Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Herb Pizza at the Riverfront, Phnom Penh


Before I left for Phnom Penh, friends who have been there told us that we should eat at this local pizzeria in Phnom Penh. The Lonely Planet speaks of the same establishment and rumours have it that this restaurant situated at #345, Sisowath Quay serves a special kind of pizza. It’s called the Happy Herb Pizza. So, go figure why the pizzas are so special.

Anyway, I decided to find out today whether the pizza was indeed special or just a myth. I also figured that I had to go there at least once before I leave the country.

I expected the restaurant to be packed especially at this time when it’s filled with tourists but it wasn’t. In fact, the other restaurants serving “happy pizza” were empty too. (There are about three restaurants serving similar kind of pizzas in one stretch. No doubt that the pizzas were very popular before.)

When I skimmed through the menu, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how to order. The items shown were what you would normally expect in any pizzerias; margarita, pepperoni, Hawaiian, Napolitano, etc. They all come in three different sizes; small, medium and large at US$4.50, 7.50 and 11.00 each. I asked for a small Happy Herb Special Pizza as it sounded “special”.

Happy Herb Special Pizza

The waiter did not ask me whether I would like my pizza, “normal, happy or extra happy.” According to some online forums, this was supposed to be the standard question.

Anyway, when the pizza arrived, I could see some sort of herbs sprinkled sparingly on top.  It could have been oregano for all I knew. There was no scent of the happy herb. Neither was there any taste of the happy herb when I tucked in. The pizza tasted mediocre and in other words, nothing special about it and in fact, a bit too expensive for what I got.

The whole experience might seem disappointing but after I finished the pizza and hopped on a tuk-tuk, I did feel err….happy. However, I wasn’t sure whether my happiness was attributed to the pizza or the fact that the tuk-tuk driver was really nice and friendly or the weather was just perfect. I wasn’t convinced that the herb did anything and if it did, was it merely a placebo effect?

Whatever it was, the tuk-tuk ride was definitely a happy one especially when it came with loud Khmer music for every road users’ pleasure along the way.  After haggling with the driver, he finally agreed to US$2 instead of his asking price of US$3.

When I told him, “You go slow-slow, ok? I take photos.” He jokingly answered, “Then you pay US$3, ok?” I shrugged him off. When I looked up from inside the tuk-tuk, I saw all these photos taken with tourists and the sentence, LONG LIVE FRIENDSHIP and instantly felt sentimental. It was definitely the nicest tuk-tuk I’ve ever been on.

Amazing music tuktuk2

 Long live friendship


We passed the Royal Museum, the Royal Palace, the Vietnamese-Cambodian War Monument and the Independence Monument at snail speed. When I finally arrived in front of my apartment, I gave him US$3 and he accepted it with a huge happy grin.

So whether the pizza had done its work or not, it was indeed a happy day.

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