AS the owner of Little Pari’s Jazz Bar explains it, her business sets two records: her bar is the first run by a Khmer woman in the Pub Street precinct, and it’s also the smallest in Siem Reap.
Tucked away in a little laneway, Little Pari’s opened in July 2010 after owner Unn Sophary decided to take the next step and open her own business after a career working at many of Siem Reap’s best known bars and hotels.
With a quirky interior featuring light fixtures constructed out of recycled Pellegrini bottles and furniture refashioned from recycled timber, Little Pari’s is a deeply personal project which Unn Sophary hopes will inspire other Cambodians to open their own boutique bars, too.
“I want to show Cambodians to think positively and that they can do something without a big investment. It’s the greatest feeling to listen to music you like and drink your own cocktails in a place you created,” she said.
As well as the décor, Unn Sophary said she uses jazz and blues music to set a relaxed mood, occasionally playing more mournful blues tracks early in the morning when she wants to clear out the remaining customers and close the bar.
“My Khmer friends can’t understand why I like jazz so much but I find it soothing and relaxing. It’s all about setting a mood and having people come and relax.”
Another idiosyncratic touch is the bar’s menu, which contains standard cocktails infused with Khmer herbs and spices, as well as some special drinks of Unn Sophary’s own concoction.
“I use lemongrass, turmeric and ginger to add different flavours to our cocktails as well as Kampot pepper and star anise. Plus, customers can design their own custom drinks with any of the ingredients we have.”
Owning her own bar also offers Unn Sophary a chance to display the fruits of her hobby – photography. The bar walls have become a gallery of sorts of her work.
Plus there is memorabilia in the form of childhood photos of her in her home village of Srah Srang.
“Some of the photos were taken by a family friend who first gave me the nickname ‘Little Pari’, and most of my friends have been calling me that ever since” she said.
She told 7Days she opened Little Pari’s for under $10,000 in July of last year after a career spent working at Siem Reap nightspots including Red Piano and Abacus, as well as Raffles Grand Hotel and the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra.
After being asked to scout out locations and develop a business plan for a friend planning to open a bar, a project which never got off the ground, she decided to go into business for herself.
“In Siem Reap, when you go out to drink it’s either in a place that’s really expensive or it’s cheap and low quality. I wanted to make a bar that was affordable but comfortable to be in, something very personal, like a room in my house. My friends all say it’s different when I’m not here.”
Little Pari’s Jazz Bar, in the laneway behind Pub Street near Old Market, is open from 7pm to 2am every day.