Ramen and Gyoza Bar Masamune brings Japanese food and drink to Bassac Lane, satisfying noodle and sake cravings late into the night. Words by Erin Hale. Photography by Lucas Veuve.
Ramen and Gyoza Bar Masamune is one of the latest spots to open on Street 308, serving Japanese food late into the night alongside the busy bars of Bassac Lane and nearby alleys.
Masamune offers exactly what it promises in the name: gyoza dumplings and ramen noodles, in addition to other delicious dishes. While the food is Japanese, the inspiration is from New York, where “gyoza bars” have become extremely popular, according to owner Sugawara Kazutaka.
Judging from food blogs, the East Village is chock full of gyoza spots, but Masamune is the first restaurant of its kind in Phnom Penh to offer several varieties of the famous dumpling ($2 for four gyoza, $4 for eight). There’s classic with pork, “miso” with a sauce similar to miso soup, and vegetarian – a rare find outside of the frozen food section. The most interesting, however, is the okonomiyaki-style gyoza, which come with sauce and flavours inspired by the famous savoury pancake. A variety of dips, including chili, basil and ponzu sauce, can be added.
Sugawara hopes to introduce these flavours to foreigners and Cambodians, which is why he chose Bassac Lane over the stretch of Street 63 that is home to a number of restaurants catering to Japanese expats. Even though his target audience might not be familiar with the intricacies of Japanese cooking, Sugawara has still gone to great lengths to get all of his dishes just right.
Take Masamune’s ramen. Crafting the perfect ramen is not easy in Phnom Penh. “Ramen soup is a little bit difficult to make here because in Cambodia it is difficult to get the ingredients,” he says. “So we import soup from Japan, and the noodles are made here from a specialty supplier.”
Only the freshest ingredients are included to make ramen with pork, eggs, green onion, and seaweed. Diners can order their ramen with soup (Shoyu Ramen, $5.50) or without soup (Abura Soba, $6) or a special variety with salt (Shio Ramen, $5.50), with mini sizes available ($3.50) for those looking for more of a snack.
Masamune can also hold its own in the cocktail and beverage department. Japanese whiskey bottles decorate the front bar and are available to order neat or with soda for $4.50. Japanese sake ($5) and shochu ($4.50) are also available. Sake is a fermented rice wine served hot or icy cold, while sochu is distilled from rice or barley. It’s closer to vodka in terms of alcohol strength, and, like a vodka-style cocktail, Masamune’s sochu is served with fresh fruit to lighten up the beverage.
The restaurant also serves specialty drinks, such as its Corona-rita, a frozen margarita with a mini Corna beer flipped in it ($9.50). These can be enjoyed with some of Masamune’s appetisers, including karaage ($3), boneless Japanese -style fried chicken that makes a great crunchy snack.