Phnom Penh Pub Page – December 2014

I wanted to start off this month’s pub page with another string of excuses- bad weather – too drunk – no new bars – no old bars – broken laptop – Hunchback hit me too many times in the head with a cricket bat and I now permanently concussed…. Etc., but I was just too lazy to think of anything new, original or even remotely realistic. So I took the easy way out and went drinking.
More waiting is in order as Templar is still not ready to serve me alcohol – I was very disappointed as I was having a lot of trouble thinking of anywhere else that could possibly provide me a refreshing alcoholic beverage but there it is – not open – but the sign was up last time I walked by – clearly moving ahead.

I found a new bar that was perfectly named – Cute & Cozy Bar is on, crap – I was so drunk I forgot to write what street this bar is on – give me a minute – ok – it is on 118 st in the space that used to be Nice Smile Bar I think – beside the convenience store across the corner from Dream. They have done a serious upgrade and the current bar is much nicer looking inside – in fact it is quite cute & cozy – I think it was named for the décor as opposed to the staff but opinions on this subject may vary J. Actually the staff were very friendly but I was too drunk to focus on them as I was trying my best to focus on the beer in front of me so they may be very cute & cozy for all I know. I was very pleased with the low key vibe in the place. I got quick service and was able to maintain a conversation without being drowned out by either the music or miscellaneous screeches. Did not hang out there too long because I was really not coping too well with sitting in one place but I will certainly try again once my liver has recovered.

I somehow found another new bar on 172 St – Black Pearl is actually one of the nicer looking hostess bars I have been in lately. It is roomy and comfortable with, what I thought were cool, metallic tables. Really looked pretty nice. There was a pool table and a couple of dart boards and best of all, they seemed to offer food – always a nice distraction – although I wonder if they will soon offer lady plates in addition to lady drinks – after having seen staff consume far more lady drinks than they should, will the next iteration of this be consuming too many fried rice and chicken plates that customers buy for poor hungry staff? I can hear the canny mercenary minds at Skirts thinking how this could be implemented with food from the Pub. Perhaps there could be a prize for the girl who eats the most Sunday roasts plates….

Back to the Pearl (in my best Captain Jack Sparrow voice – admittedly that imitation would have sounded better to me if I was still drunk) – the staff was friendly and service was good. Best of all, the staff did not make a pain of themselves which was much appreciated. Did I say the bar looked really nice?? Most drinks seemed to be $3.5, tiger draft was $1.5 and beer prices seemed reasonable for a hostess bar.

Stumbling out of the Pearl (I still want to do a pirate voice), I saw Nice Start bar which had a prominent “For Sale” sign. This seemed to suggest that it was not a nice start after all or that perhaps there was no staying power… despite having already gone to a few bars on the street already, I decided to have a fresh start to my evening here. I should say that I have worked in and essentially lived in bars for a good portion of my life – many an evening have I been around at closing time and watched the staff shuffle around while they waited patiently for the last customers to move on. Despite this bar being fairly busy, there was a bit of bar closing vibe to it. Staff were friendly – in some cases too friendly – but there was a bar is closing vibe to the place (I know I know – the sign did give it away but I have to play up my bar expertise once in a while or the Evil Publisher will realize he could hire any old monkey to write this article). Anyway – will probably not rush back.

For the great and powerful Possum, I decided I had to try Lovely Jubbly bar on St 19 just north of St 172. Not my usual hangout, this is clearly a backpacker dive (clearly identified if there was any doubt by the giant blackboard with bus schedules at the entrance) but actually a very nice one. A grey streamlined décor – brightly lit – good tunes – very friendly staff – towers of beer were $7, jugs were $3.5 and the food looked good. There was a pool table in the back and a public computer to use at the bar. On the night I came by the place was not very busy but there were a few small groups of what seemed to be back packers lounging about – sorry Possum – no jubblies on the menu.

I walked by Alice’s Pub did not go in but the sign saying that the staff were super friendly seemed born out as a kid sitting outside started screaming hello and waving as I walked by. The woman, who I guess was her mom, could not stop laughing as the kid got more energetic in her greetings. I was too drunk to be around friendly kids (who can be a bit annoying if you are not in the mood) but I will try the place for a future pub page. By the way I was too drunk to know what street I was on but I will do a better report when I actually drink there.

