In a city crowded with restaurants, Pacharan Tapas & Bodega has managed to build a loyal following as Phnom Penh's only authentic Spanish eatery.
With imported delicacies such as Manchego cheese, Catolonian chorizo and Iberian ham — some of the rarest and most expensive ham in the world — it's easy to see why. Pacharan's unique menu makes it the only kitchen in the Kingdom serving the genuine flavors of Spain.
Built primarily around tapas and segundos platos, or main dishes, the menu has long been popular with weekend diners. Tapas are ideal for lunch too: they are easy to make, arrive quickly and are perfect for sharing among friends.
"Compared to main dishes, tapas encourage conversation," explains Javier Elola, the restaurant's manager. "For a business lunch, or just lunch with some friends, it's perfect."
For FCC members Pacharan offers even more: a 25 percent lunch discount from 11 a.m to 3:30 p.m., including drinks.
"It really is a great deal," says Elola. "When I first arrived here I couldn't believe it."
For non-members Pacharan has a "Special Tapas Lunch," which includes two tapas plates, bread and alioli, a glass of wine and coffee for $7.70.
For those unfamiliar with Spanish cuisine, mainstays such as Tortilla Espanola (Spanish omelet), paella, and Calamares a la Romana (deep-fried fresh squid) make for delicious forays into unknown culinary waters.
The Spanish omelet, a perfect blend of potatos and eggs with a hint of onion, offers a subtle twist to familiar flavors. And paella, a Spanish-style rice-based dish served with shellfish and other seafood, provides an easy introduction to unfamiliar Spanish spices.
Paellas are among the most popular dishes for those with Eastern-oriented palates, says Elola.
As with any top-notch restaurant, atmosphere and presentation are every bit as important as the food. At Pacharan, the quality of the menu is mirrored in the curvilinear interiors and artistically presented dishes.
The Calamares comes severed on a spotless, square white plate, each dish appearing like a work of art. With lightly fried golden rings as the centerpiece, the Calamares is delivered with a small dollop of applesauce and chopped black olives, and complimented with red tomato jam and a green spring onion sauce. It's a deliciously photogenic dish worthy of any fine dining magazine.
And it's fast. The Calamares a la Romana can be cooked and served in under 10 minutes. Most other dishes come just as fast, if not faster.
"You can very easily be in and out in under an hour," says Elola. "It's very quick."