Restaurant Review: New Bird – Phnom PenhFebruary 9, 2006
After having such a surprisingly good brunch here the other week, I was passing by on a trip out of the office and decided to treat myself to an early lunch – as My Girl was out of town with the family scouting film locations in Kompong Cham for the next Block Busting Movie Production?
Pulling into the driveway I park the Beast Bike (complete with recent repairs since its New Years Eve Bash crash) and skip merrily into the bar.
It would seem that the place is as deserted on a Tuesday lunch as it is on a Thursday breakfast.
As per before, the two young ladies greet me in Khmer, I reply likewise and park myself on a table with a view of the street (not too mention a view of my increasingly costly bike).
Scrutinising the menu it appears to be exactly the same as it was a couple of weeks ago; although why I thought it might have changed I do not know, why there are establishments here in Phnom Penh that have not changed their menus in all the years that I have been going to them.
After careful contemplation I select the Chicken Enchiladas US$4, French fries US1:50 and an apple juice US$1 (I am off the devil’s brew at the moment due to a recent unfortunate incident concerning some homemade rice wine, a length of snakehead fish intestine and projectile vomiting a la Exorcist)
My selection made, I relax with the day’s copy of the Cambodia (rarely) Daily (almost) and peruse the three day old news that was contained within. Reaching the Classified advertisements I scanned through them and observed that as I sat in a new bar, surrounded by several other new bars and restaurants, there where several other establishments up for sale; the Banana Bar and the Butterfly Bar were both listed by name as being for sale, as well as a slightly more enigmatic ‘Garden Cafe’ in BBK1. This section of the ‘newspaper’ also informed me that the almost impossible to find Alley Cat Cafe had branched out already and was now also offering ‘serviced apartments’ as well as its more usual supply of beers, baffling cartoons and bad anecdotes. Ah well, the ever changing Phnom Penh pub game goes on – to0 many bars, too little to chose between them in service, selection and style and no where near enough customers to go around all of them.
As I am deep in thought, a young Khmer gentleman strolls from behind me and pauses slightly at the table, I ask him for another apple juice and he just looks at me blankly; damn, I thought that my Khmer was good enough these days to order a fruit juice. So I repeat the order in English, he still looks blank and then strolls past me and out to the Tiger Beer minibus he is driving on his rounds to service draft beer pumps – oops !
It seems that he had just paused for the usual Khmer gawp at the barang, I wonder if he was offended I mistook him for a waiter?
Thankfully the staff had not noticed, as they had vanished from the bar and from sight, however they soon reappeared bearing vitals and their usual big grins.
The enchiladas were pleasant enough, two tortilla pancakes worth, packed with chicken, green peppers and onion, topped with a smear of salsa and some grated cheese, but yet again I was disappointed to discover that there were no chillies either in the salsa or the enchilada stuffing. I briefly contemplated the bottle of, oddly thin looking, Tabasco on the table in front of me, but dismissed the idea as not worth bothering with as the pockets of heat from splashes of Tabasco added as a condiment produce quite a different flavour to when it, or fresh chillies, are added as an ingredient during the cooking process. The French fries were French fries, what can one say, long thin, slightly more brittle than an a portion of English chips, but fine never the less.
Just as I was doing my som kit loy routine, a group of colleagues sent me a text saying that they were going to our usual tin table and plastic chairs Khmer restaurant for lunch, so I figured I would swing round and join them for an iced coffee.
At the end of their meal, the bill for their three main courses was just over half what I had paid for mine, but a man can only live on rice and fish so many times in one day.
Queries, comments, suggestions and gastroenterological concerns to