That is about it for this month – from the Golden Sorya Mall – it seems that big changes are in the works – most of the businesses seem to have closed including the reasonably popular Mao in the courtyard. They seem to consolidating a number of the units into larger spaces and there are rumors that nightclubs or bars will be taking these spaces over. If new bars open – the pub page will be there.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – November 2014

It seems that every time I try to head out to do some hard work and research, it has rained this month – ok that is not quite fair – I have taken my usual attitude of doing solely amateur bar hopping for the first few weeks and try to fit in my professional drinking right before publication date.

Yes I admit it, I am the pub page procrastinator. This month, the weather kept me from enjoying my rounds but after some encouragement from the Publisher and threats to have the Hunchback follow behind me with a cricket bat, I managed to make my way to a few establishments.

Still no Templar bar – I hope this is not another Waiting for Gadot-esque satire like we had waiting for Larry’s to open. I was assured that things are moving forward and Templar will be opening one of these days and I keep walking by its location a few doors down from the FCC to see how things are going. Robbie has said he wants to make sure things are done right before opening. In Cambodia, I am not sure that means the bar will be arriving on a timely basis.

Speaking of opening, just in time for publication Hedonism Bar has opened on 104 St. in the old Vixen space beside Cavern. It was fairly quiet when I dropped by and I was told that the bar would be fully staffed up in a couple of weeks.

The place had a 70’s disco vibe when I was there between the music choices and the décor (the wall paper would a quite the trip with the right blood chemistry). It is a fairly small space but they have made the best of it and it seemed quite comfortable- although as it was not too busy when I showed up, I may have another perspective on a crowded night.

Actually given the size of the place, I questioned the choice of having a dart board (I suspect there will be some drunken adventures with flying metal objects in the near future) but I guess they were trying to decide what to let drunken customers play with in a bar with no room for a pool table.

A lovely segue as we move next door to Cavern – much to my shock my favourite kitchen on 104 St. has closed. It is a tragic story of the care and respect that one tavern owner can have for his staff.

As the story was told to me by a kindly passing troubadour, as pchum benh was approaching, three of the kitchen staff faced an Odyssian choice – how to move forward between the Scylla of abandoning their familial responsibilities and the Charybdis of leaving me without a place to get a good burger and amazing fries on 104 St. over the holidays. Fortunately this Gordian knot was dealt with masterfully by our humble publican who closed his kitchen forever rather than force his staff to make this difficult choice (there is another version being whispered among those who should know better that it was closed to prevent an ebola epidemic from spreading through the hostess bars but I don’t put any faith in such tales).

Of course this has left our noble hero sitting in front of his establishment drinking himself silly and moaning about the lack of any other place in Phnom Penh to grab a meal worthy of his deeds. I was told that the Pub attempted to step up and provide an alternative Sunday roast suitable for this champion of worker’s rights, but forgot to let our hero know about it.

I found Chez Rina on another rainy night when I was out for a stroll. It is on 98 St. – a quiet street near the post office and just north of the KFC. You will probably never find yourself there unless you are looking for it; however despite having only a quick stop over there, I would recommend you go looking as it is worth a visit or three. It an elegant and intimate bar in a colonial building that opens at 5 and closes around 12:30 (or later if people are hanging out).

It is a cocktail bar with some interesting selections and a few assorted choices to fill out the menu – I was a bit disappointed to find only three beers but happy to see that Leffe was only of the limited options. Wednesday is ladies night – 1st drink for the fairer gender is free – an important starter given that it does not appear to have a happy hour and cocktails were USD5.

Finally, I dropped by a few places that I have not circulated through in quite a while.

First up was Barbados on 130 St. I still can never remember what nights they have live music – I wish I could because I really enjoy the other nights. For those who enjoy a fun night out with a staff that seems intent on making the customers enjoy their time and leave far more inebriated than they had planned – this is a good place to include on your itinerary.

For a later night haunt, I found myself at White Cobra on 51st for the first time in ages. It is great to see that some things never change. This is still a great spot to see the world go by without being mired in the middle of the GSM late night festival of the heteromorphic and eccentric. Inexpensive drinks in a place where long time locals still dwell.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – October 2014

First some updates.

Actually to get this out of the way – Skirts!!

