We ate at one of the big, lavishly decorated restaurants near MacArthur Park. It had vast murals of Angkor Wat, a karaoke stage, great sound equipment and space for an epic wedding feast. It also had indifferent cooks, befuddled wait staff and a distracted manager (but this was only one visit, so I'm not naming the restaurant).
Overall, it was a disappointment for my wife, who was expecting a taste sensation straight out of Phnom Penh. But on the way out, we asked the waitress where she liked to eat.
|It says "riverside" in Khmer, too.|
It's a phenomenon that economist Tyler Cowen examines in his book "An Economist Gets Lunch." Restaurants that invest in "nice" atmosphere are selling just that: a venue for impressing people. The rundown place off the main street has to compete on taste and price — things your average Cambodian-American very much cares about when no one is getting married.