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Cheng Heng, recent thoughts or tips? [MSP]

t
tex.s.toast Apr 21, 2009 09:54 AM

Thinking of (finally) getting out to trying this palce tonight and ive looked through some older posts but havent found too many recent posts or ones with specific suggestions.

Its likely going to be just a couple of us so if there were must-not-misses id be greatful to hear about them (or things worthy of avoiding, as well).

I know the papaya salad has come up in a couple of threads, and there was mention of some possibly hand pulled noodles (grub-like, but good was the descriptor used) but that was from 2001. anyone a regular here, or at least have some updated info on what a first timer should order?

  1. t
    tex.s.toast Apr 21, 2009 09:56 AM

    Link:

    -----
    Cheng Heng Restaurant
    448 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

    1 Reply
    1. re: tex.s.toast
      d
      dahlsk Apr 21, 2009 11:38 AM

      For at least 5 years, this used to be one of my absolute regulars, but I haven't been there much in the last year or two (having a baby will do that!). Anyway, I always thought their spring rolls were really fresh, and I also loved the plear salad (beef marinated in lime juice, lots of herbs, radishes, peppers and a side of rice). The Cambodian chicken curry soup was great, esp. in the winter. Long cooked carrot, onion, chicken in a coconut curry with noodles. I should really get back there, so I would be interested in your experience if you go.

    2. t
      tex.s.toast Apr 21, 2009 11:37 AM

      Ok, now im confused. After an initial search of the boards ive broadened into google and there seem to be two cambodian places right near to each other at university and dale.

      when you google "Cheng Heng St Paul" the first link is to a restaurant web page which comes up as Cheng Heng restaurant but the URL is kolaprestaurant.com.

      in a separate Jeremy Iggers piece on soups he mentions BOTH a kolap at 601 dale and Cheng Heng at 448 University.

      Are these actually separate places with HIGHLY confusing websites/presences, or are they related somehow.

      and most importantly, which one should i try first?

      8 Replies
      1. re: tex.s.toast
        d
        dahlsk Apr 21, 2009 11:39 AM

        Never been to Kolap. I was referring to the place at 448 University.

        1. re: dahlsk
          t
          tex.s.toast Apr 21, 2009 12:09 PM

          Thanks for the clarification and menu notes - ill be sure to come back and post not only on what i ate (and how it was) but where, also.

          1. re: tex.s.toast
            The Dairy Queen Apr 21, 2009 12:50 PM

            I drove by Kolap about 2-3 weeks ago on the way to something and stopped in because I'd never heard of this place. It looked interesting, but deserted. Many of the items on the menu are just "general Asian", not specifically Cambodian. I made myself a promise to go back and check it out, but haven't had a chance to yet.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen
              MSPD Apr 21, 2009 01:58 PM

              Wow...Kolap is still around??? I ate there a few years ago and didn't think it would be there very long.

              1. re: MSPD
                The Dairy Queen Apr 21, 2009 02:29 PM

                MSPD, is that your gentle way of saying, "Don't bother rushing back?"

                Texas Toast, I don't know if Cheng Heng and Kolap are in any way related, but they are, at least, two different physical spaces. One on University (Cheng Heng) and one on Dale (Kolap). Both are Cambodian or Cambodian'ish (in the case of Kolap).

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  MSPD Apr 21, 2009 06:11 PM

                  No...I have a fair amount of passion and knowledge of burgers and hot dogs and such, but not so much of SE Asian cuisine. It could very well be good food (although the pho I had didn't compel me to rush back).

                  Mostly, I thought the location and lack of interesting qualities would spell a short run. Maybe it's great...I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from trying.

                  1. re: MSPD
                    The Dairy Queen Apr 22, 2009 02:40 AM

                    Duly noted! But, I agree, Kolap didn't have that packed, hustling and bustling, golly people seem to love this place vibe to it. And, it does look a little worn. I stopped in at a weird time of day, though, (I was just driving by). There were a bunch of older men sitting around having coffee and (I think) playing cards. Whether they were actually playing cards, I can't actually say. Maybe they were just talking. But, it was very casual and relaxed.