Last month I was fascinated with 179 Bar (or at least the way the real name was being hidden) – so of course it has now closed or at least it is being heavily renovated at writing.
I was also interested in following up on how 104 Bar would look under the new regime – been there a couple of times since it re-opened – I actually miss the big tables in the front (there are some relatively minor (to me) aesthetic changes but the tables and loss of foosball are what I noticed most) and am curious what they are going to do with the space between the main bar and the washrooms. However, the new couches out front do add a different feel to the place and as you would expect from the owners of Xanadu and Oasis, the club seems to running smoothly and I will be back.

The Pub Page rarely gets any feedback; although I guess it is possible that the hunchback is hiding and doing horrible things with all my fan mail – so I am frequently left wondering whether anyone actually reads the page, let alone those worthy bar owners that graciously put up with my pathetic excuse for investigative reporting. So you can imagine I was really thrilled to get actual written evidence that someone had read their review. A couple of months ago I hit Angry Bird Bar – while I enjoyed the renovated space itself, I sent a clear message to Rovio to debug quickly unless they wanted to turn the place into some kind of red bird mini card game. Angry Bird’s reply was particularly noteworthy and even led to the evil Publisher launching into a maniacal laugh when he read it. I have some notable excerpts below:

“Rovio (Cambodian hostess bar expansion unit) has taken your honest and forthright comments fully on board and the screaming ladies card club has been banished forever.”

“The Angry Birds staff have also been re-programmed by launching them from catapults into nearby buildings to remind them of the Angry Birds culture and theme.”

“They have emerged fully re-energised, enthusiastic and ready to welcome future visits by you and other customers.”

While the Pub Page does not actually recommend launching bar stuff from catapults, I have to appreciate the effect it had. Given that the Cambodian hostess bar expansion unit had put such care into its retraining and filing its report, I felt the need to revisit it and test the efficacy of Rovio’s innovative training methodologies. The bar was busier – on a night when most bars I went to were far emptier – the staff was friendly without getting annoying – music was still at a very reasonable level – and the expansion pack has arrived (there seemed to be an increased number of staff). IGN (Intoxicated Gropers Network – not to be confused with the famous gaming review site) gives the update two thumbs up (and maybe a little more as well). Thanks to the HBEU for reporting in and even more thanks for retraining – it seems to have stuck (much as the staff probably did after the catapulting).

On to some new bars – first up was Oh La La at the corner of 136 St. and Sisowath. I have been waiting for quite a while to see what would happen to this space. While the construction hoarding seems to have stayed up for quite a while, I was really happy with the results. The space comes off as simple but had a good open feel. We ended up planting ourselves on the patio which gave a great view of the riverfront street life as well as (thanks to some impressive scheduling) a nice view of staff coming to work along 136 St. Good service but we were not hungry so could not really evaluate the food but there was a reasonable selection. The drinks were quite reasonable given the appearance of the place – draft beer was $1.5 with a jug for $5.5; cans of Cambodia beer were $2, most mixed drinks were $2.5-3 with cocktails coming in at $4. For those with a more refined palate, house wines were $4. Not the cheapest place in town, but a nice relaxing place for some people watching and a few quiet drinks before, during or after a hostess bar crawl.

Walking down 136 St., I noticed Heart Attack Bar for the first time. Was very impressed with the place – particularly as they managed to stay hidden from me for 2-3 months. The bar felt spacious and the music was at a good volume. Staff was very friendly and kept us amused. To be honest, I was a bit too drunk to remember how much things cost but I am pretty sure we had a good time here and I will make it back – ok – not my most detailed review but at least it was positive. I also seem to recall some explanation about renovations being done to the upstairs but I was lucky to remember that much so have no idea what they are doing up there.

