Sugar Palm

Someone recommended to me that Sugar Palm had the best fish amok in town; but sadly they’re completely wrong. Sugar Palm’s menu describes itself as Thai-Khmer fusion and the combination of having the word “fusion” on the menu and being on the trendy end of Street 240 should have rung the culinary alarm bell. I shared the fish amok($6) and a random Khmer pork curry ($5), steamed rice and a few Anchors($1.50 per can).

As a positive, the amok has cured my desire for salt for the next month. It was well presented in a carved coconut shell bowl but at $6, you’d hope that it would be a crazy taste sensation as well. It had just started to form the beautiful mousseline consistency that amok should, but it wasn’t quite there by the time it arrived on our table.

The curry wasn’t too bad, but then again, it’s fairly rare that you receive a terminally bad Khmer-style curry anywhere in Phnom Penh. Being served a single, well-formed tablespoon of rice on a large plate annoys me, but the staff were extremely forthcoming in serving more and were generally attentive.

Location: Street 240, near the corner of Street 19.

Why Is Everybody Going to Cambodia?

So asks Matt Gross in the New York Times this week, after one hell of an expensive junket in Siem Reap. He might have enjoyed listening to Morcheeba on the complementary iPod Mini in his airport transfer Lexus, but he wasn’t all too keen on the food:

While Cambodian food looks a bit like that of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam – curries and stews, noodle dishes and lots of rice – it’s rarely as tasty.

He does give thumbs up to his friend Paul Hutt at Meric, Khmer Kitchen, Dead Fish Tower, and Abacus.

Brunch at Gasolina

If the expat bar Elsewhere was a phenomenological question rather than a bar, the answer from Phnom Penh’s francophone community would be Gasolina. The recently opened Latin-flavoured bar fills the niche for an expat beer garden not specifically targeted at Australian Embassy staff. Proprietor, Jean-Phillippe is Phnom Penh’s most attractive bar owner and he has managed to open a beer garden that rivals even his own capacious beauty.

Commitment to a cause rates highly in my books, especially when that cause is a late breakfast that involves bacon. Despite being a bar in the evenings, Gasolina is wholly committed to brunch; so much so that it only serves three choices of set breakfast on Saturday and Sunday from 10am. Of the three sets, I had the Alegria Loca ($5.00) which entailed three courses: bacon and eggs, a garden salad with olives, and a “tartine of chorizo” (pictured), with a fresh pineapple juice and choice of coffee, tea or chocolate. I can quite happily dwell over brunch for a good two hours, and this is a brunch over which to dwell. Rather than all arriving in a single hit, the courses are well paced.

If there was a prize for Indochina’s best edible emulsion, Gasolina’s garlicky vinaigrette would win hands down. It came on the side with the garden salad and had I been of coarser stock, I probably would have drank it straight, eaten the olives from the salad, and left the rest of the greenery behind. Calling thin slices of chorizo and cheap cheese on toast a “tartine” is a little far-fetched, but I’m a sucker for decent smallgoods, so the sausage slices made my morning a happier place.

I’m blindly assuming that the bar is named after the Daddy Yankee reggaeton hit rather than processed petroleum. Thankfully, the song was absent from the morning’s music which swerved from solid salsa to the Blue Note back catalogue.

Location: Street 57, just south of St.370; within smelling distance of BKK Market.

Steve, the quality drops

Only the most jaded expat would name their water product Steve and place
such an outrageously poor pun on the bottle. I fail to believe that this a translation error. This is an act of unadulerated malice against some poor
reverse osmosis facility in Toul Kork.

Location: From a fruit juice/soda seller in Russian Market.
I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

Addendum (27/01/2005): I almost ran into a Steve Water delivery van on my motorbike today; so moved I was with my own incredulity. Obviously, it has a wider distribution than I first thought.

Meatporn to go on st 432

Dirty roadside meatporn

At about 5:00pm every day, the intersection of street 432 and 163 jams up with both traffic and the smell of barbecuing flesh. This stand does chickens: whole, pieces, heads, feet, and heart or liver kebabs; a few fatty barbecue cuts of pork; and whole quail thrown in for good measure. All grilled over the hot coals and dished up steaming hot into a polystyrene clamshell.

Taste the secret.

I wasn’t in the mood for fowl, so I went for a short rack of pork ribs, beautifully caramelised; served with a take-away pack of limes, salt, pepper, weak chili sauce, Vietnamese coriander (chee krassang tomhom(?)) and a stubby cucumber (3000r). There’s not even the vainest attempt at having seats: so get your meat and try and negotiate a path through the traffic home before your food congeals.

Location: Corner of street 432 and 163, close to Russian Market. You’ll see the smoke signal from about 3pm weekdays and keeps charring until the flesh is sold.

Sihanoukville is “the next Goa”

So says Alexander Lobrano from International Herald Tribune after his week at Sokha Resort’s private beach, as reprinted in today’s Cambodia Daily. What the Daily edited out of the original article was what I’m here for: the food. Before Alex’s review was trimmed for the Daily’s A4 format, he said:

Among the best bites in Sihanoukville, Chez Claude (Kam Pegn hill, Sihanoukville, tel. 855-12-824-870, entrees $5-$14) has superb views of the Gulf of Thailand from its perch on a hillside between the Sokha Beach and the Independence Hotels, and the kitchen prepares an impeccably fresh local catch of the day with a French touch.

La Paillote is generally considered the best restaurant in town, with excellent home-style French and Cambodian cooking served in an open-air garden setting (Weather Station Hill, tel. 855-12-633247, entrees $5-$11).

Downtown, stop by the Starfish Café, where the American baker Deidre O’Shea has taught local women to make Western bread and pastries as a way of supporting themselves and earning money for the philanthropic projects the café oversees; in addition to fantastic brownies and cookies, breakfast and lunch are served, and excellent boxed lunches are available

See: On the cusp: Asia’s new trendsetting beach

ABC Stout

ABC Stout, Cambodia's leading stout

Brewer: Cambodia Breweries

I’m attracted to ABC Stout’s billboards rather than the product itself which is not a good sign for any beer. They feature a mysterious Asian guy pimped out like James Bond with a briefcase full of crisp, unmarked US dollars and a pair of Asian models: obviously the spoils of drinking the dark stuff. ABC is Cambodia’s leading stout, possibly because of this marketing campaign, possibly because the other stouts are a travesty against malted barley. The 8% alcohol kick also gives your motodop the extra incentive to buy it, rather than one of it’s lesser friends, to make driving you around more

ABC is brewed by APB -owned Cambodia Brewery Ltd, not to be confused with Cambodia’s other similarly-named brewery, Cambrew. APB own a fistful of pan-Asian beer brands and licenses: Anchor, Tiger, bizzaro Heineken, and along with ABC Stout, brew them all at their factory in Kandal.

Fresh from the Cambodian Archipelago

Cambodia Brewery says: “Determined, confident and successful, APB’s proprietary ABC Extra Stout reflects its core drinker’s values and self-image. ABC Stout drinkers know what they want and will go the extra mile to get it. They want the best and do not settle for anything less. Appreciated for its full-bodied and robust taste, ABC is the leading premium stout in Cambodia.”

I say: With confident and determined marketing hyperbole, I successfully went the extra mile to the Caltex service station to get my robust can of ABC. Dark stout, tan head with OK retention – a first for a Cambodian beer so far. It’s a bit more like a porter than a stout, with not a whole lot of charred dark malt goodness. Weirdly thin body with an acidic aftertaste.

If this beer was an archipelago it would be:
A Solzhenitsyn metaphor