                    Kolap's website amazes me: pretty deluxe for such a hole in the wall place. http://kolaprestaurant.com/restaurant...

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      MSPD Apr 22, 2009 08:59 AM

                      I love Asian menus. At the bottom it says "* specialty" and none of the items on the menu have an asterisk.

                      I guess the pho didn't blow anyone else away either, since it's not on there any more. Maybe some of those noodle soups are the same basic thing and they just called it pho in 2003.

                      The menu actually looks way more interesting than I remember. Maybe another visit is in order.

      2. cayjohan Apr 21, 2009 01:03 PM

        The grub-like noodles - loth cha, I think - are spectacular. Just hone your chopsticks skills, as they're tricky little buggers!

        I usually get a bowl of noodles, with herbs and crushed peanuts and an egg roll on top. I couldn't tell you what it is, as I just point to the number on their most civilized picture menu! Just wonderful. The massaman curry bowl is delicious, as is the fish curry. Also the dish of fried tofu and green peppers is delicious, even though it sounds altogether too simple.

        The atmosphere is not the most *dinner-out-ish*, but the service is mostly good and the speed at which your food comes can be astounding. I find myself wondering if they have some sort of Star Trek replicator in the kitchen to get food to table so fast! Now if they could just get the check to the table when you want it...

        Enjoy it. It is really worth the trip.

        Cay

        3 Replies
        1. re: cayjohan
          t
          tex.s.toast Apr 21, 2009 02:14 PM

          Cay, are you reffering to the noodles at Cheng Heng or Kolap?

          Im having a hard time with this, and i think it is all because Kolap's (pretty well-labled) URL comes up under google searches as Cheng Heng.

          Thanks for the warning on the atmosphere - im a big fan of Pho Ca Dao not too far down uni from there, and frankly i think the dirty uninspired atmosphere is important when eating cheap asian food (this is not to imply that CH will be dirty, but rather to mean i am pretty much impervious to questionable atmosphere).

          1. re: tex.s.toast
            f
            faith Apr 21, 2009 08:15 PM

            This could be too late for tonight's dinner, but I recall some really good fried chicken
            wings at Cheng Heng. Big, juicy, crispy outside, good flavor.

            1. re: tex.s.toast
              cayjohan Apr 21, 2009 08:16 PM

              Sorry about being late with a reply (I was stuffing my face at Brasa...). Not talking about Kolap, since I didn't know it existed until this thread. Cheng Heng of the lovely loth cha is on University. TDQ might know more about the exact location - I think it's somewhere near Western, say in the very rough vicinity of Mai Village?

              Did you find one of them? Report?

              Cay

          2. t
            tex.s.toast Apr 22, 2009 09:42 AM

            Reporting back: First, the atmosphere is definitely not "date-night" but is totally typical of family run SE asian places. Not unclean but certainly older, well-decorated if lit by the typically harsh flourescents. Basically exactly what you would expect. The service was quite suprising, however. After hilarious experiences interacting with people with little to no english at SE asian places around town (including recently buying something at Hoang Thien Y on eat street with no clue whether it was going to be sweet or savory, let alone what was in it) it was both highly refreshing and rather surprising to be served by a very nice older gentleman with pretty much perfect english (as he came to offer us to-go boxes he asked if we hadnt finished the papaya salad because it was too spicy).

            To the food - overall id say good to very good with some things that didnt do it for me, but were still interesting. We ordered spring rolls and papaya salad to start. based on the time it took to come out i would guess these spring rolls were pre assembled, and the wrappers were somewhat tough, but i will say i was suffering with a sore jaw before the meal so i may not be a good judge. the flavor was good but not amazing (id take saigons first any day) but they were quite large and reasonable tasty. The papaya salad was excellent - we were asked if we would like it spicy (but not how spicy) and we were obviously convincing when we said we wanted it hot, and it didnt disappoint. Much closer to the lao style than thai, with substantial fishiness/murkiness going on, but in a way i have really come to love. interestingly served with a mint garnish that i liked a lot and hadnt seen anywhere else. Also served with cabbage and not icebeg, something that always makes me happy.

