Simply Khmer, Cambodian in Lowell
We went up to Lowell on a recommendation for Super East Asian buffet or something, but once we got there it just didn't look good. It was dead and really run down. I did a quick double check on the ol' CH boards on my droid and sure enough its heyday was a decade ago. We were starving and I ran across a recommendation of Cambodian food which neither my wife or I had ever tried so off we went.
It was a very nice place inside. Beautiful huge bamboo plants, nice fish tank, elegant. I was honestly surprised as I was kind of associating it with Vietnamese places which are generally dives. I don't know if this is the standard or an exception as it is my only Cambodian trip...
They have a huge menu and it looked great and we went a little crazy so we ordered: Sach Ko Ang, Ye-Heu Bumporng, Hot wings, Som-Law Ma-Ju Kroung Sach Ko and Bai/Loc Lac.
Sach Ko Ang, Beef skewers. Firstly, they came out rare. This made me very happy, wife less so, but the flavor was amazing. We both love kaffir lime and it was loaded with it.
Ye-Heu Bumporng, fried calamari and jalapenos with some chilis and fish sauce and these amazing, amazing pickled vegetables. My wife said that she was loving the pickled veggies and I was like whatever, just pickles, but after I tried one I couldn't stop, they are light and sweet and sour and amazing. The squid was great and it came with a little bowl of lime juice with salt and pepper in it. A killer dipping sauce.
Hot wings. Sweet and hot. Very very crispy. It was like bon chon, but frankly better.
Som-Law Ma-Ju Kroung Sach Ko: This was such an amazing soup. I am an avid soupfan. I think it is a mark of a great cook and culture how good a soup can be. This was incredible. It was almost like a mix of a thai soup and a vietnamese soup, but then just topped off with a little something extra that said I am Cambodian and I rule them all. It was sour and rich and spicy. It had wonderful greens it which I couldn't identify, the beef was tender and beefy. It had great thai eggplant in it and I just can't wait to have it again.
Bai/Loc Lac. This was similar to Bo Luc Lac, the Vietnamese "shaky" beef. It was again cooked rare. It was delicious. It came with two deep fried and runny eggs all on some rice. Very good dish.
I had such a great meal here. It is everything that I always want Thai food to be but it never is. It was such balanced food, sweet and salty and spicy and sour. I told my wife that it is like they took the best of Vietnam and the best of Thailand and then added their own thing to it and made it better. This is easily my favorite southeast asian cuisine and if there are better Cambodian places than this, I don't think I am going to be able to handle it. But I am going to try and try a lot.
I did return last sunday and had the beef and tripe soup which was amazing. Also hot wings (i agree there are better than bon chon) and rice noodles with seafood. Everything for about $30, the price of an entree at "name your generic place" bistro-gastropub. This place is so good. Less successful with Phnom Penh (on Westford). Poor balance of spices overwhelmed by fish sauce.
We just went the other night and asked the very nice waitstaff for recommendations. I don't remember the names of the dishes (I know) but instead remember that the chicken stir fry dish had a picture on the menu. We asked the waiter which were the most Cambodian dishes (some were interpretations of Vietnamese) and had 2 very good dishes- the chicken and hot pepper stir fry and a soup that was said to be Vietnamese inspired but had such interesting flavor and ingredients- very different from Thai or Vietnamese food. We also asked them to bring out some chicken noodle soup for our 4yo because she was hungry and they gave us a perfect size bowl and only charged $2. I bring this up because some of the reviews online said this place had bad service, but it was pretty excellent service from everyone there. It's a little far from Boston but I'm looking forward to going back. If you want real Thai, though, S&I to go in Allston is pretty good.