This week I’m going to cop out and just write about some places I’ve enjoyed in Phnom Penh. They’re all mostly food spots, whatever. There are about a thousand other places that continue to open or have been classics around PP that I have yet to explore and I’m always so excited when someone shows me somewhere exciting, it’s like The Neverending Story.
Today I am obviously lazy.
The Mad Monkey: Considering this has been unofficially voted the best guesthouse across the board in Phnom Penh, it would make sense that I frequent The Mad Monkey at the very least once a week. The owners are all real gents and the food has always been a success whether it be French Onion Soup, Chicken Curry Wrap, or Chorizo pizza. The staff has not only proven to be attentive and quick, but also the most outgoing and fun to be around in a laid back setting. I haven’t had the need to utilize the guesthouse aspect, but when friends visit I’ll definitely be sending them in the way of Mad Monkey (I recommend reserving rooms beforehand, I’ve heard them to be booked most nights). Also, Saturdays they have a BBQ on the roof for an excellent price and I hear the BBQ will slay your mouth with goodness. Building 26, Street 302. (0)23 987 093
Passion Spa: So far I’ve gotten a manicure, oil massage, and Brazilian wax done here and been overall pleased with each performance. The prices are decent and the place is huge so appointments haven’t been necessary. The price between a traditional Khmer massage and oil massage actually doubles, but they do give you a coupon for a complimentary traditional massage if you spend more than $20 on anything so it manages to make up for the price a bit. The employees are always happy to see you and attempt to make each experience the best possible. I would like to do some sanitation training with the wax techs, but this goes across the board. I’ve only heard of one spa here that practices sanitization by Western standards when it comes to the spa side of business which would mean using a new stick for each wax application and not re-using powder puffs for after care. Still on the hunt for my own wax pot so I don’t even have to deal with all of that, but I think a trip to Bangkok will be in order for that.
No. 29, St 302. 081998227
Paddy’s Fight Club: Let’s pretend for a moment that I actually want to get healthy. I’ve gone through bouts of serious running and blueberry eating, but either severe shin-splints or the promise of a vat of fondue always sent me straying from my potentially fit lifestyle. I’m not the type to roll up a gym mat and go roll around the floor for an hour (I know it’s an extremely great workout, I’m not hating…I just can’t get myself to center) and the idea of serious weight training makes me want to throw up a toilet bowl full of whey protein. Kickboxing, however, struck my fancy when a new friend here mentioned he goes 5 days a week and feels great. I’m always impressed with my friends who go to the gym for three hours at a time here in Phnom Penh’s muggy heat, but I surprised myself and decided to join a session at Paddy’s Fight Club last night. At the gym was apparently Cambodia’s finest boxer along with a renown boxer for his absolutely perfect form and a few expats wrapping their wrists and chugging Royal D. After a good fifteen of stretching, mainly upper body since I would only be working on learning my punch tactics, I was paired up with a personal trainer named Panha. His English was excellent, had my complete attention and gave me his. I was surprised at how difficult it was to get down the foot work and proper stance, my history of dance kept rearing itself as I kept trying to lift myself onto my toes and raise my head, the complete opposite of what you want to do in a serious boxing match. It didn’t matter that I was coughing up a storm from this past week’s flu, snot running down my face and sweat into my eyes; it felt so good. It felt good to punch something as hard as my little body could muster, but also have to keep in mind a technique. I’ll definitely be returning hopefully a few times a week, and maybe one day be able to really kick some ass. $6 for one open session, $10 for private training. 012 217 877
Emy’s DVD House: The ability to get almost any bootlegged DVD here is awesome (sorry anti-pirating co’s) It’s even better when an entire silver screen series is $6 and a movie, new release and sometimes in the theaters, will cost you $1.50. Although its a bit overwhelming searching for something at Emy’s by yourself, the staff are always running around helping you find your much needed copy of Drive and will tell you when The Perks of Being a Wallflower is of bad quality and to wait it out. Seriously appreciated. Also, it’s right next to Vego and Top Banana so if you’re hankering for an Istanbul Wrap or some Happy Truffles you’re golden.