Next on the tour was the immodestly named Simply the Best Bar on 130 St. The bar is about six weeks old according to the staff who chatted me up. I was about to turn left on 130 St but happened to glance over and catch this place out of the corner of my eye. On the plus side, the bar is open from noon until 3 am or later – more importantly, it runs a happy hour from opening until 8 pm at night with buy one get one free for beer and spirits. If I was able to decipher things properly, the second shift starts around 6 and the first shift leaves around 8 so there appears to be an extra happy hour when they bar has two times the staff and the drinks are half the price – now that makes me happy. Pretty simple place – felt roomy in the main section with a pool table in the back. Not sure how accurate the name is but it was a worthwhile stop and I will be back.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – September 2014

Is there a month that is not odd at the Pub Page? I have been struggling with hitting the bars this month as I was recovering from my grievous research related injuries, when the Evil Publisher reminded me that the Pub Page was due and made it clear that no excuses were permitted. Since I hurt myself last time, I was told I needed the Hunchback to supervise/babysit me on my rounds this month. However, when I go out with the Hunchback, all the girls focus on him so I was forced to slip the ankle monitor, scoot under the razor wire and somehow escaping detection, hit a few bars. My drinking arm is mostly healed so I was able to do a few “raise the glass” curls as part of my physiotherapy.

Before I get to bars that I imbibed at, the pub page would like to pay its respects to Chuck Norris Dim Sum R.I.P. Pretend there is a moment of silence now – best late night snacks on 51 st have hit the dust.

On a happier note, there is a new place that should be open around when this article is published – Templar bar at 377 Sisowath Quay just a bit south of the FCC. It is/will be a wine/cocktail/champagne/ whiskey bar (I would have just said bar and not named each major type of beverage served but I am going with the press release provided). It is being opened by the notorious Rob Huxley famed for the eponymous Huxley’s but equally renowned around town for his tours at Sharky (way back in the day), Shanghai and most recently Cavern (where he also got to play with a lot of sausages). I was told there will be food available with a BBQ on weekends and with my fond recollections of Rob’s version of the Shanghai BBQ, I am already drooling in anticipation.

Wondering around this month, I was intrigued by 179 Bar on St 172. It was not the friendly staff sitting outside that got my attention, nor the exterior decor – it was the fact that they were clearly named 172 bar at some point but someone decided it needed a name change and pasted a ‘9’ over the ‘2’. Clearly the bar was in disguise and I wanted to see if it had something to hide. It was actually a fairly nice set up inside – despite the wall to wall sound dampening egg carton-esque decor – and felt spacious and comfortable. I was fairly happy with the set up and the music, I was actually able to have a conversation with the staff (always a pleasant surprise – however you want to take that). Service was good and this place is well worth a stop on my next slither through 172 st.

Actually hopped over to Spicy Girl bar on the other end of this block of 172 st as well. A number of people had been recommending it to me lately. Boisterous may be an understatement here. Staff still very friendly and the customers seemed to be having a great time. A bit louder than I usually like so I wondered off but nuff said.

Over on 136 st, we hit Cozy Bar – was quite surprised to see they had set up a patio bar as well – unfortunately, it is just a block to far west for good people watching but it makes a pleasant change of pace to sitting inside another bar all night. It was fairly busy when we came by but I have a note to come back again soon (have to reward innovation). However this place also seemed to be trying to confuse this reviewer as it had signs indicating it was also named Bob bar and Sexy Girl – luckily I know how to find it if not what to call it.

Managed to hit Helicopter bar again – it has been quite a while – it was fairly rowdy when we got there as they seemed to have a bit of a celebration going on (among some customers). It was so loud that we had trouble speaking but that was more about happy customers than about the bar itself. Overall, a fun place to drop by – standard hostess bar – but I do wish they had a real helicopter inside – in the spirit of how the Airport Club in Sihanoukville used to have the Anotov plane suspended in the bar. Not saying it would be practical here but with a name like this – it would be cool – and get much more of my business.

Also settled at VVIP bar for a bit – I have not wondered in there in many months but hit it three times in a couple of weeks. Really quite happy with the place – well set up – lots of couch space – good music levels (and when we requested them to lower the volume at one point, they did it without scowling (a huge plus that got me back there the next night)). Pool table upstairs with space to play. Staff is friendly without being annoying, I went with three different friends and everyone enjoyed.

Scooting up to 104 st, we have saved the big news for last – Barry has finally sold 104 Bar. Despite his threats to do so over the years, I was still shocked – he has been an anchor on that street for most of a decade. I have very fond memories of dropping by after work to play Croix (although we used to call it Droha) with Bob (still my favourite cashier of all time). Happily, the bar has moved into excellent hands (and even happier, Barry can still be found sauced up at Cavern), and is now owned by the sisters who brought you Oasis and Xanadu on 136 st. I was there on their last night before it closed for renovations and it sounded like they had some ideas for revamping the space and were excited to be back as owners on 104 st. The bar should have re-opened by now and the pub page will be back for a proper visit soon.

