The Kettlebell Cafe, the hole-in-the-wall with distinctive square, blue and white pixel-like tiles remiscent of ’90s computer games that arrived on Street 454 late last month, might look cute, but it means business.
The new eatery, an extension of the CrossFit Amatak gym near Russian Market, is serving up healthy dishes inspired by the paleo diet as well as top-notch espresso.
Corbett Hix, the Texan owner of both the gym and cafe, which had its soft opening late last month, said the idea was born out of his struggle to find healthy affordable eats.
“Phnom Penh has a great variety of food, but not always the healthiest options,” he said. “We want to help fill the gap, focusing on affordable, well-prepared food aimed at a fitness-oriented lifestyle.”
The emphasis is on take-away, ordered beforehand: the setup consists of just a counter-top and a few stools. For breakfast, it’s omelettes with a range of sides – for example, red onion confit with crispy bacon and herb sausage or sliced chicken paprika and thyme – while lunch will be one or two options rotated daily.
“We draw a lot from the ‘paleo’ diet but are not 100 per cent paleo,” said Hix, referring to the diet that replicates what humans from the Palaeolithic era are thought to have eaten, by eschewing dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils and refined sugar.
“We focus on ‘clean’ food, made well and in a balanced diet.”
The coffee is also a focus. The beans have been selected by the Feel Good Cafe and Disappearing Brew Bar coffee consultant Jen Green, who also assisted with the equipment and training.
When we dropped in this week, Oliver Tho, the French chef running the kitchen, said he was still experimenting with the menu before the cafe’s official launch and offered us tomatoes stuffed with minced pork and smashed cauliflower ($4) and a plate of mixed roast veggies and salad ($4).
The food was nourishing, and tastier than expected, but without any carb-heavy rice, bread or potatoes, a single portion might not satisfy those with big appetites.
For me, the double-shot latte ($2.75) was the highlight of the experience: smooth, full-bodied and creamy, and arguably the best west of Monivong Boulevard.
Kettlebell Cafe is located at #45, Street 454. Opening hours during soft opening: 6am until 2pm, Monday to Saturday.