In the famous Pub Street in downtown Siem Reap, one can sample everything from bedpan cocktails and cheap beers at the bars which compete with carts selling alcoholic beverages. In short, one can find an array of wines, spirits and beverages that suit every palate and price point.
But among all that choice is one venue that stands out as a must visit. Asana Bar, which strives to offer patrons a new experience opened almost seven years ago. It is still able to maintain its “cut above” stature, thanks to its unique cocktails that are a mix of Khmer kitchen ingredients and white wine.
Located in the town centre, patronising this one-of-a-kind bar gives visitors the impression they have arrived in a rural village.
The traditional wooden design of Asana Bar is due to the fact that it used to be a family home that was built in the 1960s.
Considered a contemporary designed “modern house” when it was built, it is today said to be the last traditional house in the Phsar Chas area and stands as evidence of the progress Siem Reap town has made from its once sleepy hollow.
The bar’s owner, Un Sophary, says she is proud to be able to show off a rural, Khmer-styled house in Siem Reap town to foreign guests who flock there.
“They exclaim wow! And ask where the house came from?’ But they are not the only ones in awe at the design. Our younger generation Khmers are just as surprised at the design since they know very little of Khmer traditions, especially how houses used to be built decades ago,” she says.
At Asana, wooden chairs and pillows are covered with rice sacks, while beds are tied and hung with mattress covers. A beautiful sofa under the house makes for a perfect aftersnoon snooze, while the upstairs bar table has a Buddhist picture attached to the roof and a large sofa full of rice sacks.
In between mixing a cocktail and being interviewed by The Post, Dwen Franke who is a guest at Asana says: “When I heard of a bar designed from a traditional wooden house in the centre of the town, it peaked my interest.
“I really wanted to see it and taste one of its ‘famously unique’ cocktails. In this block, we see modern buildings everywhere. This house is of a rural style which you can see a lot of in rural Cambodia."
“I had not been to Southeast Asia before arriving in Cambodia. This is an experience of a lifetime. Each time I open my eyes, I see new things everywhere, including the uniqueness of a culture that’s new to me,” says the young man who hails from the US.
Asana Bar mainly serves Khmer traditional and Western-styled cocktails created by bar owner Sophary, who says she uses ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, a paddy herb, kaffir lime leaves and white rice wine.
“Initially I made only non-alcoholic cocktails from ginger, lemongrass and tamarind among others. But because I had no market, I started to blend in some spirits with the cocktails. And over time, I expanded the range to offer more unique ones that have become popular,” he says.
Sophary says her cocktail blends are a mark of her success as they as unique, and nobody else has managed to copy the recipes thus far.
And except for the white wine that is blended into the cocktails, the rest of the ingredients are uniquely Khmer, she stressed.
She says she even teaches guests how to mix three kinds of wine with ingredients such as ginger, tamarind water and Asana Sling for $15. It includes bites such as meats which go with the cocktails. Now guests can try their hand a making their own cocktail masterpieces with Khmer kitchen ingredients.
Pointing to a patron, Sophary says: “She made a tamarind water cocktail with ingredients that included tamarind water, paddy herb and kaffir lime leaves among others to make her own cocktail masterpiece.
Another popular cocktail is the Asana Sling. It’s like the Singapore Sling, but I add in a traditional Khmer herb wine to the blend.”
Asana Bar is open from 5pm to 2am and located at house No. 7, Modul 1 Village (2nd entrance in front of the provincial hospital) near Pub Street in Siem Reap town. Those planning a visit can even call 092 98 78 01 for directions.