            We ordered a soup, but ill be damned if i can remember the name. It wasnt strongly flavored (my dinner companion called it bland, but i think that is unfair) but had a good balance of sweet to sour - pineapple chunks, shrimp, pieces of what appeared to be cucumber and a very strange vegetable that resembled tiny lotus shoots with the taste/texture of a spring onion. When i go back ill get something else, but it was good with some rice mixed in and had a good deal of head-on shrimp in it.

            The Loth Cha noodles were really good, but as strange as expected. We got these with tofu which was friend to a perfect GBD. The dish itself isnt much more than the noodles (short, stubby and very irregular) with onions and tofu an dsome bean sprouts. It comes with a side of a sweetened fish sauch which i applied liberally and supplemented with some chili oil. there were no leftovers. i will crave these again, i am sure.

            there were a few tables occupied when we arrived around 7ish and several more families and groups came in while we ate. we saw many other diners working on curries and noodle soups, which i look forward to trying on future visits.

            oh, and the main reason we went - 2 entrees and two appetizers came out to just a smidge over 25 bucks. It isnt a ton of food, but the portions were far from meager, and the prices speak for themselves.

            6 Replies
            1. re: tex.s.toast
              The Dairy Queen Apr 22, 2009 12:31 PM

              Reporting back on....Cheng Heng?

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                t
                tex.s.toast Apr 22, 2009 01:20 PM

                HAHAHA, given the ambiguity going in i suppose its only appropriate to keep that theme rolling.

                the above report references my experience at cheng heng. kolap will have to be its own trip.

                1. re: tex.s.toast
                  The Dairy Queen Apr 22, 2009 02:58 PM

                  Terrific report, thank you! It sounds like you had a worthwhile visit!

                  ~TDQ

              2. re: tex.s.toast
                m
                misterpatrick Apr 23, 2009 07:32 PM

                Next visit try the hor mok or however they spell. It's a very traditional Khmer dish of fish steamed in banana leaf with coconut creme, lime leaf and chili. Some Thai restaurants will also carry it, but you'll find it everywhere in Cambodia. The soups are also delicious and there are several that are thick coconut curries with noodles. The mussels I've had there have also been good.

                The whole coconut is great and inexpensive drink ($1.50 last I was there) that you'll also see everywhere in Cambodia.

                Interestingly, I never saw spring rolls in Cambodia, I think we just expect them in Asian restaurants now. They do serve a lot of eggrolls which are tiny little Vietnamese style things that are quite tasty. I can't remember if they had them at Cheng Heng or not. Worth asking about.

                If you like papaya salad, be sure and get some take-out at Dragon Star if you haven't already. It's made in front of you with whatever you want and is really really cheap for a massive portion. I think a half order weighs about 5 pounds.

                1. re: misterpatrick
                  cayjohan Apr 23, 2009 09:38 PM

                  Oh! That was the dish I was trying to remember when I spoke of fish curry. The banana-leaf-wrapped one. Yes, yes, yes. A very good dish to try.

                  But now I'm curious about the Dragon Star takeout salad. I'll have to try it before too long.

                  Cay

                  1. re: cayjohan
                    t
                    tex.s.toast Apr 24, 2009 01:11 PM

                    its true, i love me some dragon star papaya salad.
                    ive enjoyed hor(har?) mok before, i recall thinking that something on the menu looked rather similar but i do believe you are correct that they use some idiosyncratic spelling.

              3. w
                WaiterEater Apr 26, 2009 06:49 PM

                ate there tonight due to reading this thread..i`ll give it a good 7 out of 10..food was good..papaya salad and fried fish filet were excellent..service was very friendly and after a short delay in taking our order very fast and efficient ..decor was a dud but who cares..dont know if i`d rush back because university avenue is a diners dream street but would definitley try it again sometime

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