Cambodian restaurants tend to have a deconstructive approach to their kitchen design. More often than not barbecuing is seperated from the rest of the cooking to keep the smoke at bay, but occasionally there is a tendency to knock it up a notch, and say, wash your dishes in a neighbouring house or cook a single component of your meals off-site at an undisclosed location.
Chinese Noodles have caught on to this postmodern wave. The customer needs to dodge past the noodlemaster (above) and the boiling pots of stock at the front of house to enter, and if they happen to order fried noodles, the fresh noodles from the front are transported to somewhere at the back of the restaurant to get the full wok treatment. Dumplings and tea seems to arrive from all directions.
The restaurant seats about thirty in rickety, lurid red steel chairs. Each table is bedecked in the classic “tablecloth under glass” and has no less than eight plastic bottles of light soy sauce, possibly so that each member of your table can wield a bottle in each fist. The place is always packed at lunchtime, so between 12 and 2pm expect that you may only be able to secure yourself a single bottle with which to defend yourself.
I arrived around 1:30 and was guided to the only spare seat in the house. I shared my table with two Central American guys who loudly compared Uruguayan and Argentinian women in Spanish, and a lone but chatty Chinese man who was amazed at my dexterity with the chopsticks and was somehow responsible for ensuring that a large number of Cambodia’s garment factories never run short of power. For someone that had spent the last ten years in Phnom Penh taunting the fickle Cambodian gods of electricity, he was a remarkably jovial fellow.
The menu has not more than 12 items, eight of which are noodle (fried or soup), a choice of fried or steamed pork and chive dumplings, and the mystery items: “mixed stewed meats” and “pure stewed meats”. All are between one and two dollars, except for the stewed meats which will set you back at least three dollars.
While I was taking shots of the fried pork and chive dumplings ($1, above), my digital camera gave up the ghost. Count this as the first review where the main event, Noodle Soup with Pork ($1), is photographically absent.
The stock in the noodle soup was much less complex than Vietnamese pho, but sweet with plenty of porkfat and MSG umami-punch. The greenery component consists of wilted lettuce, already added to the soup. Lettuce should not be a soup ingredient, and once it is in there, is remarkably difficult to avoid eating. The noodles were spot on: perfectly textured, inconsistently shaped but as fresh as a mountain stream; as were the slices of pork: thick, fatty, and almost too rich for lunch. Iced tea was complimentary.
Location:On Monivong near the corner of St. 278