold Anchor.
The restaurant also cooks up standard Cambodian fare, such as seafood fried rice ($3), sweet and sour pork ribs ($3.50) and fried chicken with ginger ($3.75). And the more adventurous can sample everything from cow penis soup ($6.25) and fried spicy frogs ($3.75) to innards with fish paste ($3.75) and deep boiled oysters ($2.50). All dishes come with the standard accoutrements for mixing up Cambodian sauces: red chillies, sliced limes, crushed peppers and black pepper.
Despite its notable culinary exceptions, Good Dream still gives the fulfilment of being an entirely local eating experience that has all the charming makings – minus the seediness – of a typical beer garden: smudged menus, several lazing dogs, napkin holders, and a laissez-faire approach towards what to do with your rubbish. The unassuming open-air space, located just north of Rock Karaoke, is lined with potted plants and filled out with small whirring fans, red plastic chairs, folding faux wood tables, beer advertisements and a forlorn television.
With friendly staff and a menu (mostly) translated to English, the eatery remains accessible to those seeking a more authentic night out in Phnom Penh. And with prices steadily rising in Western eateries, a $6 steak remains tough to beat.