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A Culinary Adventure at Chanrey Tree.

Welcome to Chanrey Restaurant in Siem Reap

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

July 2020.

Sharing birthdays with your other half is fun! Back in the summer of 2020 Sladja and I had our first double birthday celebrations, mine on the 8th, hers on the 9th. Among various other treats to ourselves, we decided that each of us could choose a restaurant for our respective birthday dinners. Settling on where to go was no easy task, as anyone who’s read our guide on Where to Eat and Drink in Siem Reap knows well.

Happy Birthday Leighton and Sladja

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Finally, I opted for the excellent (already published) Georges Restaurant and Distillery. For Sladja’s big night, she wanted us to step outside our comfort zone. Instead of going back to an old favourite, we opted to try what is arguably Siem Reap’s fanciest Khmer restaurant. With the promise of “traditional, home-style Khmer cuisine served in a lush, contemporary setting”, we got dressed up and headed out for dinner at Chanrey Tree.

An evening at Chanrey Tree Restaurant in Siem Reap

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Facing the serene, green waters of The Siem Reap River on Pokambor Avenue, Chanrey Tree certainly enjoys an idyllic setting. On arrival a hostess greeted us at the entrance gate, before leading us through a lush jungle garden of plants, flowers, sculptures and flourishes of Khmer art.

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

The jungle garden at Chanrey Tree Restaurant

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

As lovely as the garden was, we ultimately settled on a table inside the restored wooden Khmer house. Here there was even more art and lilting local music. Not to mention air con and a distinct lack of mosquitoes.

Flicking through our menus that evening, there was no doubt that Chanrey Tree lives up to its fancy reputation. They do plenty of wine, rosé, champagne and cocktails, as well as a full range of spirits and liquors. All with fancy prices to match. We simply went for some fresh juices, Sladja an icy passion fruit, mine a refreshing watermelon and lime.

Fresh juices at Chanrey Tree Restaurant

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

As a birthday dinner, we wanted the whole shebang, complete with starters. Admittedly, we’d never seen Khmer dishes like these. Hence we were a bit clueless as to what would be a good combination. In this regard, we could have done with some guidance from our server. He was friendly enough, but not particularly forthcoming, or indeed responsive. So we just followed our instincts and hoped for the best.

Bok Svay Chicken Salad – បុកមាន់ជាមួយស្វាយខ្ចី.

Bok Svay Chicken Salad Cambodian cuisine

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Our first starter was a salad with free range Khmer chicken marinated in honey, rice brandy and jackfruit. All pounded together and mixed with green mango. Served with a side bowl of banana stem, basil and herbs salad. We found it to be tasty, but very intense. So much so that we were actually unable to finish what was a very modest portion.

Crispy Sticky Rice with ‘Natang’ Sauce បាយក្តាំងស្រួយជាមួយទឹកណាតាំង.

Crispy Sticky Rice with Natang Sauce Cambodian cuisine

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Our second starter was much more successful! The shrimp and minced pork comes in a salty soup of coconut milk and peanuts. The so-called sticky rice is actually a number of crunchy crackers, topped with fried vegetable tempura. We liked it, although I should point out that again the dish is really salty and rich in flavour. Not, I imagine, everyone’s cup of tea.

Tonle Sap Steamed Fish – ត្រីរ៉ស់ចំហុយក្រូចឆ្មារ.

Tonle Sap Steamed Fish Cambodian cuisine

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Our first main dish was definitely our favourite of the evening. Fresh from Tonle Sap lake, the fish was both juicy and tender. Moreover, the lime dressing proved an excellent accessory, along with grated garlic, shallots, basil, spring onion and cashew nuts. It was also the evening’s most understated dish in terms of intensity.

Pork Delicacy – ឆាប្រហុកគ្រឿងជាមួយសាច់ជ្រូក.

Pork soup and vegetables at Chanrey Tree Restaurant

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Hot on the heels of our favourite dish came the biggest disappointment of the evening. Essentially, this creamy pork soup was a larger version of what we’d had as a starter, with a few substituted ingredients.

I would have expected our waiter to give us a heads up about this and perhaps steer us towards a better choice. Furthermore, the accompanying vegetables were pretty bland. As a side note, we ordered way too much food as a whole, thus we could have actually done without this fourth dish altogether.

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Birthday dessert at Chanrey Tree Restaurant in Siem Reap

A birthday surprise.

However, any grumblings quickly disintegrated when the team treated Sladja to a complimentary birthday dessert and bouquet of flowers! At the beginning of the meal I had cooly let it slip that we had a birthday girl in the house. We knew something was coming when a woman arrived at our table to indiscreetly ask me how to spell Sladja’s name. Yup, right in front of Sladja, who politely pretended the whole thing wasn’t happening.

Sweet sticky rice with bean sauce Chanrey Tree Restaurant

Happy Birthday Sladja!

