Steak is, for many, a luxury, especially in a city like Phnom Penh, where upmarket restaurants invariably use beef and ingredients imported from abroad.
Catering to the needs of those with shallow pockets, Two Cows Steakhouse promises excellent meat dishes that won’t break the bank.
The restaurant was founded by Traing Muyly, a former bank clerk who quit her job to become a housewife. Two years ago, hoping to increase her income, she opened Two Cows Steakhouse at Eden Garden, an entertainment and dining centre in Phnom Penh.
With zero experience in the restaurant business except for being a foodie, Muyly forged ahead with the venture with the support of her family.
“I was just an office woman leaving my kids at home with their grandmother. After she fell and could no longer look after the children, I had to stop working and became a housewife,” Muyly tells The Post inside her minimalist-decorated restaurant.
“Then one day, my husband had an idea: ‘Let’s open a steakhouse.’ We have always loved having steak at different restaurants in town, so it made sense. My elder brother also became a partner, so it became a family business.”
Muyly’s elder brother, who had studied culinary arts in Thailand and Vietnam, crafted the menu.
“We were fortunate to have him as he took care of the kitchen and developed the menu. Of course, my husband and I helped him by trying every dish and giving feedback. He would adjust every dish until we all agreed it was good enough for our restaurant.”
Two Cows cuts out the options traditionally found in steakhouses (rib eye, strip loin, sirloin or tenderloin), and offers only variations of steak.
After all, they reasoned, locals don’t care about beef cuts as long as the meat is bright red and marbled. Customers, of course, get to choose if they want the meat rare, well done, or anything in between.
The star of the menu is the American beef steak with option of five sauces – Two Cows (the house sauce), traditional, pepper, cheese and spicy.
The 100g version will set you back $5.90 while the 150g one costs $6.90. Considering the dish comes with a fried egg, corn, french fries, salad and a Cambodian baguette, these are surprisingly reasonable prices.
“American beef steak is very popular. We import the beef but use local ingredients for cooking it to perfection,” Muyly says.
Most customers like their meat cooked medium, but locals, particularly women, generally prefer their steaks well done because they feel queasy about eating undercooked meat, she points out.
The meat options also include chicken steak and sweet chicken wings with salad (both $3.90).
The menu has a selection of pasta dishes, ranging from $3.90 to $4.30. For a similar price, customers can try their take on local dishes, like beef lok lak.
There is also a range of Asean dishes to choose from – fried rice with kimchi ($3.90), traditional spicy noodles ($3.90), tom yum spicy noodles ($3.90), dumpling noodles or dumpling soup ($3.50), char siu with steamed rice ($3.50) or tofu with rice ($4.90).
In the way of beverages, customers can have soft drinks and coffee drinks, including frappes.
“Younger customers usually order spaghetti and chicken steak but they also like our Asian dishes like Korean noodles with American beef,” says Muyly.
The ability to satisfy cravings for both eastern and western flavours has been key in the success of the business, says Muyly, pointing out that they have recently opened a second outlet in Tuol Tompoung.
But perhaps even more crucial have been their low prices. “‘Steak for everyone’ is our motto. This idea that my husband came up has been very important to our success,” she says.
“In the beginning, we considered raising our prices to increase our profit margin, but my husband objected. He believed local people wouldn’t come to eat steak if the prices were too high. He believes everyone deserves to afford steak, particularly locals.
“Choosing to offer low prices did not come at the expense of quality, she asserts. All the meat offered at Two Cows comes straight from the US.
“We tried other meats but realised that nothing quite compares to the taste of American steak. We tried other types of meat that our friends recommended. They were cheaper, but they didn’t taste the same.
“We decided to stick with high-quality meat even though that meant we would make a smaller profit,” she says.
To further enrich her menu, Muyly is now working on salmon dishes, which she believes will prove popular among his Cambodian clientele. She is also planning to add a breakfast menu.
Two Cows Steakhouse opens from 11am to 10pm. The original Two Cows Steakhouse is located in Eden Garden in Srah Chak. The new outlet can be found on Street 155 in Tuol Tompoung.
For more information, call 092 90 3333 and 016 22 1001.