Le Cambodge, Paris
I discovered Le Cambodge when a fanatical friend took me there for dinner one evening. She had been raving about this little Cambodian restaurant for weeks and so my expectations were high. There is no such thing as reserving a table here, so make sure you don’t show up starving. We arrived and already a queue of customers were snaking the block, I was glad I wasn’t too hungry. The lengthening queue actually moved reasonably quickly and soon we were inside the warm, inviting restaurant. Incase your wondering the wait is well worth it.
From the exterior Le Cambodge is unimposing, understated but elegant. Rows of benches filled with chattering diners under a large white awning form the appealing outside eating area. The tables are lit with small lights, which cast a terracotta glow across the entire seating space.
Inside the clamor of merry friends, busy waiting staff and clinking of pans in the kitchen make for a loud but vibrant atmosphere. The staff here are sanguine and extremely efficient. We were heartily welcomed and guided to our table snug in a corner of the rambunctious restaurant.
The menu is simple but authentic Cambodian cuisine. The simplicity of the food is refreshing and pleasantly alluring. My absolute favourite dish and the meal I would recommend to anyone passing by is the Bobun, in any variety of your choice. I opted for the vegetarian Bobun and the aromatic blend of coriander; ginger and spices brought the dish alive. The food here is a paragon of elevated home cooking. The colourful, verdant bowl of perfectly cooked vegetables, seasoned with accuracy was uncomplicated and satiating. The desserts are light, fruity and creamy. The most surprising pudding is the nougats mous au sesame, which is a Cambodian style nougat encrusted with nutty sesame seeds. The sweet chunks of chewy honey laden, rich roasted nougat soothes the spiced main and ends the meal sublimely.
This is a family run joint which explains the friendly and intimate charm exuding from both the staff and the whole restaurant. The family moved to Paris in 1979 and set up a small café in Montparnasse and from here they grew to the popular Le Cambodge. Their story is told by the now grown up daughter of Damrong and Kunthel who first opened up shop on the streets of 70’s Paris. This history and passion, which has formed Le Cambodge, only makes the food more sumptuous and the place more fascinating.