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Jun 25, 2008 11:10 AM

Cambodian Cuisine Restaurant (somewhat reluctant review)

I have fond memories about the old Cambodian Cuisine restaurant (since closed) in Fort Greene. The restaurant was one of my first food memories of NYC, and my very first introduction to Cambodian cuisine. So I ventured in last night, trying to keep my high expectations at bay - this was, after all, opening week.

The place is really spacious - definitely an upgrade from its former location. It's a clean bilevel space with high ceilings and modernish decor (along the lines of Sriphaphai's). The paint had barely dried - and in fact, I caught whiffs in between the wafting spice smells from around me.

The food:
I shared the fish patty app, 4 silver dollar sized whitefish patties with shredded lime leaf and kicky chilli spices, served with sweet/sour/spicy crunch veggie pickles with peanuts. The pickles were how I remembered them. The patties were perfectly seasoned. The chicken skewers (2pcs) with veggie pickles were tasty and seasoned nicely, though generally avg to good. The S.E.A. lemongrass (a hodgepodge saute of chicken and veggies) in a slightly citrusy lemongrass/galangal gravy was just eh. Not a whole lot of flavor for the intricate menu description, IMO. SO described as "boring" and it remained half eaten for the rest of the meal. The piquant coconut curry with chicken and vermicelli (more like a soup than anything) was tasty - with the right mix of spicy and sweetness. Those items plus two cambodian ice teas amounted to about 45 dollars. Fair enough pricing, for ample food, I thought. I'd love to return and try some of the other more exotic items when they've had time to settle in. There were definitely big issues with service (not that the staff weren't pleasant) and timing. I won't go into details of everything, but people waited (and waited) for their food and other things. Some were angrier than others.

After all I've heard about their labored and problematic opening process, I'm really rooting for them. They seem to have a lot of heart and I'm hoping they'll be able to bring it back to its former glory

BYOB for now.

1664 Third Ave (Nr 93rd St)

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  1. Thanks for your report. Did you happen to notice if they are delivering? And, do you have any specific suggestions of dishes that you might order next time? I want to give them a try, but am, frankly, unfamiliar with Cambodian food, and I didn't see an online menu on menupages when I checked earlier this week.

    Thanks ...

    6 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      I did not notice any deliveries going out, but I wasn't really paying attention either. I found this number for them in a CH post: 646-207-0207. You can probably get delivery/menu information.

      Not that I know anything about Cambodian cuisine, I'd recommend the curry dishes based on what I had. I also read somewhere that fish is very popular in Khmer cooking - I did notice a few fish items on the menu which looked good.

      1. re: kayonyc

        There's a new number now. A web site, too (linked below), still under construction.

        Cambodian Cuisine
        1664 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128

        1. re: squid kun

          The website has the menu posted finally. Too bad they still only have the Lunch menu taped to their front window. I'm considering trying delivery tonite and will report back if I do.

      2. re: MMRuth

        Bartend very close by and stopped in for a take out menu...they were out. Weirdest music playing at all during the busiest was so strange.
        Does anyone know why it took them almost a year to open?

        1. re: conngirl

          Almost a year? Try almost 3 years! Many renovation issues apparently. I called for delivery last night, but there's no delivery yet. When I went to pick up my order, I told them my name and they sort of wandered around, finally came back almost 10 minutes later w/my order. They definetly seem to have some inexperienced people working there. This just baffles me since it took so long and their struggle was so well documented in that NYTimes article, one would think they'd have flashing lights out front telling the whole neighborhood they're open. No, just that little "open" sign in the front window..
          Anyway, the food, so I ordered a cold spring roll app and a noodle dish, Chhar Mee Koke (sauted egg noodle, or N1 on the menu). The spring roll (2) were delicious, came w/this yummy light peanut sauce. Had shrimp and chicken and some veges, it was incredibly fresh and crunchy, the way I like it. The noodle dish was nice, tiny little almost ramen-like noodles, but not they didn't have an incredible amount of seasoning (menu had one "Pepper" which I honestly didn't notice, but it came w/a side of hot sauce) but it wasn't greasy either. Not enough veges for my liking.
          I will definetely go back to try other things, but they'd do themselves a favor if they: 1-printed takeout menus; 2-made it more apparent they they were open; 3-hired a delivery person or 2. It is a nice space, but I know I'd order a lot more frequently if they delivered (and I live around the corner).

          1. re: esyle

            I lived on fourth ave and bergen in brooklyn for four years and was HEARTBROKEN when this restaurant closed. I am so going to the east side location this weekend!

