If you’ve taken notice of the bright red shophouse-style bar that’s cropped up on Street 240, that’s the point. It’s actually an extension of the establishment purposefully tucked away in the nearby alley – Bar Sito, the Phnom Penh cocktail joint that’s launched a dozen others.
While Bar Sito takes aim at the city’s settled crowd, Chin Chi – which is dubbed an “Asian street bar”, complete with costumes – is designed to capture the attention of the shoppers and tourists passing by. It is, after all, difficult to miss the 20 Chinese lanterns hanging from its second storey.
But once inside – or rather, standing on its porch – there’s not much to it. There are half a dozen seats, a single small serving space with a borrowed bartender, and a small popsicle freezer. (Since it’s open early, Chin Chi also serves sweet frozen treats, a convincing Vietnamese coffee, and Thai iced tea all day.)
But as with Bar Sito, the emphasis is ostensibly on the three on-menu cocktails ($5), which are each quite simple but take inspiration from local ingredients. The “Khmer G&T”, a classic with an added mix of lemongrass syrup, is the most refreshing.
The others both use Samai rum: a basil-and-ginger mojito and the most creative of the bunch, a “21 Points” mixed with Coke, angostura bitters and a bit of sugarcane juice. There are also canned beers on offer, starting at $1.75, and house wine ($4).
Chin Chi seems to serve its whimsical purpose – as an open-air draw for tourists and a pleasant place for a sundowner. But if you’re a regular, you’re likely better served heading straight to the old haunt down the alley.
Chin Chi is located on Street 240, near the entrance to the Street 240½ alleyway. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to midnight.