That rounds up this month – hopefully will get more of an urge to try new places next month – but it is so hard to stay away from the hostessesssss.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – August 2014

It’s been another odd month around the Pub Page – I actually got back to doing serious research – and have certainly paid the price for it with a 24 hour hangover and a torn muscle in my drinking arm.

Only hit only two new bars this month – I saw that Rovio had finally expanded its empire to incorporate hostess bars and opened a beachhead facility in Phnom Penh on 130 St – unfortunately this was a beta version that was not really ready for release based on my first visit.

Hopefully the brains at Rovigo will retool and re-release quickly as there seemed to be a few issues. The place looked good, it was well lit and the music was quite reasonable while I was there. However this expansion lacked even basic user interface or interactivity. When I walked in, the entire staff was either playing cards at the bar or watching other play and enjoying their beverages. They were actually louder than the music by a significant degree. I felt lucky that one broke away from the flock long enough to serve me a beverage but there was no reaction when I decided that listening the card game hysterics was not the best way I could spend my evening and no one even looked up when I slipped money onto my table and walked out. If Angry Birds is a ladies card club, it seems like it will be a great success. If it was meant to be a hostess bar, serious debugging is in order.

I also wandered into Happy Girls bar on 110 St. It has only been open for a month if I understood correctly (actually to be honest I was so drunk that I just could not remember what was probably very clearly explained. The bar is really basic and for some reason feels particularly long and narrow but the place still seemed spacious which I enjoyed. In sharp contrast to the other new bar I tried, the staff here was attentive – perhaps a bit too attentive as I was the only customer so the entire staff surrounded me. To be fair, they were not annoying and except for a few odd bits of conversation seemed willing to wait for me to decide on the level of interaction. Overall big points for the staff – I was too drunk to really speak and they were content to be available while allowing me to consume my beverage in relative peace. I have already recommended the place to a couple of friends who I think will enjoy it.

The rest of my month has been occupied skulking around more familiar hangouts – I realized I have not bumped Larry’s 110 St Bar & Grill lately. I mostly go for meals – one of the few times I promote food on the pub page is remind people that the food there is great – but I decided to stop in for a couple of beverages this month. Well worth it – it was not too busy but there were enough people to keep the staff occupied. It is clearly a place where regulars hang out but all are welcome. The staff is friendly and service is quick.

Speaking of good food SKIRTS!!!! – the evil publisher has noted my lack of product placement and seems to be with- holding payment until I satisfy my contractual obligations – Skirts!! Skirts!!! Skirts – by the way, if you go to Skirts early you can get the best Fish & Chips in Cambodia shipped in from The Pub next door – just a thought.

Basically the rest of my bar crawl- ing this month was filled with old regulars – spent more time on 136 St – Oasis was quite busy every time I dropped by but I was pleasantly surprised at the reasonable volume being maintained – except by the other customers – it actually seemed almost mellow last time.

I went in Xanadu – much more boisterous and unfortunately I was greeted with the site of male customers dancing on the bar – fully clothed but still not what I want to see when I walk into a bar.

Best 136 not sure it is the best but it is still a fun bar to drop by with attentive staff and good atmosphere. Candy – used to be one of my favourite bars (and really loved the lunch time pizza specials) – it was probably the first hostess bar to go 24 hours and was a great hang out after it took over the Huxley space, I thought it took a real dive and was looking forward to enjoying it back in its original location. Unfortunately, it is my least favourite of Chea’s bars and I have a much better time at 69 and Mister Butterfly.

I was supposed to be reviewing bars in Sihanoukville again this month but I was so hungover that I missed my bus and did not feel up to the trip – honest more new bars (well new to me anyway) next month – really – this time I mean it.

Unfortunately our reviewer was let out unsupervised this month resulting in some injuries. Next month he will be under adult supervision courtesy of the Hunchback! ED

Phnom Penh Pub Page – July 2014

I think the evil Publisher has learned his lesson – no early cash for this writer this month. In return for his lack of good faith and growing wisdom, I have procrastinated to the greatest degree possible and refused to go out researching. Not sure how that relates but it seemed like a good excuse to be a lazy git.

