The scene: Food-crazed Vancouver has long been a melting pot of Pacific Rim cuisine, so it is fitting that the most popular eatery on the main street in the city’s Chinatown is not Chinese at all, but rather a mix of Cambodian and Vietnamese. Since 1985, Phnom Penh Restaurant has been a very popular local favorite, with lines out the door much of the time, and so many local magazine, newspaper and readers’ choice awards that the framed certificates overflow the walls of a small entry area where guests closest to being seated can wait.
The restaurant is one big deep room, with a bar at the back for cocktails, and the space and the walls are decorated with Cambodian, Vietnamese and other Pacific Rim art and souvenirs. The room is filled with a mix of regular two and four-person tables and large round party tables with rotating Lazy Susans in the center. That makes sense because Phnom Penh is very popular for parties, family outings and all sorts of group celebrations. For birthdays they flicker the lights and the staff sings, which can happen several times a day.
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It’s never slow but dinner is the busiest time, though lunch can see lines onto the sidewalk. If you have flexibility, mid-day is the best time to sneak in — many locals make it a point to shoot for late lunch from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., when the restaurant is mostly full but not likely to have much of a wait. There is a tremendous takeout service available, and the restaurant is open until 10 p.m., which is fairly…