Wed 12 Dec 2012
15, rue de Bassano, in the 16th Arrondissement.
01 47 20 03 50. Mon–Fri, lunch and dinner; Sat, dinner only.
As I walked down the quiet rue de Bassano, off the Champs Elysées, and descended the staircase into the basement of the evening’s restaurant, I was worried. The place had only two other occupied tables when I arrived on a Saturday night at 8:30, and they left shortly after my drink came. My friends who joined me had the same nervous look on their faces as they walked into the somewhat random Paris restaurant, but after the first bite we relaxed and worried no more.
Kambodgia has been around for nearly a decade, but recently underwent a face-lift thanks to the owners of the hip Hotel Bassano next door. Even though this eatery is in a basement with no windows, the exposed brick and soft lighting set a welcoming backdrop for the high-gloss tables and Asian-inflected decor. The dining room did fill to capacity about an hour after we arrived; the restaurant also has some nice private nooks for larger parties.
I suggest coming with a group who likes to share since Kambodgia offers a lot of interesting dishes to try, and Asian food just lends itself to a lazy Susan–type atmosphere. We started by sharing a mix of appetizers. An assortment of dim sum, including shrimp shumai and steamed beef and chicken dumplings, came with a range of sauces, from sweet to salty to slightly spicy. It was a nice starter to fire up the taste buds.
We also ordered what was called beef pancakes with basil and curry but ended up being a fried egg roll. Though we were disappointed at first glance, we were revived by the first bite: the crisp roll was full of flavor, not grease. The shrimp papaya salad was our attempt at including a vegetable, and again we were delighted by its fresh, crisp range of contrasting flavors.
We continued sharing with our main dishes, which included a beautifully presented stir-fry beef, encircled by small broccoli florets with snow peas. Another dish brought large pink shrimp quickly sautéed with garlic and black pepper—the perfect companion to the side order of sublime sticky coconut rice. The friendly waitress had highly recommended their house specialty, a white fish cooked in a banana leaf, and we were grateful for the tip. It was soft and sweet with notes of ginger.
For dessert, I followed the waitress’s recommendation again and opted for chilled mango soup. It proved to be another winner, with nice, tender chunks of mango and kiwi in a light coconut broth. The sorbet sampler is also solid, if for no other reason than the macaron ice-cream sandwich that should be featured on its own (you can also get it from the fabulous boutique Martine Lambert on rue Cler).
In a nutshell: For a diverse range of Asian flavors in a warm setting, visit Kambodgia for a fun and affordable meal that’s perfect for a group.
Price check: Starters, 9–16 euros; mains, 14–19 euros; desserts, 8–10 euros.
If you like the sound of Kambodgia, you might also enjoy the Thai restaurant and Girls’ Guide to Paris partner Baan Boran.
43, rue Montpensier, in the 1st.
01 40 15 90 45. Mon–Fri, 12 p.m.–3 p.m.
and 7 p.m.–11 p.m.; Sat, dinner only.
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