Monday, June 26, 2006

Le Cambodge

Le Cambodge is the first good, cheap Asian restaurant I've been to in Paris. I know you're thinking "Oh, what about Chinatown?" Well, apart from the soup places, I haven't been crazy about any of the other restaurants - I always feel like I'm paying too much for what I get. I'm not a big fan of sushi, either, so all the Japanese establishments near Opéra on Rue Saint-Anne don't really do the trick. And the best Thai restaurant I've been to (Mme Shawn's, also by the Canal) is pretty expensive, not like my fallback Thai places back home where I can pop in for a Panang Tofu for only $8.

Le Cambodge's website has the entire menu online, featuring their favorite orders from customers. One of the traditions Au Cambodge is that you, the customer, write your own order. As soon as you are seated the waiter hands you the menu, a pad and a pen, and you have as much time as you want to think it over and specify everything exactly as you like it. I'll have to remember to be creative next time I go, to see if I get into the order hall of fame.

So. Le Cambodge is delicious and cheap! I had the Bobun Soy Special (8€), which was a bowl filled to the brim with a hot-cold mix of salad, mint, soy sprouts, rice noodles, onions, and 2 sliced spring rolls. I thought the soy on the menu meant tofu, but it was actually just a bunch of soy sprouts, so I think next time I go I'd get either the beef or shrimp Bobun instead. R. ordered the Phnom-Penh soup (8€) and the Ban Hoy (9.50€), but due to a mix-up in the kitchen he actually started with the Ban Hoy, which was like a larger, spread-out of the Bobun: all of the ingredients were seperated on the serving platter, and it was up to R. to mix them as he liked. The soup was huge, enough to be a main dish for me, with noodles, pork, shrimp, and veggies.

Now to the serious downsides: loooong waits with no reservations, and they're understaffed by about 3 in the dining room. "If so many people are willing to wait it must be good", we told ourselves when the host gave us the paper slip with our number and told us to come back in 45 minutes. At least there are tons of bars nearby to wait it out, and they take your phone number down and will call you if the table becomes available before you return. I'm not sure what the best strategy would be: to call ahead for take out and have a picnic by the Canal, or to show up 1 hour or so before you know you want to eat. For the service, it's not that the staff wasn't nice. They were efficient, but very busy, and if there was more than one waitress for the entire restaurant perhaps I wouldn't have gotten my food one hour after having been seated. I'm all for slow dining experiences, but there is a proper time and place for everything and this was not it. Add this to the initial 45-minute wait for a table and R.'s out of order meal...well, let's just say that the budget prices, and not the service, are their strong point.

Le Cambodge
10, avenue Richerand
75010 Paris
01 44 84 37 70
M: Jacques Bonsergent or Goncourt

Monday - Saturday: 12 - 14h30, 20 - 23h30
No reservations!!!



nardac said...

Not bad. For the same price there's a place behind the Cheri Bar on rue d'Atlas which has excellent soup and bobun, plus really strange perfumey appetizers. They also serve excellent sweet dessert-style drinks.

I like one of the noodle places on r. des petits champs (I think it's that street). It has a wooden-front and a long metal bar facing the long and narrow bank where they cook the food. They make awesome cold soba, very proper tempura and lots of other goodies.

Otherwise, I agree. Paris sucks for cheap Asian food, especially Chinese. I keep having to remind everyone here, when they say Chinese food is really bad, that what they eat could barely be considered food in China. And did you ever notice how people still microwave things in plastic containers ?!?

mr bo-bun said...

THE vietnamese restaurant in Paris is "le Bambou" (rue Baudricourt in Chinatown).
If you ask a vietnamese for a restaurant, he/she will indicate that one.
Its always overcrowded (waiters ask you to leave when you've paid), it's cheap, noisy. When you look around : it's full of asian people. That's a proof of authenticity.

The other one for vietnamese food is : "la tonkinoise" (rue philibert Lucot). It's more "chic" but not expensive.

For chinese food, Sinorama (intersection rue Tolbiac-avenue de Choisy)
is said to be the most authentic. But you've got to know the "right" dishes and the waiters are rude.

I tried many others in chinatown : usually crap.