Attempting to take on the wealth of eateries on backpacker haunt Street 172, Marissa Carruthers and photographer Charles Fox sample the menu at Rustic Restaurant.

The popular stretch of Street 172 is packed full of places to eat. Each side of the colourful road boasts restaurants, bars and guesthouses, all clamouring for a slice of the backpacker buck with recipes rammed full of the tastes of home combined with a healthy helping of Cambodian cuisine.

Opening a new venture here is destined to be a tough gig, with many stalwart players dotting the block. However, this was a challenge that did not put off Tolic Portnoy and Slava Reutskiy, co-owners of one of newcomers, Rustic.

Having opened its doors four months ago, the new kid on the block seems to be drumming up business with its menu and monthly specials offering a blend of Western, Spanish and Khmer dishes. “Everyone comes for the burgers,” says Reutskiy, adding he has supplied a French bakery, which delivers fresh bread daily, with a secret recipe to keep the buns soft while failing to flop when packed full of meat, salad and sauces.

Opting for the Rustic gourmet burger ($6.50), the result was impressive both on the eyes and palate. Towering high, the thick 200g minced patty is wedged in between layers of crisp lettuce and sliced onions and tomatoes, all served in an equally thick bun on a wooden board alongside a neat stack of wedges and tomato salsa. Getting your mouth around it may be a mission but it’s well worth the battle, with the burger, which is nicely caramelised on the base, remaining firm on the outside and soft inside.

One of the specials was up next in the form of the chicken burger. Presented in similar style to the gourmet burger, this option was my favourite. Chicken burgers have a tendency to be hit or miss, and there’s an art to getting them right. Such lean meat is often hard to keep moist but it’s a trick Rustic has nailed.

Selecting from the tapas menu, the salmon bruschetta ($4) sees slices of fresh, crisp French baguette topped with sweet cherry tomatoes, shallots and capers, balanced out by the slices of imported smoked salmon. Taking a twist on the classic bruschetta, this is a worthy addition to any contemporary Mediterranean menu.

The softness of the garlic mushrooms ($3.50) makes this dish stand out, and contrasts perfectly with the crispy slices of baguette that accompanies it. Sautéed in garlic, chilli and olive oil, a generous helping of pepper leaves a mellow aftertaste that infuses well with the hit of garlic.

The broken egg chorizo ($4) satisfactorily rounded off our meal. There are few dishes that can cover the whole dusk until dawn spectrum, but this is one of them. The flavour of the chorizo has permeated perfectly into the soft chunks of potato, with the broken egg binding it together. Think English breakfast without the brown sauce.

With the menu spanning a range of other dishes, such as soup, beef lok lak, pizzas and paella, there’s every reason to return to Rustic for more.