Dining from Penh.278 to Coconut Park


Even though Penh.278 is not a Scandinavian restaurant per se, you still sense the Scandinavian touch by the Norwegian owner, Joachim Bekkevold, as soon as you walk into the place.
The long minimalistic room, the wooden tables mixed with concrete walls and industrial inspired lamps in the ceiling. Not to mention the open shelve room dividers that looks like something taken out of a Scandinavian furniture catalog.

A couple of tables are already occupied. Among them the table closest to the open bar, where Joachim casually sits with one of his employees, which gives the whole place a familiar feeling.
Though my visit wasn’t planed, Joachim still takes the time to talk to me on the spot. Meanwhile his attentive staff serves me water and coffee.

“Cambodia was the place I felt the safest”

Joachim first came to Cambodia as a Backpacker back in 2008. Back then he was traveling the world, from Asia to South America. When he was done traveling, he started looking for a place to settle down. Since Cambodia was the place, he had felt the safest, he ended up moving to the country in 2012.

After several years working with real-estate in different cities, Joachim and his former girlfriend decided to move to Phnom Penh, due to their two kids.

“Back then, I came to the same café every day, where I would order the same thing. At some point I thought, I might as well start my own restaurant, where I would be able to decide exactly what I wanted myself. That was how the whole idea of this place started,” shares Joachim with a warm laugh.

The two moved to Phnom Penh four years back and after some consideration, they decided to take a chance and started working on Penh.278.

Photo: Penh.278
Norwegian Christmas dinner every Sunday

Joachim and his now ex-girlfriend, opened the restaurant only two weeks before Covid closed down Cambodia.

“We actually did okay during Covid due to the properties we were renting out and thanks to the fact, that we could still do take-out. We delivered a lot of Pizza’s during Covid,” Joachim adds.

Among the restaurants bestsellers are their pizzas even though Joachim is Norwegian and his ex-girlfriend/business partner is Australian.

“We don’t do much Scandinavian food, except for every Sunday, where we serve a traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner. We sell a lot of pork on Sundays. Still, I don’t think that anyone around here would want to eat Scandinavian food every day,” Joachim explains on why there are not much Scandinavian inspired food on the menu.

Photo: Penh.278
From Italy to Japan

Since the opening, the menu has already changed due to a Japanese friend of Joachim, who joined the business a while back. He insisted of more Asian infused dishes as well as pictures of the food in the menu. A concept that Joachim is now working on changing back.

“I think the menu is too wide. I’m definitely looking to narrow the options down. I also think that one of the mistakes we’ve made is, that we don’t really have a concept. We do dishes from different kitchens which can confuse the guests.”

Today, the former couple owns a couple of concepts in town. Mainly Penh.278, the outside garden and Penh @Coconut Park.

Though the Japanese friend and business partner is now out of the picture, Sushi is still the main attraction at Coconut Park.

“I think I will keep it that way, so Coconut Park will be mostly Japanese inspired and maybe I should stick to the Italian kitchen for Penh.278. It is really popular, but I’m not Italian, so I’m afraid that the Italians around here will come and tell me, how it’s supposed to be done,” Joachim says with a touch of irony and a sweet laugh.

Joachim Bekkevold
Focus on sustainability

Where Penh.278 is located in the busy midst of the Wat Langka area, in one of the many small streets, crossing each other like a maze, Coconut Park is more remotely located at Diamond Island by the riverside. To find the restaurant, you have to walk through a small landscape of greenery that makes you forget, that you are still located in the capital city.

Outside you find a big green sign telling you, that you have arrived. A color that reflects Joachim’s visions for not just Coconut Park, but for Penh.278 as well.

“I really want to keep the concepts as green and sustainable as possible. That is one of the things I will change now that my Japanese friend is no longer involved. He insisted on using too much plastic, but I will change that.”

There is no doubt about Joachim is a perfectionist. As he sits at one of the centered tables in Coconut Park, he notices that one of the many fans in the ceiling, is making a buzzing noise. Something he makes the staff aware of immediately so it can be fixed. But even though his standards are high, he always treats his staff with kindness. He almost seems apologetic while making the girl alert to the disturbing sound.

Penh @Coconut Park
Sushi made with Norwegian salmon

In front of him is several plates with sushi so fresh, that it almost feels like it’s melting on your tongue. Sushi based on Norwegian salmon; Joachim tells proudly.

One of his friends then joins and the two seems very familiar with the sushi-set-up as they pass around the rolls, while they discuss the everyday life as an expat in Phnom Penh.

As Joachim talks about his plans for changing the menus he makes it clear, that as a Norwegian expat, the small Scandinavian touch is there to stay, as he chooses to hold on to the sushi made with Norwegian salmon and to serve traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner at Penh.278 every Sunday.

Penh @Coconut Park

About Miabell Mallikka

Miabell Mallikka is a journalist working with ScandAsia at the headquarters in Bangkok.

View all posts by Miabell Mallikka

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