By Jody Hanson
The Latin Quarter in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Everything about The Latin Quarter screams Spanish: the food, the music, the wine, the furniture. The colonial house cum restaurant could well be in Cuba or Argentina.
The Cocina Latina (Latin kitchen) has a handle on their tapas. Check out the calamares de la Romana, chorizo a la plancha (which translates as something like “pan-fried sausage”) and empanades de carne. But a warning about the South American ceviche: this seafood cooked in lime-juice could very easily become addictive. Those wanting something even more Spanish than Barcelona and bullfights can opt for the paella. Salads, seafood and meat options are on the regular menu.
But don’t stop there. Check the specials board to see what else is available. Luncheon offerings are varied and tapas are half-price from 11:00 to 16:00. Away from the tourist hoards, The Latin Quarter is a perfect place for a power lunch.
The wines are from Argentina, Chile and Spain. A lone bottle of French Billecard Salmon Brut graces the list. Sangria can be ordered by the glass or the pitcher and the bar stocks the usual beers and spirits. But the nightcap to end all nightcaps is the 23 year-old Ron Zacapa Centenario Solera Gran Reserva. This cognac-impersonating-rum is in a league all of its own and goes perfectly with a Cuban cigar from the humidor.
At 19:00 there are salsa classes upstairs. Later the heavy wooden tables are pushed out of the way to make room for salsa dancing on Loco Fridays. And to get those who are a touch reluctant up on the dance floor, sangrias and beer are $1 and tapas for the evening are available, including mini-paellas.
Want somewhere more secluded? Head up the staircase that is wide enough for a marching band and slip into the lounge. Tucked away in air-conditioned comfort, the same food and drinks are served.
What makes The Latin Quarter unique? According to Uruguay-born Diego Wilkins, “The colonial villa is an ideal venue that generates an ambience, atmosphere, and personality. We have Spanish and South American food and wine from around the world all under one roof. I spent a lot of time developing the décor and the menu. Do we get it right?” Tick.
Sauntering out of The Latin Quarter — and being confronted by the tuk-tuk drivers — is a sudden reminder that you are actually in Phnom Penh and not in Havana.
Photos courtesy of Jody Hanson
About the Author:
Jody Hanson is an insufferable travel junkie who currently lives in Cambodia. To date she has visited 107 countries, lived in eight and holds passports in three. Her – some would say irresponsible – retirement plan is to keep going until she drops. At that time she wants a Muslim burial: wash the body, wrap it in a white sheet and plant it by sundown. In the meantime, Hanson continues to have more than her share of adventures and misadventures, both of which she embraces equally.