56 Sihanouk Blvd,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Java Cafe, a combination art gallery and cafe along Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh, is a bit of an institution. It's been using the art and chick-food combination successfully for eleven years, and is one of the most recognizable and oft-utilized meet up spots in town.
Walking into the place on a rainy evening, it was difficult for me to believe that I was not in Northern California. Jazz on the speakers, contemporary art on the walls, funky yet tasteful furniture, twee table settings, organic smoothie selection - is this some sort of perverse dream? No, just Java. My boyfriend remains skeptical but I'm glad to have Java. Also, they make good sandwiches.
Like this ham, mushroom, and mozzarella "pizza" panini on herb foccacia, served with home-made potato chips and garden salad. Anything meant to simulate pizza that is not actually pizza fills me with suspicion and revulsion, but this was delicious. Lots of oozy, melting cheese, and a nice, authentically pizza-like flavor. The availability of good bread in Phnom Penh amazes me even now. I should also add that home-made potato chips are always a good idea.
My boyfriend ordered pancakes, which he deemed good. They're not the French style pancakes, which are actually crepes and should be labeled as such on the menu to avoid insurrection, or at least complaints. Java also has a pretty good chicken kebab salad with beetroot and yogurt sauce - sounds weird, is actually excellent. I've heard baked goods are hit and miss, but they make a good cup of coffee.
And you can look at nice contemporary Cambodian art on the walls while listening to Mingus and pretend for a bit that you're living a more sophisticated lifestyle then the one you actually lead (featuring: daily grinds, motorbike accidents, persistent tropical parasites) which is sometimes what you need.