As sister bar to Oskar Bistro Bangkok, Phnom Penh’s addition has proven to be a welcome addition to riverside. Writer Adolfo Adolfo Perez-Gascon and photographer Enric Català sample the menu.
In the last couple of years, Phnom Penh has seen a notable rise in the number of diners catering to both refined palates and discerning drinkers, boasting not only international-standard menus but also outstanding liquid offers. Oskar Bistro is one of them.
Located on the riverfront, it offers customers a welcomed respite from the cacophony unfolding outside. There, a lonely portrait of Sean Connery’s incarnation of James Bond looms over wooden tables and metallic chairs, beckoning guests into the business with a playful smirk and a raised pistol.
MI6’s most gallant agent would feel right at home inside: it’s easy to picture him sipping on a vodka martini – shaken, not stirred – seated in the warm light that bathes the long, elegant bar. As with any watering hole that Mr Bond would grace, the atmosphere here is rather sensuous, with little in the way of ornamentation, but featuring a sober colour palette dominated by pastels, browns and blacks.
“We are an upscale restaurant and bar,” says Patrick Ferenczi, one of Oskar’s partners. “But we are also a bit casual. We get backpackers as well.” Oskar’s clientele is indeed diverse, with some lured by the Mediterranean-fusion haute cuisine and the never-ending list of imported wines, and others dropping in for drinks fused with good house tunes. “The place usually gets packed on weekend nights,” says Ferenczi.
A tapas comes free with your tipple between 5pm and 7.30pm, with our appetizer being a scrumptious piece of toasted bread topped with melt emmental cheese and oven-baked salmon.
The 300g beef rib-eye ($29.75) steak is tender, succulent and seared to perfection – served on a cutting board and garnished with a medley of mushrooms, potato croquettes and salad. For the complete experience, dip some in the accompanying creamy Kampot pepper sauce, although your senses might be temporarily overwhelmed by the piquancy of the combo.
“For this dish in particular we use imported Australian beef, but Cambodian meats also feature heavily in our menu,” says Ferenczi, who adds they favour locally-grown meats and produce as a way of supporting Cambodian producers.
The Oskar Salad ($9.50) is a colourful combination of high-quality imported products and local goods. The contrast of textures and flavours – the soft mushrooms and crispy green beans, the overpowering meaty flavour of the foie gras and the earthy taste of beetroot – are managed brilliantly to achieve a mouthwatering balance. A sweet and creamy melt sandwich, stuffed with shredded duck and emmental cheese, is served as garnish.
For luscious food and top quality tipples, Oskar has it covered, whether diners happen to be a British spy licensed to kill or a regular city dweller aloof to the workings of international espionage.