There’s something decidedly quirky about a restaurant that plays hits from the Bay City Rollers as it serves steaming bowls of pesto pasta.
It’s made stranger by the presence of two four-foot-tall mosaic-studded ceramic chickens and a selection of shiny wood elephant and deer heads staring at you to the background sounds of Paper Lace’s “Billy Don’t Be A Hero”.
While I’ve long been a fan of the food at Nike’s Pizza House, the setting and eclectic soundtrack has to be the cherry tomato on the top when it comes to offbeat experiences. It’s buried behind a veritable jungle of potted plants on Street 63 near Sihanouk, with interiors painted the colour of a ripe papaya and a little stereo spewing out an extraordinary collection of 70s and 80s music.
We discovered this eccentric little restaurant almost two years ago and it fast became one of our regular haunts where we dine at least twice a month. Not only is it a fun place for a round of “Name That Tune”, but the food is excellent and the smiling owner welcomes us with open arms whenever we emerge through the undergrowth beyond the doorway.
It may be called Nike’s Pizza but it’s way more than just pizza (in fact, the pizzas aren’t my favourite items on the menu). There are no less than 49 different pasta dishes on the menu along with 33 pizzas, some omelettes, salads, soups and appetizers and a selection of Asian dishes (including the oddly-named “mount frog” and “chicken kill”).
Often, restaurants with a laundry list of dishes don’t bode well for good food. But, in Nike’s case, everything we’ve eaten here has been terrific (and we’ve eaten a lot). Our favourite is the Pich Spaghetti which is a pile of spaghetti mingled with chunks of tasty ground chicken, spinach, garlic, mozzarella and parmesan and was good enough to inspire my husband to replicate the dish at home.
I love the gnocchi dishes, particularly the Alla Cruise, which is an unlikely-sounding combination of tuna, prawns, crab, mushrooms, parmesan and tomato sauce. Like many of the dishes, the combination of ingredients sounds strange but tastes great and a plentiful amount of tasty sauce covers a heaping mound of large, soft pillows of dough. Tomato sauce is fresh and chunky and pesto is a fabulous (and plentiful) combination of ground cashew nuts, basil and parmesan, along with enough garlic to keep at bay every vampire in the vicinity.
Puttanesca Spaghetti is deliciously spicy, Crab Spaghetti is on the creamy side and Tani Lasagne is a cheese-lover’s delight, with plenty of mozzarella, parmesan, blue cheese and cheddar.
Nike’s namesake dish, the pizza, is thin crusted and crispy, made in a charcoal oven and covered with everything from pepperoni to crab to blue cheese to eggplant to pineapple. I find the pizza a bit too cheesy for my taste but I’ve eaten here with people who love it (available in small, medium and large, priced around $4, $7 and $11, respectively, depending on the toppings).
For starters, you can choose from 20 different salads, from Greek to Caprese to tuna. We usually order the “green salad” which is a bowl of warm green beans, green peppers and broccoli on a bed of lettuce for $2. The vinegary dressing is a bit on the heavy side so you may want to try and get it lightly dressed (but don’t expect it to happen).
There’s also a full bar, fresh fruit juices, glasses of wine, a variety of beers (from Corona to Stella) and a couple of Irish coffees on the menu. While it seems NIke’s tries to offer everything to everyone, it actually works (and the wine isn’t bad either).
And the best part is the pricing. The most expensive item on the menu (excluding the large pizza) is $4.50. For that, you get a heaped serving of pasta smothered in a tasty sauce, attractively presented and served pretty promptly to your table.
Nike also delivers at no additional cost, which is great for lazy nights at home or days when floods take over your street. But, while take-out may be convenient, it also means you’ll miss out on the best part of the Nike experience – shiny chickens, the grinning owner and an hour or two of humming along with Roy Orbison, Simon & Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers.
Nike’s Pizza House
No. 160, Trasak Paem (St. 63),
tel – 012 250 295, 016 839 689, 011 877 497, 077 788 595, 088 8752 555