St 63 Bassak Restaurant, now at a more spacious location on Phnom Penh’s Street 308, offers a serene dining environment with the same menu and name as the original eatery. Matt Surrusco and photographer Enric Català have a seat in the garden.
Sitting down at St. 63 Restaurant, patrons may feel like they’re getting into bed.
For some diners, they will be. Among the lush green palms in the restaurant’s garden, some tables have been creatively constructed in-house from bed frames, with low square tables placed in the centre of the frame for four people to sit around crossed-legged.
Owner Meng Hieng says the restaurant’s new location allowing for plentiful seating built by Hieng’s father, inside and out. And there are regular tables and chairs with backs for those less inclined to lounge.
The restaurant itself, a stately, two-story house with some interior walls removed, has a dining area and bar downstairs, while the upstairs is being transformed into a wine bar and additional dining space, which Hieng says will open in about a month.
Customers of the original St. 63 will recall what it has to offer: a large variety of Western and Khmer dishes that cater to broad audiences.
The chicken cordon bleu ($5) is fairly standard with slices of ham and mozzarella cooked between a crispy layer of breadcrumbs and a large cutlet. Green Kampot peppercorns dot a tasty cream sauce served over the chicken. The dish comes with either a mixed green salad or French fries. Unfortunately, mine also came with a small piece of plastic on my plate, hopefully a mistake from the kitchen that isn’t often made.
The dry pizza ($7), which could work as an individual meal or starter to share, was like a classic Hawaiian with pineapple, ham, bacon and mozzarella, but with no sauce and some extra toppings: baked cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. The fresh lettuce laid overtop added little to the dish, but if you enjoy thin crust, fruit on your pizza and a bit of spice, this pie is an appetising choice.
For veggie lovers looking for more than a side salad, the grilled vegetable salad ($3.50) has plenty to offer: basil, rocket, iceberg and other mixed greens tossed with grilled eggplant and tomatoes, cooked till soft; grilled red, green and yellow bell peppers, which maintained a crunch; and sliced cherry tomatoes. The classic oil and vinegar dressing did the trick.
The combination of cherry brandy, Cointreau, gin, Angostura bitters, lime and pineapple juice and Grenadine syrup in St. 63’s signature cocktail – the St. 63 sling ($3.75) – was overly sweet. But others may enjoy the sugary, fruity beverage, especially since the owner said waiters will ask customers how strong they’d like their drink.
On previous visits to the old and new location, St. 63’s pasta dishes did not disappoint, but service tended to be slow. Despite its flaws, including stained table cloths and seat cushions, the restaurant offers a welcoming, intimate atmosphere – even with seating for more than 100 people.
The greenery, unique seating options and ceilings of exposed dark wood beams are nearly enough to make you look past the restaurant’s faults.