Romdeng is the sister restaurant to the Friends Cafe and both restaurants run by Mith Samlanh a charity set up to teach street kids new skills, restore their self esteem and help them back into mainstream society. Definitely laudable ambitions and something I am keen to support, but I have a fear of do goofing charity restaurants as they may have great social ambition but they usually have crap food.
Well Romdeng is a great exception. The food is superb. The setting is superb and the service is superb.
It's located in an old colonial house with lots of tables in the courtyard, it's very full and a lot larger than I had imagined, so we are glad we booked. The menu has a interesting specials page, and then a couple of sections of starters, fish, meats, vegetable and then desserts. The first challenge is the sheer number of dishes, it's fair to say everyone of them sounded great, luckily some are served in half portions so we can order a wider range.
Firs two salads, a good fresh banana blossom salad starts things off really well, next a noodle salad dressed with a coconut vinaigrette which is interesting. And if those are both half portions we are now worried we have massively over ordered! Next some rolled pork stuffed with sweet coconut, this was really nice with the tender batons of coconut really working well with the BBQ'd pork - a great snack dish. The special of grilled Mekong river fish is simple yet very flavorful, but the best dish is the Khmer Muslim Beef Curry, the beef melts as it should, but the sauce is wider fully spicy with layers and layers of flavour. It really is a perfect dish. We finish with some flaked rice, sesame banana balls which are sweet sticky, and gooey - just like they should be.
The servers are wear t-shirts designating them as students or teachers and all are carefully supervised. Some are more nervous than others but they all do a great job. At the end of the meal I look into the kitchen to say thanks for a great meal, the big beaming smiles from the cooks says it all.
Total cost was a little over $40 for two which for me is a real bargain given the quality of the food, the portion size and of course the good works. If it was open today (Sunday) we would head straight back for another dinner - that is how good it was.
They have other restaurants (different names) in Siam Reap and Vientiane so check out their website if in Cambodia or Laos and support this very worthy cause - your stomach will thank you.