For Prom Putvisal, it wasn’t enough to work on his own lithography and painting projects and teach at an NGO, while also building masks and sets for theatre productions, so he decided to open a small café catering to fellow artists.
He says he built his simple outdoor restaurant, called Tos Dak Tich, on a side street in Tuol Kork, to “relieve stress”. Prom can be found outside on most nights tending to a small grill on the sidewalk, on which he cooks seafood brought daily from off the coast of Sihanoukville.
Prom’s restaurant is not offering anything revolutionary – the grilled octopus, steamed crab and shrimp skewers are relatively basic – but its bohemian-meets-traditional-Khmer-arts vibe makes it stand out. Ever the artist, Prom has painted murals on every wall of Hanuman, the monkey god from the epic Reamker, the local adaptation of the Ramayana. T-shirts designed by Prom depicting Lakhon Khol, or masked dance, are for sale and hanging on the walls.
“Most of the clients who come here are artists or have an artist background,” says Prom, who graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts in 2011. “Of course they come here to eat but also to talk amongst themselves about their art. They come and discuss here what they should be working on next.”
Sympathetic to the limited resources of his artist friends, Prom’s restaurant is reasonably priced. Each oyster, which is served with a drizzling of fried garlic and a chili and lime sauce, is only 4500 riel ($1.12). Perhaps Prom’s most unusual dish is the raw blue crab with mango salad ($2.50), in which the acidity of the sauce helps to cook the crab. Less adventurous eaters can try the steamed rock crab with Chinese noodles ($3.75), or stick to staples like the fresh fried prawns and octopus.
The name, which means “Let’s have a bit”, gets at what Prom is going for – to have a snack, a few cans of Leo, listen to music and kick back with friends, either new or old.
Tos Dak Tich is located at 227 Street 138 in Tuol Kork. Its hours are 6-10pm every day. 098 758 998.