Herb's Bistro, Phnom Penh Cambodia.

from: Room 28, Lucky Guesthouse. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"Sun Dried tomato pizza. Medium. Can you add garlic too?"
"Garlic. You want happy?"
"Sorry?"
"Pizza. Happy? " I think that his English must be poor and/or the question might be rhetorical. The waiter is diminuitive so we are almost eye to eye. Mine are wide and glassy with incomprehension, like a rabbit, his moist and relaxed, like a bloodhound. I turn for help."
"Do you know what he's asking?"
"No, did you tell him the garlic bread too?"
"Yes." This response to Julie was taken as one for him and we knew from the smile that came over his face that we'd made the right decision, whatever that decision was, because after all, it had made the waiter happy.

"That ride today really got to me. I'm exhausted. This beer is putting me half to sleep "
" After half a glass? You should've put a hat on. The sun is brutal."
"This pizza is good, do you think so?"
"Mmmm. The beer is real strong y'know."
"I'll bet it's because you're tired though."
"Yes, you said so." For some reason this is very funny and we have a good laugh.

Julie is saying something further but I've been distracted by the fellowsg at the next table.
". . . sent me over here, business class, and do you know what my allowance is?"
"Nope."
"One hundred and fifty per diem."
"Wow."
"Yeah, my hotel only costs forty-five so . . ."
"You can spend the rest on food!" At this he mimes out a huge heaping plate of food in front of him and grins. They have a good laugh too, between bites of pizza. They begin discussing Shakepeares 'Measure for Measure.' At the next table sits Leon Trotsky deep in thought. Flipping the pages of a notebook and tapping a pencil on his chin he looks morose and unsettled. He is having spaghetti under a cloud of gloom.

Most people are eating out at the sidewalk tables amidst the fumes and noise of the traffic of the street. We sit inside with the waiter but close enough to see that everyone at Herb's is quite relaxed; expressive faces, raucous laughter, back slapping and voracious pizza eating. Except for Trotsky who just scowls and scribbles.

"That's really true you know." I turn back to Julie guiltily.
"What's that?"
"They are saying that the most important thing a host or hostess can do when entertaining is to be relaxed." She points to the TV. On it CNN is showing a style segment and someone is making Blinis. Someone changes the channel to a Thai variety show. We cannot tear our eyes away and talk animatedly about the influences of Johnny Carson, Hindi film and the Solid Gold Dancers on Asian programming, a topic easily good enough to carry us through the last piece of pizza and the bottle of beer we're sharing.
"Another?"
"You're still hungry?"
"Ha ha ha!"
"Ha haha wooo!"
"No, I think I must be really tired. Let's get going."
"OK."
"Do you think Herb is the name of the owner?"

Found later in the Lonely Planet Cambodia 2000 guidebook:
Happy Herb's on Sisowath Quay is as close as you get to a Phnom Penh institution. Apparently Herb taught the local chefs to do the pizzas, and he was always happy - hence the name for pizzas with marijuana as a topping. If you want your pizza to leave you with a grin for the rest of the day (or evening), tell the waiter you want it 'happy' - those with nothing to do for a couple of days might request 'very happy'. Pizzas are about US$4 depending on size.

~ Nigel
12.30.01

   

 

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