Phnom Penh’s growing “health foods” scene has another entrant, its first entirely vegan restaurant and another wholesome outpost from Emma Fountain, the former owner of ARTillery and current head of Backyard Café. After opening in Siem Reap six months ago, Vibe brings a lush and spacious offering to healthy living in Phnom Penh.
A United Kingdom native, the 34-year-old nutritionist and raw food chef came to Cambodia in 2010 to work for Friends International before setting up her cafes. While her other restaurants have vegan options, Vibe is the first in the city to use no animal products whatsoever.
“I have noticed that not so many people here are eating healthy food, while also there is a lot of meat in their meals,” Emma says. “So I want to give the people a place where they could come for healthy dishes.”
Like the first one in the land of Angkor Wat, Vibe’s Phnom Penh branch focuses on serving what Fountain calls “clean” food.
“Clean food, which we have on our menu here, is cooked with everything grown from the ground without meat, egg, milk or cheese,” Fountain says. “We do not fry the food or use sugar. Everything is separated and you can taste every element in a natural form.”
Vibe has an agreement with local organic farms to purchase their vegetables, but they still have to import some ingredients (for example, acai) from countries like Thailand and the United States.
The most popular breakfast option on Vibe’s menu is the gluten-free Amazonian Acai Bowl ($5.5), a thick, purple smoothie made with organic acai, blueberry, avocado and banana, served in a coconut shell, and topped with heart-shaped dragon fruit, granola, goji berry, chai seed and coconut shards.
Its lunch counterpart is the Ritual Bowl ($7), which consists of numerous mostly raw components, such as GMO-free tempeh, spinach, organic quinoa and steamed brown rice with salad. It is topped with almonds, fermented pickled gingers and beetroot hummus. Vibe also offers healthy drinks, like the Summer Night Cooler ($3), a glass of cold tonic mixed with pressed apple and infused rosemary and ginger.
Vibe gives off an earthy vibe to match the menu, with comfortable wooden and rattan furniture and tropical plants. Its unique and lush “rooftop jungle” is a nice open-air escape for those who can survive without an air conditioner.
While the menu is clearly targeting ex-pats, Fountain is hoping for more locals to come by.
“Cambodian people may not be familiar with vegan dishes, but we want to prove to them that the dishes without animal products can also be tasty, and very nutritious too,” she says.
Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Emma Fountain is the owner of ARTillery. She is the former owner. Brittany Sims is the current owner.