Jessica Tana and photographer Lucas Veuve get stuck into the hearty menu Rubicon Bar and Grill.

“I say with pride that everything is fried in butter,” Guy Morris says, gesturing towards a beef patty bubbling away in a pool of browning butter. “I guess I’m just a butter advocate.”

Chef and owner of Rubicon Bar and Grill, Morris admits his food is not for the calorie-counting crowd. “It’s hearty, filling, camp-fire food, elevated to restaurant quality,” he says.

Open for roughly six months, Morris initially started a bar with a small food menu of the things he loves to eat. The food has drawn such a crowd, however, and it’s not hard to see why.

Favouring large cuts of meat, Morris whips up delectable home-made marinades, pickles his own vegetables and smokes salt with cedar and bamboo. The result is both unpretentious and seriously flavourful at the same time.

Starting with the butter-fried Angus burger ($9.75), it’s interesting to see how Morris has elevated the humble beef burger. The quality meat patty hides a gooey centre of Swiss cheese and is seasoned with smoked salt and creamy truffle oil.

The bun is made from toasted baguette, but without getting too hoity toity, the burger is held together with a knife through its heart and the fries are served in rolled newspaper. It’s both decadent and rustic, and Morris swears the butter makes it that much better.

Next on the chalkboard menu was the Southern fried chicken sandwich ($8.75), made from brined and battered chicken breast, tangy pickled onions, creamy remoulade on a toasted baguette and served with truffle infused mac and cheese. The acidity of the onions and the addition of Kampot peppercorns hiding in the mac and cheese, balanced out the sweet, rich flavours of the other ingredients, keeping the dish from being too rich.

The Cuban ($9) is served with home-made pickles – some of the best in town – sitting atop a precariously large mound of pork belly. Not for the weak of heart, the large amount of meat is contained in a soft bun toasted with Emmental cheese and lined with Dijon mustard. Served with smoke salted fries, the sandwich is a big-eater’s dream.

In contrast to the lumberjack sized meals, a sweet and frothy drink was in order. Gul’s cocktail ($6) is made from bourbon, almond Orgeat, lemon, eggwhites and Angostura bitters.  Served with a pink orchid floating in the middle, the drink is light and creamy, without being overly sweet.

With minimalist grey walls (soon to be painted by local artists), meat cutting boards as tables, and IPA and Weiss beer on tap, Rubicon feels like an homage to the cool bars and eateries of northern California.

With slicked back hair and tattooed arms, Morris claims he didn’t set out to make a hip establishment, “But I guess, at my age, this is just who I am,” he says with a shrug.

For your own taste of California’s great north, take a table, just don’t be on a diet.

Street 320, with the corner of Street 113, Phnom Penh.
Tel. 085 811 124.
Open Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 10pm.