The staff even came together to sing Happy Birthday as they served her the dessert. It was a curious creation, a compact hillock of sweet sticky rice decorated with mango and coconut shavings. Very fresh, and well complimented by the little pot of bean sauce. A lovely end to the evening!

Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap.

An evening at Chanrey Tree Restaurant in Siem Reap

A lovely evening.

Overall, we enjoyed our time at Chanrey Tree. I’d say this is definitely a When in Rome kinda deal. Not all the dishes worked for us, but we really enjoyed those that did. The restaurant itself has been beautifully crafted and I’d say the staff gave their best that evening despite a few shortcomings.

Update: December 2022 Happily, we are able to file Chanrey Tree in the drawer marked survived in relation to the pandemic. If you’re in Siem Reap and up for a culinary adventure, do pay them a visit. To find out more, check out their website, which includes full menus.

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

For more on Siem Reap’s excellent cafe, restaurant and bar scene, check out my detailed guide on Where to Eat and Drink Siem Reap.

You can also read my exhaustive overview of What to See and Do in Siem Reap.

Looking for a roof over your head? Check out my articles on Where to Stay in Siem Reap.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Cherryl

    The food looks lovely, very artistically presented 😊✨

    November 27, 2022 - 4:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you for reading and commenting Cherryl. While the food didn’t bowl us over, we certainly don’t regret trying this traditional Cambodian cuisine.

      November 27, 2022 - 5:04 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    A shame that not all the courses weren’t up to expectations and the servers didn’t offer any culinary guidance. Sladja’s birthday dessert looked lovely and it’s such a nice photo of you both together too. Hope your Georgia residence is continuing well.

    November 27, 2022 - 5:38 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Marion, thanks for checking out our culinary adventure at Chanrey Tree Restaurant. The dessert was a lovely touch on the night and helped swing our moods back in the right direction. Georgia is good thanks, we are in the capital now where I think we’ll stay until mid-late January. Hope you are easing into winter ok and that the costs of managing this period aren’t too crippling!

      November 27, 2022 - 6:09 pm Reply
      • Little Miss Traveller

        Tbilisi sounds interesting. I really should have visited whilst my friend was working at the embassy. Maybe one day! In Poland at the moment, cold but fun!

        November 27, 2022 - 6:43 pm
  • Monkey's Tale

    So is it fun to almost share birthdays or do you feel like neither gets a real celebration?

    November 27, 2022 - 5:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Maggie, we love having our birthdays back-to-back. We always make sure that we treat ourselves over the two days. We’ll always have fond memories of Chanrey Tree, it being our first double birthday celebration. Hope you are well and still enjoying South America.

      November 27, 2022 - 6:10 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    It is a better celebration when the servers provide guidance or even ask questions about your tastes. For all its opulence, this place failed to deliver that. But, the fact they were paying attention when you mentioned there was a birthday girl in the house does add points, even for the surprise/no surprise dessert. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Allan

    November 27, 2022 - 5:52 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right Allan, it wasn’t the best birthday dinner by a long shot. But somehow we left feeling philosophical about it all. Sometimes, when you take a culinary risk, it can go like this. The dessert did a lot to end things on a high.

      November 27, 2022 - 6:12 pm Reply
  • Memo

    I was pleased to see you dressed up for your night out. I want to try that crispy sticky rice with the vegetable tempura. Appreciated the translations in case I want to order take out. Funny story about spelling Sladja’s name. Of course, she was such a good sport about it.

    November 27, 2022 - 6:04 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think if we had just gone for a dish each, the sticky rice and the fish, we’d have been much happier. Yeah, we had to chuckle at the blatant spoiling of the “surprise”. Would have been easy to just pull me to one side and ask about the spelling. Oh well, all part of the fun. Thanks for reading about our dinner at Chanrey Tree Restaurant.

      November 27, 2022 - 8:23 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    The restaurant and food look amazing, though having an honest review is what every restaurant patron needs. I believe you accomplished the review beautifully and kindly. It was super sweet of them to honor Sladja’s birthday with a dessert and flowers. She looks so beautiful and happy!

    November 27, 2022 - 7:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Aw thanks, Kellye. You know, I just couldn’t pretend it was all peachy. At the end of the day I think you can forgive a lot when you see the people are trying and that they have good hearts. I doubt I would ever try these kinds of traditional Khmer dishes again, but I’m glad we took the plunge that night.

      November 27, 2022 - 8:28 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    It is great that your birthdays are so close. It would be impossible to forget, even for me. The garden and artwork set the stage for a delightful SE Asian evening. Too bad some of the dishes were let downs, but looks like that didn’t dampen the celebration.

    November 27, 2022 - 8:57 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey John, are you a serial birthday forgetter? Yes, we remained in fine spirits that night despite the evening not quite turning out as we’d hoped. Thanks for checking out this piece on Chanrey Tree Restaurant.

