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Get some pork on your fork! No thanks I'll have the roo

By: Alison Jarvis Posted: March-04-2011 in
A well stocked bar - click for more photos
Alison Jarvis

Six months ago, a small but ergonomic space, just to the right of a massage parlour on Street 144 resisted the urge to become another hostess bar. Instead, what was the Lilac Cafe become a vibrant new bar off the main Sisowath strip, called The Local 2.

It is 8.30pm on a Wednesday evening, and the sound of expat laughter beckons us in from the street. The clientele, we are told, are regulars and they bring with them some of the exuberance that we associate with the Riverside. They could be teachers, they could be NGO workers, entrepreneurs or any one of the individualists that reside here in this evolving city.

The bar is minimalist, quite dark with flashes of stainless steele to provide a modern but not so hip to intimidate edge. Casual is fine.

We are greeted by vivacious Khmer staff, who juggle attentive and inobtrusive deftly, by Kamala. Kamala, as her name does not really suggest is the antipodean, with the Indian name, who used to live in Mumbai, and who has created two links in the “Local” chain here in Phnom Penh.

And so to the nub of things. My friend opts for a mojito. It is, I am reliably informed, very difficult to create the perfect mojito; there’s too much lime or not enough. Striking the balance is an art form, and one which the staff at The Local 2 are near to mastering. Praise indeed from my teacher journalist friend, who critiques as easily as he breathes.

I on the other hand, select a glass of house red as the barometer for the quality of the drinks. With a slow nod of satisfaction, I can confirm that it is not the vinegary headache inducing antioxidant that can be found so frequently with a ‘’house’’ anything. So confident are the staff of this, that they allow us to try before we buy.

The menu is down to earth. Not a coulis or a tuile in sight. You will need a few minutes though, to allow you to appreciate its breadth. The Local 2’s menu reflects its owner and her diverse background and environment: nourishment for the backpacker seeking a healthy and more succulent alternative to a Lucky Burger, for Penhites who have acquired the taste for Khmer food awash with ginger and garlic and for Westerners overcoming their culture shock with a taste for the familiar.

And so here we are, two teachers and a lawyer, sat on a sofa in a lounge area at the back of the bar, salivating over a kangaroo but ready to sample the whole spectrum of the Fast, the Khmer and the Western.

Yes that’s right, kangaroo. 2% fat,and a testament to the owner’s heritage, and a bit of a specialty, by all accounts. In a land where the cows are so skinny, it’s hard to imagine where the beef in your beef loc lac comes from, it is even more difficult to envisage the logistics of bringing little Skippy to your dinner plate. Nonetheless, the Auzzie burger serves its purpose, and meets the Khmer goal of serving fresh and Fast food.

The Khmer is a prawn and ginger stir-fry with a high 'prawnage' and a low msg quotient. And perfectly steamed rice.

The Western is chicken breast with mashed potato and a feta cheese salad. It’s not flash but it doesn’t need to be when the chicken is so moist and spongy it can be cut with the side of a blunt fork. Refreshingly, the Khmer chefs manage to create the Western to the quality of the Khmer staples.

Thankfully, it not being cordon bleu, we are not disappointed by the portion size. Presentation, much like the bar itself is simple but with a touch of artistry, an unpretentious but reliable and aircon assisted dinner.

From the street, you peer past the benches outside and into the Local 2 and realise that what appears to be a bar, not claustrophobically busy, but atmospheric, also serves good value food. The wall-mounted TV and adverts in the menu point to other forms of entertainment, which add value to this off-center find and invite you to return.

Kamala wants to entice people off the main stretch, to venture off the quay itself. Were you to get lost and take a detour down 144, the Local 2 would be well equipped to look after you. From breakfast to breakfast.

The Local 2
# 8, Street 144 Riverside

The Local (Russian Market)
39c Street 454, Toul Tompoung


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