OCEAN: Since I’m severely allergic to crab (as the hives covering my body this week have indicated, but didn’t have enough to throw me into anaphylactic shock like last time) I was a bit wary to imbibe here. The WUPP! staff and I got together for a celebratory November issue release and fortunately for all of us, the menu was chock full of delicious options ranging from homemade pesto spaghetti to tagliatelle with prawn and garlic sauce to gnocchi with basil and fresh tomato sauce. Seriously indulgent foods for absolutely reasonable prices and a little Sambuca on the house at the end made OCEAN entirely worth returning. House 11 St 288, 017 766690
The Flicks (1, I haven’t been to 2 and a 3 is opening soon): I’ve always been a fan of going to movies alone. There’s something great about the anonymity of it, and you don’t have to worry about someone trying to hold your hand or steal your popcorn. Not only do you only need to pay entrance once, so you can go marathon a few movies if you want, but they serve beer, wine, and liquor along with snacks. Apparently there was a hot dog unveiling party last Friday, yeah as in they now serve hot dogs. so you can lounge out on one of the sofas in the very back and make it a date night with yourself.
Pho 24: It would be nice if this place was actually open 24 hours a day, because pho is exactly what I find myself craving at 3 in the morning (along with pizza, cheeseburgers, and CP chicken) but I’ll forgive them because the pho is so damn good. I find myself here at least once a week with Ms. Chloe Belford for the beef pho which is super lean , the lime soda, and the heaping pile of chopped chili, basil, and onion to accompany the soup. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a skip away from my house and across the street from VIP Market, another winning pho spot. The fresh spring rolls are quite good here as well, and for $3.50 a bowl, you’ve got the option to feast. 093 535 366
Raksmey Burger: I know this has been brought up on my Facebook and Twitter feed more than anyone really wants to hear, but the fact that this burger shack on Street 51 is open all night as far as I’m concerned, has a bloody delicious cheeseburger and fries, and will deliver to your doorstep makes it necessary to bring up again and again…and again. The menu is limited but really, what else do you need other than a few soda shop basics when the time comes around. Street 51
Good Dream Steak: This place is like The Room of Requirement. You have no idea where it is (actually it’s on Monivong, right next to the Smart Mobile headquarters…thanks Sam) until you come across it at the exact moment you need it the most. The wonder of Good Dream Steak is something that cannot be easily described, but imagine a slab of meat covered in butter with garlic embedded inside with a knife and fork stuck vertically inside, a tray of vegetables, three sauces and a dish of Kampot pepper and lime stacked in front of you, a sweaty pitcher of Angkor beer, and a duck egg crepe slapped down in front of you. In that moment, I think i experienced true love. A completely Khmer frequented restaurant, I think we were the only ones there who spoke English. It might be difficult to order next time since I relied completely on my companion to do the work, but I can only assume that whatever they bring out would be insanely satisfying.
L’Absinthe: Never have I so much enjoyed the Green Fairy and all the joy that comes along with sitting somewhere concocting your own absinth-y drink. It makes me feel like I’m back in my 8th grade chemistry class, but actually doing something fun like drinking Abtshof and setting sugar cubes on fire. 216, Street 51, Corner 174, 097 285 3217
Sharky’s: I’ve only been to one show here so far, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, last week but I guarantee next time a good band is playing here I’ll be back. Slightly disappointed in the lack of bruises after a well-missed mosh and the drinks took only a thousand years to make, but I kind of forget that’s how long it takes to get a drink at a lot of bars. Entry was only $3, the drinks were decently priced, and they have a full menu. Full of sexpats, but well worth getting to hear some good music so far away from home. 126 Street 130. +855122228045
Java Cafe: There is good coffee here, I promise. Illy and Lavassa being some cups of something familiar, I enjoy it without milk, especially the condensed milk that wreaks havoc on my internal system. Java has a nice upstairs balcony for balmy afternoons and a smoke or a setting downstairs ideal for a bit of reading and writing. Breakfasts have always been something memorable at Java and it’s nice to have a place between home and the office to pop in. 56 Sihanouk Blvd. (0)23 987 420
bar.sito: I went to the soft opening of this new bar near The Warehouse in a cozy back alley last weekend and it felt like I had stepped back into a bar in Seattle. The atmosphere sophisticated yet relaxed, with delicious watermelon cocktails and white wine, and a space small enough to be intimate but large enough that you don’t feel claustrophobic. I look forward to returning another night for an evening of sipping. Street 240, weird alley