Le Petit Cambodge
Wed 28 Sep 2011
Bo bun “speciale.”
Le Petit Cambodge
20, rue Alibert, in the 10th Arrondissement.
Mon–Sat, noon–3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
01 42 45 80 88. No reservations.
Le Petit Cambodge is not much smaller than its sibling, Le Cambodge, but its menu is: the thing here is bo bun, and only bo bun, that hot-and-cold salad of rice vermicelli, shredded carrots, peanuts and fresh herbs.
This single-ticket Paris restaurant took the place of a disastrously trendy Japanese spot whose most desirable feature might have been its terrace. Actually, this corner of Paris boasts several great terraces, including that of the original Le Cambodge, though eating outside there means being on the receiving end of stares from the cool crowd lined up waiting to replace you at your table, getting hungrier by the second as the smell of fish sauce and lime and hot oil drifts out from the kitchen.
There’s plenty of outdoor seating at Le Petit Cambodge, too, which is just down the street. It’s a cheerful and airy corner space, with a glassed-in kitchen, clean lines and high tables.
It’s brilliant, really, this kind of one-item, turn-and-burn restaurant, perfect for the tickets-resto wielding neighborhood office workers and staff from the sprawling Hôpital Saint-Louis across the street. The waiters are sweet but they don’t even take orders; you’re given a slip of paper and a pen to write down what you want, and you pay at the counter when you’re done. Easy in, easy out.
I ordered the bo bun “speciale,” served with sliced beef and pork spring rolls. There are shrimp and vegetarian choices, too. I drank a pulpy citronnade with ginger and mint, which I was happy to see made right before my eyes.
And the bo bun? It’s on a par with what I’ve had at other Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurants in Paris, which is to say serviceable if not revelatory. It was definitely more meaty than I’ve had elsewhere; when I stirred up the bowl of vermicelli, mint, and cilantro, shredded cabbage and peanuts, I found not the tangy nuoc cham I was expecting but a few spoonfuls of oniony broth. The mint and cilantro lightened it up, and though I was craving more freshness, this was a satisfying little lunch.
In a nutshell: Le Petit Cambodge is great for a cheap and cheerful bowl of noodles near the Canal St.-Martin.
Price check: Bo bun, 9–13 euros.
If you’re looking for more than bo bun, visit the original, Le Cambodge.
10, avenue Richerand, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 44 84 37 70. No reservations.