Kampuchea was considerably more winsome than bumbling Cambodia Cuisine, but it’s also one of those places where you order soup, sandwich and a salad and next thing you know your bill has snuck into the $80+ range. (Yes, alcohol has a way of adding up. As an aside, I’m still not sure how my request for Torrontes was interpreted as Cotes du Rhone. I just went with it because I’m easygoing that way.) Even though I’m not a recession panicker yet, I’m always price conscious.
I went in with every intention of trying a noodle soup (NY Noodletown was the original after work plan) but after skimming the menu I broke down from sandwich deprivation. And I honed in on the most expensive offering, the $15 oxtail that I will try to refrain comparing to a $2.75 banh mi (ok, they’re like four bucks now in Manhattan Chinatown, right?) because you don’t generally eat Vietnamese sandwiches amidst even a hint of décor and they’re probably not making their pate in house or using Duroc pork.
There was a large amount of tender beef, broken into large hunks, and a spiked mayonnaise that resembled Thousand Island dressing. At least I think it was mayonnaise despite the tamarind-basil descriptor to throw you off. I was not disappointed by this sandwich. While you can never recreate the toasty bread, warm meat and crisp vegetable combination the next day, I still was happy to have a softer room temperature half for lunch Saturday.I’m looking forward to creatively named Num Pang if it ever opens.
Pork belly cubes were a must and had a high meat to fat ratio (one of my two squares was almost too lean for my taste). A sharp sweet-andsour effect was created with honey and apple cider vinegar. Strangely, all of the cracked black pepper made little impact.
Smoked duck was served carpaccio-style with ribbons of green mango speckled with salty dried shrimp. I only wish that the portion was a little more substantial.
This is an impressive looking bowl of soup chockablock with pork belly and shoulder as well as mustard greens and herbs. Unfortunately, I didn’t even try a sip so I can’t compare it to anything taste-wise. I immediately though pho, though the broth appeared cloudier, visually closer to a tonkotsu ramen base. I tend to think the ingredients were more flavorful than the liquid they were bobbing around in.
I left tipsy, well fed and still thinking everything on the menu could stand to have a few dollars shaved off the price.
Kampuchea Restaurant * 78 Rivington St., New York, NY
stumbled onto your site while reading your review on chinatown brasserie. I live in that neighborhood and have gone there a couple times. I really enjoy the way you review your restaurants. With dignity and class. nice to see a blogger with good intentions. anyway.. good one on Kampuchea. such an under the radar place with really good solid cooking. this place doesn’t seem to get enough press as momofuku’s empire. thanks for your writing.