Smokin' Pug's old Surawong shop-house is reborn.
The buzz: Smokin’ Pug's old shop-house on Surawong Road has been reborn as an American-style bar serving fresh, minimalist drinks and full-flavored comfort dishes.
The decor: Not a great deal has changed since the Pug’s departure—and that’s no bad thing. Neon signage bearing the numbers “88” now guides you into the dim yet inviting bar room tastefully decked out with industrial furnishings and raw concrete. Before a tall, back-lit shelf lined with bottles, the bartenders work their magic. Pull up a high stool, Cheers-style, and get the low-down on what’s in stock. The upstairs mezzanine provides a touch more privacy.
The drinks: New Yorker Eric Stephenson, previously a Portfolio Manager at La Familia, a craft alcohol distributor in Phnom Penh, helm the bar here. His creations are historically-accurate and sometimes obscure, but not overly showy or complicated. The Air Mail (B360), for example, uses wildflower honey, lime and sparkling wine to take some of the edge of its base of aged Jamaican rum. The fittingly named Rose Petal (B360) is an aromatic mix of London Dry Gin, raspberry, lemon, peach, rose-kissed egg white and sparkling wine. Even more refreshing is the Hotel Nacional Special (B360), which sees Caribbean white rum house-blend, apricot, pineapple, lime and bitter vanilla served over crushed ice in a tall glass.
The food: Well-known American pub grub twisted with ingredients that are all locally sourced. We’d go back just for the Thai wagyu flank steak served with stir-fried onion and a very saeb nam jim jaew (B600). Snacks-wise, try the fried sweet potatoes (B220) served with chili sauce and garlic mayo or the buffalo chicken nuggets that come with blue cheese sauce (B280)—be warned, though, both are addictive.
The music: Classic American oldies with plenty of singalongs (“Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel, for one).
Why you should care: As seriously as they take their drinks (boutique alcohol importer Bootleggers is behind the venture), this is the kind of welcoming, after-work hangout you want in your ‘hood. Also, keep an eye out for a “secret” bar with 22 seats that’s set to open upstairs sometime soon. Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj