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A huge wall-sized photo of Cambodian religious icons.
The interior of Sophon.
Suzi Pratt

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Inside Sophon, One of the Year’s Most Anticipated New Restaurants

Karuna Long is finally preparing to open his ambitious Cambodian restaurant

Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

Sophon is finally open! Sort of!

The Cambodian restaurant on Phinney Ridge is one of the most anticipated openings of 2024. When Eater Seattle surveyed a panel of food writers and other insiders at the end of last year, two of them said Sophon was the restaurant they were most excited about. “I am fucking quaking with excitement,” is how Meg van Huygen put it.

Sophon is the brainchild of Karuna Long, who also owns the nearby cocktail bar Oliver’s Twist. During the onset of the COVID pandemic, Long began cooking versions of the Cambodian food of his childhood (his parents immigrated from Cambodia). Customers loved it, but a cramped kitchen limited Long’s ambition. Cue a search for a new space, a process that took years. Now Sophon is here, albeit in a limited, soft-opening form.

A sign on a storefront that says “Sophon.” Suzi Pratt
A table in the corner of a restaurant with intricate woven wall decorations. Suzi Pratt
A lamp hanging next to a shelf full of plants and framed photographs. Suzi Pratt
A wall of framed family photos. Suzi Pratt

Some of Karuna Long’s family photos at Sophon.

Long’s goal is to create a space for Khmer cuisine and culture in a city where that’s a rarity — the only other Cambodian restaurants in Seattle are Angkor Wok and Phnom Penh Noodle House. Sophon’s interior is punctuated with plants, woven wall decorations, and photos of Long’s family. The most striking detail is a massive photo of the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom, which stretches across an entire wall.

If you’ve eaten at Oliver’s Twist you’ll be relieved to know that the kha sach chrouk — pork belly braised in coconut milk — has made it over to Sophon. Though that’s a highlight, much of the menu is vegan or vegetarian, including a cauliflower steak served with chili oil and Thai basil aioli as well as a mushroom “Khmeraage” (like karaage, get it?) that is so satisfying to bite into and so packed with umami flavor that it should be served to anyone who claims not to like mushrooms.

A charred cauliflower steak on a bed of green sauce.
Cauliflower steak.
Jeff Bana
Deep-fried mushrooms topped with greens.
Mushroom Khmeraage at Sophon.
Jeff Bana

About half of the space is taken up by the long bar; unsurprisingly given Long’s cocktail bar background, Sophon has an impressive cocktail list that leans on Khmer flavors and ingredients, like fish. sauce. The drink everyone is going to want to order, and which is available only at the bar, is called Mekong: a rum blend with lime, coconut cream, mango, and orgeat, served in a coconut cream can. (All the drinks are the work of beverage Dakota Etley, formerly of Oliver’s Twist.)

A bar.
The bar at Sophon.
Suzi Pratt
A cocktail served in a coconut cream can.
The Mekong at Sophon.
Suzi Pratt

Right now, Sophon is open from 5 to 9 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday and from 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. By mid-March, when it’s fully open, Long expects the hours to expand to 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. (The bar will stay open later.) He’s also hoping to expand the menu and maybe even brunch. The space may be used for pop-ups on Sundays too. Oliver’s Twist, meanwhile, is going to shrink its food menu down to the basics as Sophon comes online, returning to its cocktail bar roots while Sophon blossoms.

Sophon is located at 7314 Greenwood Avenue on Phinney Ridge.