      3. After a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia two years ago, my husband and I returned to NYC with a major hankering for Cambodian food, only to discover that there
        was literally NOWHERE to satisfy it on the Blessed Isle of Manhattan. This led to slightly psychotic stalking of Khmer restaurants from Revere, MA to San Francisco
        (with a surprisingly successful detour to Providence, RI). Then, last January we learned about this place, having stumbled across the NYT article. I've been calling them for months, hoping the poor owner would succeed in overcoming all the obstacles he had faced, so that he could finally achieve his dream of re-opening his restaurant (OK, there may have been a few less selfless thoughts sprinkled in there, as well).

        We went for dinner on Tuesday the 24th, their second day of "soft open," and while there were a TON of kinks in the service, and a few of the dishes we got were not so interesting, there were enough really tasty dishes as well to make us feel like this might all work out OK in the end. Here's what we had for our first meal (the menu is VAST, which is why I've included the item numbers):

        A4: Naem Tchien (fried spring roll) -- very tasty, nicely crisp.

        A10: Prawhet Kroeurng (fried fish patties): these were dynamite. Strong taste of kaffir lime. Not crispy, but very flavorful.
        Served with pickled veggies, peanuts, etc.

        SP1: Samlor Mchoo Moen (Sweet and sour chicken soup) -- very similar to Vietnamese canh chua with pineapple and tomatoes, etc. Delicate, unusual flavor, and really delicious.

        N8: Nom Bonchok Tuek Kary (cambodian curry served on vermicelli) -- this was perfectly nice, but not anything special. Next time around, I might try the N5: Kuey Teo Koke (soup-less rice noodle).

        SD1. Cambodian Chef salad (this was not the salad we ordered -- note "kinks in service" above -- but we were happy to try it). Mixed with vermicelli noodles -- refreshing, summery, pleasant.

        House Favorites:
        H1: Chicken Ahmok -- Ahmok is the signature dish of the region of Cambodia we visited (or maybe of the country overall -- not really sure). My understanding was that it was usually prepared with fish, not chicken, but this was very nice.

        H3: Prahok Ktis Dip -- Yes, prahok is fermented mudfish, but it is TASTY. If you are trying Cambodian food for the first time, you really kind of have to try this.

        Desserts (they were only serving two out of 8 desserts when we went, so
        we tried them both. Eventually, though, we're looking forward to sampling the Mung Bean & seaweed dessert!):

        D17: Songkhya (egg-coconut pudding on brown rice dessert) -- this was
        unlike anything I've ever had before, yet surprisingly homey and comforting

        D18: Jiaa Huoy (Agar-Agar Dessert) -- I'd describe this as a "fun" dessert -- it's a little weird, but light, summery and amusing.

        So overall, it was a pretty successful dinner, and we were excited to come back and try all the things we couldn't get to during Meal #1.

        The bad news: we returned the following Sunday for lunch, and discovered that they weren't opening until 1:00, even though the official posted hours said they opened at 11 am. At lunch, they only serve from a limited menu of "lunch specials." We ordered 5 of these, and were pretty seriously disappointed. The selections themselves were much more middle-of-the-road than what was offered at dinner, and the food, when it came, was not at all special. Again, this was only their first week of operation, and I'm sure they haven't hit their stride yet. I am totally rooting for them as well, and will return for dinner soon. In the meantime, though, I really can't recommend going there for lunch.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bunnelope

          thanks for the review.

          I was on yelp and I was reading some bad reviews before I went. It made me a bit hesitant to try it out but my curiosity got the best of me.

          I'm glad I went.

          It's very heartening to learn about what a lover of food has to go through to be able to showcase his talent and his culture. I'm glad he stuck to his guns and never gave up.

          On with the food.

          I agree on the dishes you mentioned. They were very good.

          I would like to add one more dish. It was soo good. It was just like the way my mom made it. (I'm Khmer)

          Nhioem Chicken. It is a chicken salad. Love it!

          I was just there a few days ago and service seems to be better. You can sense their inexperience but their attentiveness makes up for it.

          Oh yeah, the place isn't officially open yet. They are still in the process of training their staff and didn't want restaurant critics to show up and give a bad review.

          1. re: Feedme79

            Went last week and did a recent post on Cambodia-did NOT have a good meal-BUT will try in near future and report back-its so new and I want to give a second chance.

        2. Thanks for the report. I've been dying to try this place but recent posts made me a bit reluctant, I will now go and give it a try to support this fledgling.

          1 Reply
          1. re: City Kid

            I've been there yesterday. We had a few dishes. Everything was ok but nothing stood out as great. They should put more of everything in their dishes. They curries weren't strong enough and I could hardly taste many of the ingredients the listed. I found a few tiny bits of bone in the ground chicken. Service was good but inexperienced.

            This was my first time eating Cambodian food. I'd go there from time to time if I was living near by. It's not a bad option as a neighborhood place. But currently it's not worthy of a long trek. I'll go again in the future after they'll have a chance to improve.