With vegetarian options growing in the capital, Ellie Dyer tests out the latest offering. Photography by Conor Wall.
Tucked in a secluded courtyard off bustling Street 19, The Treez Recipe is the latest restaurant to tap into Phnom Penh’s blossoming vegetarian scene.
With staff wearing shirts emblazoned with the slogan “save nature future” and lush greenery surrounding the eatery’s compact outdoor space, it’s clear that this restaurant is catering for the eco-crowd.
The menu is packed full of vegetable-based dishes from around the world, including curries, salads, spaghetti and congee. Regional favourites Thai green curry and Cambodian amok sit alongside more mysterious offerings, such as Buddha mixed vegetable delight.
Accompanied by chilled out music and set in quiet haven away from the crowds, the prompt, friendly service meant it was so far, so good. Unfortunately for me, the meal went downhill from there. The food could be, at best, described as a mixed bag.
The waitress-recommended Cantonese braised crispy noodles (US$3) were served in a rich broth and topped with a medley of braised vegetables. Satisfyingly crispy with the woody mushrooms complementing the aromatic soup, the noodles were a winner and by far the best dish of our order.
Next came an eye-wateringly bitter Nyonya Portuguese curry (US$4 with brown rice) — a strange, spiced dish that included pieces of (what I assumed to be) vegetarian ham, cucumber, carrot and tofu. With a bitter red sauce coating the vegetable chunks, the dish looked unappetising. Though countered to a certain extent by well-cooked brown rice, the curry’s sour tang was unpleasant to the palate and very acidic. Being no expert on Nyonya or Portuguese cuisine, I can’t guarantee that the dish wasn’t served in its perfect form, but regardless a half-full plate was returned to the kitchen.
Japanese fruit hand rolls (US$3) also missed the mark. Delicious crisp apple batons, lettuce leaves and juicy raisins — all delicately wrapped in rice paper — were overpowered by some pungent mint. The dish looked beautiful but the conflicting flavours again meant it was not up to the mark.
Perhaps the culinary rollercoaster ride at The Treez Recipe was saved by our final dish, Banana and Walnut Pancake (US$3). Four thick, sweet and doughy pancakes containing caramelised banana accompanied with lashings of honey provided a welcome respite for our taste buds. The pancakes were indulgent and comforting and almost, but not quite, made me forget the previous disappointments.
The Treez has nearly got it right. The menu is well structured and diverse, while the ambiance is just right for a lunchtime or evening crowd craving a simple yet refined eatery. If only it could weed out the mistakes, the restaurant could grow into something great.