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Kampuchea (closed)

September 8th, 2007 · No Comments


I’m pretty sure I could have spent a lifetime in the city without ever eating at Kampuchea. This would have been nothing short of a tragedy. Thankfully some friends introduced us to the fabulous Cambodian fare at this LES establishment. It is one of those places with so many delectable choices, where you’ll have favorite dishes you can’t bare not to order, and other dishes that call to you depending on what mood suits you. It is casual, lively, and reasonably priced. It is the perfect spot for a low-key Tuesday night dinner or an ideal first stop on a Saturday night of bar-hopping. This seems like a good time to mention the lychee martini, potentially a reason to visit Kampuchea on its own. The bartender always takes a bit too long to make them, but they are worth the wait. (I’ve learned to order my next round when a couple inches of liquid still remain in my glass).

Flavors and spice abound at Kampuchea. After a handful of visits, I can confidently assert that the food is consistent and there are few things on the menu that are not palate pleasers. If you follow your taste buds and order whatever is appealing, you can’t go wrong. Kampuchea is best experienced family style and with their hefty portions, the more fellow diners, the more dishes you’ll be able to try.

The menu is broken into five categories: small hot plates, small cold plates, crepes, Num Pang (Cambodian sandwiches), and noodles. The same main ingredients make an appearance in every category, though always in distinct form and with distinct flavors. The crepes have yet to really draw me in and hot small plates always comprise a larger part of my order than the cold small plates. The ribs, skirt steak, chicken wings, and pork belly are all worthy orders. Each one is dense with flavor and has its own personality.

Num Pang is a simple sandwich, but with chili mayo and a toasted baguette, choices such as Oxtail, skirt steak, and catfish are transformed into tasty creations that are anything but ordinary. With too many good options the Tasting (quietly sitting at the end of the list) offers a tasting of three sandwiches of your choice, and brings much relief. If you forced me to say so, I would claim the catfish to be a standout. Be warned that these sandwiches work their way into your dreams and cravings come often.

The noodle dishes are the largest on the menu as evidenced by both the price and the basin-like bowls in which they arrive. There are so many ingredients in each noodle soup that it becomes imperative to read the descriptions carefully. You could be easily drawn in by the shrimp and pork, but just as easily turned off by the additions of pork belly and sausage. Spice levels can be adjusted as well, so don’t be put off if something sounds too mild or hot.

Kampuchea does not serve dessert, which is a bit of a disappointment. On the other hand, it is the perfect meal to top off with a simple scoop of ice cream or maybe another lychee martini.

78 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 529-3901

Neighborhood: Lower East Side