Biggest bar news of the month, the Hunchback has learned from his Thai brethren and exercised an almost completely bloodless coup. Taking his example from the previous coup, he waited patiently until the popular ruling despot of this well-known bar on Sisowath had gone on a diplomatic mission to the U.S. Almost as soon as the despot’s plane was in the air, the Hunchback made his move and now seems firmly ensconced in his new home and was last seen blaming someone else for having some Aussie sport on the TV. Hopefully the original Jim will have more success taking back his realm than Thaksin did. But other bar owners be warned, the Hunchback may be looking your way next.

Really was not sure what to write about this month. I hit a lot of bars, but things did not seem as interesting this month. A lot of the bars seemed pretty slow and enthusiasm seemed down. I even ran into a slew of staff from different bars hanging out in Sorya Mall or Pontoon despite their bars being open as they were too bored to stay at work. Let alone the girls from Tpub2 who seem desperate to make me climb 50 flights of stairs to play a game of pool – maybe they were not bored but just thought I needed the exercise.

Despite the relative lack of customers – or maybe because of it – I found service levels worse than usual at a lot of the hostess bars I hit in the last week or so. A few days ago, I hit a few bars on 136 st, I walked in, sat at a table and waited and waited and waited until one of the many staff who were otherwise busily engaged in doing absolutely bloody nothing at all – decided to walk my way.

At 3 of the bars, the lead off was the usual – Hi – where are you from (which is far better than the “are you Thai?” I got last month) but when I was not sufficiently enthused, the staff walked away without taking my drink order. Guess unless they thought there was a drink for them, it was not worth selling one to a customer.

At one of the other bars, I got a walk by with a poke (sounds much dirtier than it was – think Facebook Poke) and nothing else – no greeting and no request for my drink order – was I supposed to reach out and grab her about the neck to get her to do her job? Perhaps the deepest sigh goes to the bar where the staff member waited until I had gotten up and moved my chair out of the way and started to walk out before asking if I wanted a drink.

The bars I got service in were fine but really nothing noteworthy – I had not been in Pussycat bar in quite a long time – really no change at all – except that it seemed far more mellow and thus much more enjoyable from my perspective. Staff was friendly, music was reasonable, no undue pressure to either buy drinks or play pool – glad I stopped in. Also went to Lemon for the first time in a while – still a fun place to drop by – good prices on the drinks and a friendly staff – but again – nothing really new. Also a good time at 69 bar and Best 136. But could someone please open another street of hostess bars for me to slither through???

I did hit a few bars near 178 st this month. I was surprised to realize that the Mansion was open on a daily basis. This is the run down Colonial house facing the Museum on Sotheros. It has a big for sale sign and I learned while I was there that the building is about 100 years old and is currently owned by the FCC. I had seen it open for parties before but had not known it was a regular thing. It is open from 5 pm and has a happy hour from 5-7 with buy one get one free special on cocktails, draft beer and wine. It is pretty sparse and is not the place to go if it is raining as it seems to mainly exist in the courtyard. It looked like one room in the entrance way (which looks pretty faded) is open for seating. There might be more but walking in I was reminded of the time I hung out at Tacheles in East Berlin. It was in a bombed out city block and I ended up doing some renovation work to pay for my meal. I decided I would rather just pay cash and sat outside in the courtyard. Not a cheap place for a drink but an interesting atmosphere with a few backpackers and some local versions of hipsters hanging out when I was there (and one very loud Canadian guy).

Hit Touk and River Crown – seemed the thing to do since one bar is on top of the other – they are respectively the 1st and 2nd floor above Grand River on the corner of 178 st and Sisowath. They both have good views (although River Crown is a bit better – the extra height allows you to see far over the horizon). Oddly they both have the same happy hour 4:30-7:30 with 50% off cocktails and Angkor draft. Actually either option is a pretty sweet way to kill some time watching the world go by while staying off street level and avoiding the annoying traffic. I did not have the energy to walk all the way up to the top so am leaving that for another day.

