Boasting a vast menu of tasty tapas dishes, Kaifun aims to offer a casual dining experience. Editor Marissa Carruthers and photographer Charles Fox put it to the test.

My first visit to Kaifun had left me unimpressed. I’d met up with a friend for lunch. We slathered over the menu of multiple offerings for a while, ordered at the counter and spent 45 minutes waiting for our food despite there being tumbleweed rolling through the joint. With our stomachs growling when we were annoyingly informed our order actually hadn’t been placed, we ditched the idea and went elsewhere.

However, this was during the laid back restaurant’s first week, and seasoned expats know all too well how vital the settling in period is to operations, so I decided to give it a second chance.

And I’m glad I did. Taking its inspiration from Singapore’s bustling hawker centres, which offer a selection of snacks at affordable prices, Kaifun replicates that typical tapas eating experience in a courtyard setting, offering barbecue, rice and noodles, pizza and taco dishes, all for $1.50.

Diners can eat inside or at the personally recommended outside shaded deck area, which skirts a colourful courtyard containing a clay pizza oven, a blue VW Kombie van transformed into a taco truck, and a street barbecue cart. Rice and noodle dishes are made near the inside counter.

The low price nudges towards the portions, which are small, but ordering a few to share with friends makes it fun. We opted for the chicken curry rice, pork belly and sour sausage from the barbecue, two tacos, vegetarian pizza, two French fries and a Cuban sandwich – for $13.50.

The chicken curry came out with a separate bowl of rice almost instantly. Cooked in true Khmer fashion – with the meat on the bone – the chicken remains tender and the broth has a bite.

Fresh from the metal barbecue, the pork belly was next, its enticing aroma having tantalised the tastebuds minutes before landing before us, thanks to the wafts from it being cooked. The result is tender meat, given its flavour by miso marinade.

The spicy sausage saw skewered fermented pork sausage stuffed with sticky rice brought to the table. While not to my personal taste, my companion gave them the thumbs up. The eatery’s signature dish in the form of tacos are served in a soft shell filled with juicy pulled pork, fresh peppers and veg, and a sauce that compliments the sweetness of the meat with a spicy kick.

The tapas-sized pizza is, again, a light bite. Served on a small wooden board, the base is thin and crispy and the topping consistency just right with a thin layer of tomato sauce topped with cheese, peppers, onions and chilli.

The Cuban sandwich presented an almost too-sweet soft baguette packed with well-seasoned pork that works well with the sharpness of the gherkin and the sour of the cheese. Satisfied, we rounded off our mini feast with an iced coffee. Served in the heat, there was no worries about it becoming diluted with melted ice cubes as they are made from the drink. A nice surprise.

Pitting itself as a fun and funky eatery, Kaifun and its cheap and cheerful menu is the perfect place to laze away lunch with friends. 

25 Street 334, Phnom Penh
Tel: 023 900 545
Open daily from 12.30pm to 9pm