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Pissa Italiana – Siem Reap

“Bar Street”

As our stay in Siem Reap in July 2006 drew to a close, we took a fancy to some pizza for a change. So we all went hunting for a suitable restaurant. After checking out a couple (we got a bit freaked out at Funky Munky after the waiters refused to let us browse the street-side menu in peace) we finally settled on Pissa Italiana. (Yes, it really is spelt that way – “Pissa” is the Khmer word for “food”.)

All the Bar Street open-air tables were taken, so we went inside. But the wood-fired oven was producing a fair amount of both heat and smoke, so we hesitated to sit down there. Fortunately they’ve got tables out at the back, in a little alleyway running parallel to Bar Street. Sitting out there was surprisingly pleasant, with more of the air of a Mediterranean town back street than a South East Asian one. And there were very few hassles from passing beggars (actually, we’re struggling to think of any).

We ordered a salad with scallops from Sihanoukville in balsamic vinegar, a tagliatelle carbonara, and a vegetarian pizza. We had some doubts about the pizza, though; the menu listed spinach and cauliflower alongside more conventional ingredients like mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. But we asked the waitress if she could have one made without spinach and cauliflower. She said this was possible, and confirmed it when she read the order back to us. So that was all right.

Or so we thought, anyway. When the pizza (which was rectangular) arrived, it was certainly brassica-free as requested. However, in a bid to ensure we got our money’s worth, the chef had replaced the spinach and cauliflower with courgette (fair enough) and carrot! Still, he’d also arranged the veg in rows across the pizza rather than in the more traditional mix-it-all-in-together arrangement, so it was an easy matter to remove the row of carrot. This left two pieces of tomato-only pizza, but better that than carrot-and-tomato. The other slices were also two-veg combos. All in all, a strange pizza experience, but there was no faulting the quality of the cooking – it was served hot, with a good thin base. We ate it all, anyway (apart from the carrot), so we must have enjoyed it! The carbonara was very good too.

What really set the meal apart was the scallop salad. We thought that for six dollars we’d be getting a respectable number of scallops, perhaps as many as a dozen. There were at least twice that number – and not tiny little ones, a decent size – all beautifully cooked, in other words just ever so slightly underdone. Wonderful stuff! And with a nice bottle of Kiwi Sauv Blanc to set it off, too.

Visit Two: October 2006

Our second visit was something of a spur-of-the-moment decision. We’d had a huge disappointment earlier in the day from the Koala Bar, and decided that we weren’t wanting to risk another, so we thought something suitable might be available from Pissa Italiana – though neither of us particularly fancied pizza, with or without carrot.

The staff remembered us – “You ordered the Sileni Sauvignon Blanc, didn’t you?”! We promptly ordered the same bottle again, and it was every bit as delicious as the previous time.

Looking at the menu, we were mystified by the “Risotto back from kept” (it turned out to mean “catch of the day”), but settled for the tuna carpaccio, which was superb, and the garlic bread, which was very tasty. The tagliatelle carbonara was just as good as the previous time.

We were disappointed to see that scallops weren’t on the menu. Dave nevertheless thought it was worth asking for them, just in case, and we were delighted to be told that we could have them, though we were warned that it would be a different chef this time and she had never done them before. Unfortunately, when they arrived they were terribly overdone, like little rubber bullets. When we pointed this out, the manager was very apologetic and told us that the chef would prepare another (at no extra charge, even though they could justifiably have said that we’d ordered at our own risk). The second attempt was not much better, though the scallops were at least edible. But we really couldn’t blame the staff – they were doing their best to accommodate an off-menu request.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
OK, so the pizza was a bit bizarre the first time round, and the off-menu scallops disappointed the second time. But other than that you’d be struggling to fault it – you’d struggle to find food as good in London for just $14. They’d charge you a damn sight more than $22 for a bottle of New Zealand wine, too. Excellent friendly service, neither over-fussy nor under-attentive, and a relaxing atmosphere.

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