That is about it – sorry but I think I need to hit more new bars for next month.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – June 2014

This month’s Pub Page almost became a restaurant review or a movie review or a “I am too lazy to type anything but the letter ‘a’ page; I am not certain if the Evil Publisher’s small heart grew three sizes that day, if the ghost of Christmas future had visited him or if he just had a brain fart – but he paid me in advance for this article – there goes the last vestiges of motivation or quality control J But then I ran into the Hunchback sipping tea with some New York banker type at Sharky Bar and he somehow convinced me to get my ass onto a few bar stools and pretend that being surrounded by pretty girls is somehow a motivating factor in my life – actually he just threatened to throw me down the stairs and break open the mostly unscarred side of my face but I am not supposed to talk about that.

So what happened this month – a lot of parties – and I went to none of them – I even got invited to a couple but could not be arsed – love those cash advances – by the way SKIRTS. Some news to start with I guess – ho hum…. Candy Bar closed – and reopened in another confusing 136 st episode up there with 136 Bar moving to 130 st . Candy which had originally been located 2 stores over before taking over the old Huxley’s space, has now moved back to its old digs and seemingly vaporized Swinger bar. I understand the staff has been distributed amongst the 136 st conglomerate’s other establishments. Good luck tracking down your favourites. I wonder if we will get another hostess bar in that space.

Swiss Cam Food – in Golden Sorya Mall – seems to have expanded – I guess they got tired of people walking through other bars and stopping before they could get all the way to Swiss so they now have taken over another stall with street access and added it to their collection of units.

Vixen Bar on 104 st has changed hands – it is now owned by an ex cashier out of Zanzibar – great tunes, new management was friendly – no substantive changes that I noticed except to the staff – I will give it another try.

While not directly bar related, I think I have to mention the passing of Chuck Norris Dim Sum – the coolest dim sum place in the world has left the building – I can only assume the local hot dog carts took Chuck down so they could regain my early morning drunken munchies business.

In terms of bars, given that I had already been paid, I just lazily wandered by some hostess bars this month. My tour started with DV8 Bar. I had not been there for a while and will probably give it a pass for a bit longer – the place was basically empty when I arrived and the over eager bar staff just cranked me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to see the staff eagerly trying to entertain a customer and get some business but the cacophony drove me out without even finishing my drink – even the bartender apologized. I was surrounded by hostesses who each took turns asking the same question or confirming the answers I had just given. After about 5 rounds of this I gave up.

That does not win for the oddest experience of the night – I went to the enticingly named Same Same No Different Bar – I mean how can you resist an establishment that promises you absolutely no reason to go there as opposed to its competitors. Well it turns out there is a difference – perhaps the absolute dumbest question I have ever been asked as an opening line in a hostess bar “Do you speak Thai” – really – the first thing after the staff member got my order was that? I thought perhaps I was drunker than I had any right to be and was either mumbling in tongues or had shifted countries when I only meant to change streets. I figured it would only get worse from there so I left. Strike two – I think I need to head down to Martini and forget all this hard work.

How to fill the rest of the Pub Page this month???? Ok – the laziest possible thing would be a montage but difficult to really get the drunken blurry lens effect on paper – instead a quick round up – Rose Bar/Calvary Bar – getting pretty pricey and still REALLY loud – but both had friendly and helpful staff and quite large numbers of them. Pretty Woman – definitely a well deserved name – and certainly more alluring than “Broken Air Con Bar’ which would have been equally well deserved. Oasis – not sure what is happening over there but it has been packed the few times I have tried to go in lately – as in almost every seat taken – surprisingly un-rowdy (yes I know that is not a word but I don’t want to bother thinking of a real one). 104 Bar – alternates between being completely dead or completely swamped – still a lot of fun (most of the time). Starlight – on 110 st – had not been in here ages – seems to have a good regular group of customers enjoying themselves (they are quite noisy) – will have to put this on the rotation.

That is about it – motivation has expired – even the Hunchback could not get any more investigative reporting out of me this month.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – May 2014

It has been another quiet month for the Pub Page – the New Year’s holiday puts a bit of a damper on my pub crawling activities – especially given how many hostesses head back to the provinces. I was actually surprised this year that a few of the hostess bars stays opened – particularly given how many businesses and restaurants were closed, but there were at least a few hard working, although bored, souls trying in vain to keep customers spirits up over the New Year break.