      November 27, 2022 - 11:07 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Though not all dishes were to your taste (I’m not a big fan of salty dishes nor bland veggies) … but I must admit, it looks so well presented! I imagine I would have liked the fish dish too (and your juice ‘cocktails’ looks very refreshing). What a nice gesture from the restaurant to celebrate Sladja’s birthday with flowers (and of course yet another lovely looking dessert). Like you said, when in Siem Reap, you do (eat) what the locals enjoy. Oh, and a lovely photo of the two of you at the end!

    November 28, 2022 - 12:09 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading about our culinary adventure at Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Corna. In the end their determination to make it a special experience for Sladja saved the day and soon made us forget about the disappointments of the evening.

      November 28, 2022 - 11:04 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    How wonderful that you and Sladja’s birthdays are so close together! Chanrey Tree looks like the perfect place for a celebratory meal, whether for birthdays, weddings, or even date nights. Definitely something I could imagine taking my partner to…glad it was a fun night!

    November 28, 2022 - 3:23 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Rebecca. We’ll always remember this one, as our first joint birthday celebrations. Cheers for reading about Chanrey Tree Restaurant.

      November 28, 2022 - 11:09 am Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    What a fabulous birthday meal!! It always makes you feel extra special when restaurants go the extra mile to help you celebrate. You have no excuse to ever forget the other’s birthday since they are back to back haha

    November 28, 2022 - 3:25 am Reply
    • Leighton

      The bit at the end was fabulous for sure. The food itself… not so much. We took it on the chin, seeing as we’d had so many culinary victories during our seven months in Siem Reap. Thanks for your comment, Lyssy.

      November 28, 2022 - 11:12 am Reply
  • qprgary

    Some places do set the bar high with prices to match but don’t always deliver on every dish as my bank account can confirm. Great that you still had a goodnight out.

    November 28, 2022 - 12:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      This was indeed pricy, by Cambodian standards at least. Thanks for stopping by, Gary.

      November 28, 2022 - 12:33 pm Reply
  • Stan

    Ah you win some you lose some. a bit of training perhaps needed in dealing with their western customers. luckily their desire to do something special for sladja’s birthday won you over in the end.

    November 28, 2022 - 3:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Very much so, Stan. Thanks for taking a look at our visit to Chanrey Tree Restaurant.

      November 28, 2022 - 3:22 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    The food and atmosphere look amazing; too bad the waiter wasn’t more helpful. But it looks like Sladja had a lovely birthday dinner.

    November 28, 2022 - 5:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      As slightly disappointing meals go, it really wasn’t all that bad ha ha. Thanks for reading about Chanrey Tree Restaurant, Tricia.

      November 28, 2022 - 7:10 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    That has to be so fun to have birthdays together! :)Though it seems the dishes were a little hit and miss, the birthday celebrating part was really special. I always hate that moment when I can’t read the menu and so point to what I hope will be good only to find it isn’t.

    November 28, 2022 - 8:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, I’ve been there Meg. Sometimes it leads to glorious triumphs. Other times, as you say, total disaster. In this case they did provide English details but poorly translated. “sticky rice” being salty crackers a case in point. Thanks for joining us at Chanrey Tree Restaurant!

      November 28, 2022 - 8:08 pm Reply
  • Nieves Sanz

    I love the look of this place. The food is very nicely presented, shame about the staff not being very intuitive. Lovely gesture though, the birthday surprise for your wife. That must be a very special birthday memory.

    November 28, 2022 - 8:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Nieves, it’s great to have you back! We don’t have any regrets about going to Chanrey Tree, despite it not working out quite as we’d hoped. We try to make the most of our double birthday days, 2023 will be our fourth set of celebrations 🙂

      November 28, 2022 - 9:04 pm Reply

    This is probably a story which many travellers have experienced to a degree, in that having got used to great local cuisine, the upmarket and more expensive option is not the step up from normal which we had hoped for. There’s probably a moral in there somewhere!

    November 28, 2022 - 11:09 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, I’d go along with that. While this was hardly a disaster, Chanrey Tree did stand out as being one of very few places that left us a bit flat during our seven months in Siem Reap.

      November 28, 2022 - 11:15 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    I love how there’s so much greenery outside the restaurant. But hey, I’d give that up to escape from the mosquitoes too! That sounds like some birthday dinner. I love how you guys went all out by ordering the works. What a lovely surprise of dessert and flowers afterwards. It’s too bad that your server wasn’t very helpful though.

    November 29, 2022 - 3:34 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey guys, thanks for catching up. This series feels like it’s been going on forever, but hey, just one more to go. Yes, we did go all-out, which sometimes really pays off. It didn’t this time, but no regrets.

      November 29, 2022 - 5:11 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    This looks like such a beautiful spot for celebrations, and it is sweet that you both have such close birthdays as well! The food looks awesome, and it is good to hear the place made it out of the Covid times.

    December 1, 2022 - 12:09 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for stopping by Allie.

      December 1, 2022 - 1:06 am Reply

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