Alcohol expertise found at Japanese bar

Cambodia on the outside, Tokyo’s Ginza neighbourhood on the inside.
Cambodia on the outside, Tokyo’s Ginza neighbourhood on the inside. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Alcohol expertise found at Japanese bar

Tucked away on a quiet street in the capital’s Boeung Keng Kong 1 neighbourhood, the sleek modern exterior of the newly opened Bar Odin is illuminated with rows of fairy lights, inviting patrons to see what lies within the self-described “authentic Japanese” bar.

Behind the counter is manager Ryoichi “Shimo” Shimoda, who calls himself a “whiskey otaku” a term usually reserved for youths with an obsessive interest in Japanese anime culture. In this case, it applies to the 24-year-old’s knowledge of the 400 or so bottles of rare whiskey, bourbon and cognac that line the shelves behind the bar counter.

“I studied whiskeys for six months straight. I didn’t go out with friends,” Shimo says. “The more I learned, the more I got into it,” he adds. The bar’s name is a tip of the hat to the Bar Odin that operated two locations for more than a decade in Tokyo’s famous Ginza and Ebisu neighbourhoods.

But when the Ginza location closed, Shimo says, a former patron – Satoshi Kadoya, CEO of construction firm Plan Z Group, was so saddened that he bought up their liquor stock and furniture, moved it all to Phnom Penh, and opened Bar Odin.

Not a detail is out of place. “Everything is really from Tokyo: the chairs, the tables, the counter,” Shimo says. Even Shimo himself was hired from the Bar Odin in Ebisu where he worked for two years to replicate the luxury drinking experience in Phnom Penh.

A whiskey ‘otaku’ is behind the bar.
A whiskey ‘otaku’ is behind the bar. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

“You can’t find what we have here anywhere else in Phnom Penh,” he says. When Post Weekend asked what he meant by that, Shimo produced a bottle of cognac dating from 1909 that goes for $180 a glass.

“We have many whiskeys, brandies from breweries not operating anymore,” he adds, going on to place on the counter a dusty bottle of 1974 Macallan scotch whiskey for which the recipe is no longer in use.

Of course, while Odin is certainly expensive, you don’t necessarily need to break the bank, and can enjoy rare selections from Shimo’s collection at a wide range of price-points although the good stuff starts at about $10 a glass. Meanwhile, beers, wine and fruit shochu cocktails are on the menu for the more casual drinker.

But, when you have an otaku bartender at your service, you may as well make the most of it. Beyond managing the bar, Shimo manages the collection himself, making strategic purchases of rare spirits as if he were a stock market analyst.

Illustrating the point, Shimo served us a $10 glass on the rocks of Kotaru-shiage Suntory pure malt. It’s exceedingly smooth with a light charcoal aroma. He says the bottle he purchased two years ago is now worth 10 times what he paid.

“In Japan, I would have to charge more,” he says.

Bar Odin is located at #22A Street 282, open every day from 7pm-3am during its soft opening. Tel: 023 533 1990

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