Being a long time comic geek – of course I had to go to Spiderman bar on 136 st once I saw the sign –I was somewhat concerned about supporting an institution that makes such cavalier use of other’s intellectual property but I was assured that Marvel – which is owned by Disney (which is well known for its hostesses) – has given authorization for the use of its intellectual property in this commercial venture – after all what better advertisement is there for the global release of Spider Man 2 (although if the villain had been Dr. Octopus it would have worked better with the multiple staff massage shtick at the bar…). The bar itself is the latest to take over from Casa Lika restaurant – you may remember I reviewed Skippy a while back and was not that thrilled. Spiderman is an improvement (lots of points for the name) with a relaxed atmosphere, reasonable music volume and friendly staff who were careful not to cross over to being annoying. There is a pool table and the bar area feels spacious. It was not quite my cup of tea but my friend seemed to enjoy and I will definitely be back – but I am looking forward to seeing some of my dearer characters get better treatment – thoughts of She-Hulk/Scarlett Witch bar are making me droll.

M & Me bar on st 130 was more fun than I expected. It has been around for quite a while, but I never seen to get over to that section of the street – normally Fire bar has exhausted both me and my wallet (and yet I can’t stop myself going back there) but on fear of being put down or having my head cracked open by the Hunchback, I dragged myself across the street with a few dollars in my wallet (twice) so I could get a review done. I was pleasantly surprised. But this really seemed like the kind of bar where your mileage may vary. It was very laid back, comfortable, felt spacious and had a very friendly vibe. For many, I suspect the .75c draft would be a huge draw – that may be the lowest draft price I have seen in a hostess bar. I saw a few guys having a grand time in there but they left shortly after I arrived (guess watching an investigative journalist at work was too much for them), but for the most part, on the two times I went, it was pretty dead customer wise. My two cents – come for a quiet relaxing time (and cheap beer) or bring your own party.

The pub page hit a few room tops along the river this month. We have already hit FCC so we started this month a block up the street at Le Moon which is the rooftop bar of the Amanjaya Hotel. I had never been up there before and had expected to enter from Kwest but it turned out that you enter through the hotel lobby. Given its location at the north corner of the death intersection in front of Wat Ounalom it is no surprise that this bar has an amazing North/East view over the city and river – it is a large terrace with small tables set up along the edge to enjoy the view and comfortable couches set up in the middle area. Service was friendly and finger foods were on the menu at reasonable prices. Prices were in the high reasonable category – Tiger mugs were $2.5 with a lot of the beers about 5,000 riel dearer and most cocktails at $4.5 – be warned VAT was added to the bill. Overall a really nice place to relax and enjoy the view. It is open from 5pm – 1 am. No evidence of a happy hour – which was a surprise given the excellent one downstairs.

We next crawled up to the Quay. Nice if narrower view (the walls on three sides basically restrict you to a river view – which I still think is pretty sweet) despite being a bit higher than Le Moon. Great happy hour – from 5:30 – 7 it is 50% off almost everything – I was told coffee, water and bottled beers were excepted. Actually I want to praise the staff who thought to inform us that our bottled beers were not happy – much better to find out while we were ordering (so we could change to cheaper drinks) than to find out when you are paying your bill). Without the happy hours drinks were a bit pricy – draft was a very reasonable $1.5 but a lot of the cocktails seemed to be in the $6-8 range and the imported beers were about $6. A full menu was available and while I have not eaten there lately, I have done so a few times before and the food was always excellent.

Last up before we ran out of steam and went to Sharky (which was reasonably busy with a bunch of people enjoying a pool tournament on a Weds night) was Frangiapania which is the rooftop bar of the Bougainvillier Restaurant/Hotel. It was a very nice rooftop – good view – very relaxing – and I was surprised as the evening went on to see it get a few more tables of customers (we were about it when we arrived during their happy hour) because you have to walk up five floors to get to it – yup no elevator, The walk down was much easier than the walk up but I would not want to try it if I was too polluted. It is worth the walk though – happy hour was 5 to 7 and it was 2 for 1 on draft beer, wine and cocktails. Draft was a very reasonably $1.5 for Angkor and $2 for tiger and cocktails for $4-5.5 – so you can really make the climb worth your while. A full menu was available for dining and the bits I saw brought to other table looked good.