Lunch time at the office is a source of daily indecision for me and my colleagues, heightened by the demands of a group appetite that isn’t sure how large it is or what it wants to eat.
As we drove to Buffalo Sister, a new ‘carvery’ sandwich bar on Street 19, I reminded my group of three that I was ‘not particularly hungry’ and would most likely share what they were having. But then a colleague conjured images of steaming roast beef rolls and dripping gravy – by the time we walked through the door my hunger had grown exponentially by the prospect of a hearty roast.
With potted palms out the front, blowing fans and aluminum seats, Buffalo Sister’s interior is sandwich-bar modest. Nostalgic Cambodian pop makes me feel quite boyant and a large blackboard menu has the Western lunch standards covered, including chicken schnitzel and ham and cheddar, and a straightforward pricing system makes for easy bill-splitting – every item on the sandwich menu is $4.25.
After ordering at the counter, I was half-expecting a hungry pack of tradesmen and office-workers to pour in of the street for a canteen lunch. Rather than the sterile cheesecakes and hardened lasagna trays of the bog-standard Western sandwich bar though, Buffalo is loyal to the fresh and homemade: juicy servings of roast meat and good salads. There is not a bain-marie or greasy thermal glass counter in sight.
Served on canteen-style red and white chequered paper with a side of gravy, my roast beef roll was stuffed with generous, medium-rare peels of meat and a layer of onion and tomato salad. The roast meat was tasty and the smooth gravy – made from a rich base of beef, chicken and pork stock plus roasting pan juices – delicious. The baguette, which I chose over bread, was rather dry and needed a scrape of butter or chutney to really soak up all the juices, once doused in gravy. My colleague fared better with the roast-beef cold cut sandwich served on soft multigrain bread. Piled on bright salad and with a dollop of horseradish and mustard, the sandwich was filling but manageable and like my roll, not fatty.
The roast pork sandwich (also on the dry baguette) had thick slices of moist roast pork and some thick, jammy applesauce, of which there wasn’t quite enough - although I’m sure that would have been remedied had we asked.
Twice-cooked hand-cut yellow chips were possibly the fattest I’ve seen and too vigorously salted – but cooked just right: fluffy on the inside, crispy on the out and in such large chunks, a large $1.50 serve is easy to share between three.
The service is friendly and quick, and with a growing number of Door2Door takeaway orders, the delivery staff is expanding.
I can attest to this as two days later I odered a roast beef cold cut from Buffalo Sister, straight to my desk. Unlike nearly every other takeaway restaurant in Phnom Penh, the sandwich was not grossly overpackaged in polystyrene and plastic. Tick.
We finished off our most British lunchtime outing yet with a sandwich bar staple: a slice of carrot cake. Rich with cinnamon, sultanas and a citrus cream-cheese icing, it would have been perfect with a cup of tea. On a 35 degree day, that tradition doesn’t always demand to be followed.
Bufallo Sister carvery sandwich bar, #128, Street 19. Open Monday - Saturday 11am to 7.30pm