4884 Victoria Drive
[shokutsu] After hearing through the local foodie grapevine that a new Cambodian restaurant was open on the city’s east side, I knew I had to make a stopover. Not surprisingly, GastronomyDomine had reached this place before me, and thus I’ve asked him to collaborate with me on this piece on Angkor Restaurant. Our thoughts our interspersed below…
[GastronomyDomine] Like Phnom Penh’s food, I would describe the food here as “Chinese-Cambonian” – the cuisine that evolved from the Chinese diaspora throught Cambodia. (Specifically the Chiu Chow (Toechow) Chinese who intermarried and became “Khmer-Chen”).
As an aside, Vietnamese cuisine evolved in a similar way from this migration (which also naturally occurred in Vietnam given the geographic proximity). Food we now associated with “Vietnamese” is quite often of Chinese origin – eg the noodle dishes like Pho, and Dry Egg Noodles, etc.
Pure Khmer cuisine is quite different. It is similar to some of the foods we associate as Thai. You can see the influences of Khmer cuisine in the use of curry spices, fermented fish products, and the like.
I noted that the proprietors (who are Cambodian) – decided to use the Vietnamese names for the dishes – obviously to appeal to the large Viet community here. Cambodian food is “ethnic” food in Vietnam.
On my recent visit there I found out that the proprietors are blood-related to the owner of Phnom Penh – a good pedigree.
[shokutsu] After sharing a meal earlier this summer at Chinatown’s Phnom Penh, I enlisted the company of a foodosopher associate to join me for a Saturday lunch here – mainly to do a comparison of the chicken wings.
We decided to share a few items in order to get a sampling of as many dishes as we could handle (probably the first meal of the day for us both). We received this bowl of the Beef Rice Noodle Soup w/ beef balls and cooked sliced beef (small, $6.00) first and dug right in.
Despite its “busy” appearance, the broth itself was not overpowering. It was actually lighter in flavour in fact than some of the recent bowls of pho I’ve had around the city. While the beef balls were fine, I didn’t really like the sliced beef in this dish, a bit too rubbery and sinewy for my tastes.
[shokutsu] Next up, the Grilled Pork on Rice ($7.50) that was served with an egg omelet-type creation (inside was glass noodles), as well as what seemed to be a thinly sliced potato slaw-like mixture. In all honestly, this was pretty ordinary, the flavoured pork very lean and somewhat dry. It was something anyone could easily prepare at home and didn’t see the point of paying money at a restaurant for it, so will limit my comments to just this.
[GastronomyDomine] That egg cake is a Vietnamese dish called Thit Chung Trung. I’m not a fan either.
[shokutsu] Last, the dish we’d been waiting for – the Deep Fried Chicken Wings. At $7.50 for 8pcs, I saw on the menu already that there was an edited price sticker – perhaps given the obvious popularity of it they’ve already raised prices since opening? The first thing you’ll notice is that they are not sprinkled with white sugar as at Phnom Penh. I am sure foodosopher would appreciate that missing element, as he had mentioned that explicitly as his main complaint with their wings on his recent visit out west.
With a mix of wings and drumettes, the small size was plenty for us considering we’d already had the two earlier dishes. The meat itself was not as solidly flavoured as the version at Phnom Penh. Perhaps the marinade was not as powerful, or it had been given enough time to seep into the meat?
Regardless, the deep fried exterior was also not as crispy. In fact, this dish reminded of the soy-ginger flavoured chicken karaage you can get in Japanese cuisine. The chili didn’t really have any impact, and the black pepper/lime dip was more tart than necessary. Overall, I’d take Phnom Penh’s more impactful version any time of the week, even with that sugar that I agree is a bit off-putting.
[GastronomyDomine] The first time I came here, the chicken wings came much later than the rest of our meal. I think there must have been a technical issue or someone forgot to turn on the deep fryer. The wings then were quite unremarkable – flaccid and flavourless. I noted that it needed a lot of salt.
The second time I tried the wings, they were much better. The wings were crispy and actually quite good. I do still prefer Phnom Penh’s version where they lace it with garlic throughout its preparation. Phnom Penh adds a quickly fried “dressing” of jalapeno and minced garlic – barely cooked and added right before serving. This gives the wings this added kick of nearly raw garlic.
I also prefer Phnom Penh’s magical lime-pepper dipping sauce. I detected artificial lemon in Angkor’s version (perhaps as a cost saving measure). Overall, though, the chicken wings worth ordering again.
[GastronomyDomine] I often start with a papaya salad at South East Asian restaurants. It is a bit of a litmus test of authenticity and technique for me. In this case, all the flavours and textures worked. The lightness of the poached pork, the crunchiness of the (ample) roasted peanuts, the herbs (mint, basil and rau ram), the fish sauce dressing and the crispy shredded papaya combined to become a great starter. I wish they had pounded the papaya with the seasonings as they would have done back home. This technique incorporates the flavours right into the bruised papaya flesh.
[GastronomyDomine] This is a wonderful dish. It is the Beef Brisket Curry and Rice Noodle soup – similar in nature to Chinese versions. The broth is much lighter than the Chinese variety in salt and in fattiness. It looks deceptively heavy – but it had the same kind of lightness as a bowl of good pho.
[GastronomyDomine] One my second visit, I had their Seafood Noodle Soup. Again the broth was very light. The bowl was nicely appointed with prawns and fish paste balls and krab.
Overall, Phnom Penh is still the benchmark for Cambodian in Vancouver (Also – let’s not forget that Phnom Penh has been at this game for a couple of decades). However, I welcome up and coming Angkor – the food is good – far and above the typical pho place. I would certainly support them with my patronage – certainly for lunch. For a bigger, and more extensive meal – perhaps at dinner – Phnom Penh would get my business.
[shokutsu] Interestingly enough, I met up with the same associate who shared my meal here at Angkor for yet another dining outing tonight, and we revisited our thoughts on that previous meal. We both came to the consensus that Phnom Penh is the clear leader and benchmark when it comes to Cambodian cuisine in the city, and if we had to choose to return to one of them in the near future again, the “champ” would prevail hands down.
My thanks to Gastro for sharing his experiences, albeit not at a shared meal, but still our first collaboration since his joining the foodosophy fold!