The popular analogy that Cambodia is the Wild West of Asia became a little more real last month when Jack Saloon opened its swinging double doors in the capital’s Tonle Bassac neighbourhood.
Decked out in old West décor and paraphernalia, the modest space is tucked away among the many themed bars of the well-known Bassac Lane area. For owner Rath Piseth, the idea of opening the Western-themed watering hole has been brewing for a decade.
“I love this country style, so I wanted to do this… I saw it in the Western movies,” says 29-year-old Piseth, who opened nearby Red Bar three years ago but has been itching to start a new venture with a unique style.
His favourite cowboy? Comics character Lucky Luke.
Achieving that Western style was a two-and-a-half month ordeal that involved a lot of customising and a bit of personal handicraft – most of the props in the locale such as the fake guns, the wood-barrel tables and the spurs weren’t readily available in Cambodia and had to be built by Piseth and his team: “We tried to import fake guns and [pistols] from Thailand but could not because it is against the law in this country.”
Post Weekend counted at least seven of the home-made pop rifles mounted around the bar between the Western themed art and cowboy movie posters adorning the walls.
The drinks menu is for straight shooters; nothing fancy. The hard stuff runs from $2.50 to $4 a shot and 50 cents for a mixer. All classic cocktails are also listed at between $4 and $4.50.
Piseth recommends the signature “Jack Margarita” – basically, an iced margarita with green mint, strawberry, mango and Jack Daniels whiskey in place of tequila.
And while Piseth says “we don’t have many Cambodian cowboys in Phnom Penh” and the North American Bison isn’t indigenous, you will find a pair of the now-endangered Banteng horns mounted on the wall – which Piseth assures are an heirloom he found in his family home.
Jack Saloon is located at #M112 Street 308 – down Bassac Lane – and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm to midnight, cowboy. Tel: 010 729 655.