Phnom Penh Restaurant
13124 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44111
1929 W 25th
Cleveland, OH 44113
Web Site: http://www.ohiorestaurant.com
I happen to be a huge Asian food fan — be it Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese or Korean, I’m immensely attracted to the firey chiles, the fresh herbs, the strange vegetables and the confluence and exotic spices and strange condiments used in these cuisines. And when I get to try dishes from this region that I normally don’t have access to where I live in the New York Metro area, I jump at the chance to do it.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been travelling back and forth to Cleveland — a city that for the most part I would classify as sorely lacking in decent food. Cleveland is a meat and potatoes town, a city where chain restaurants reign and are even test marketed. But there are definitely pockets of great ethnic food in Cleveland, and you have to know where to find it.
One fine example of this is Phnom Penh, which is a Cambodian restaurant with two locations in Cleveland. Cambodian food is something that I have absolutely no experience with, as we don’t have any restaurants that I know of that represent the cuisine in New York or New Jersey. The best way I could describe Cambodian is it has all the herbal notes and heavy reliance on fresh produce and the funkyness of Vietnamese, but with all the explosive chili fire of Thai. Like Thai, many of their dishes are curry-like and served over rice or rice noodles like the Vietnamese do. Like the Thai, they use tamarind, galangal, and kaffir lime. Like the Vietnamese, they use Star Anise as well as Cilantro/Coriander. What sets Cambodian apart from both of these cuisines is its signature Khmer spice paste, Kroeung, which is used in many of their native dishes and made up of a combination of Lemon grass, Kaffir lime, Galangal, Turmeric, Rhizome, Garlic, Shallots, and Dried Red Chillies
Phnom Penh’s Lorain Avenue location. The restaurant is very small and barely has enough space for 3 cars to park in front in its tiny lot, so you might have to park around the corner or across the street.
The Lorain Avenue branch is not much to look at. But that’s not what you’re here for.
Ready for some seriously spicy and exotic food in Cleveland? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
I got to sit next to the fish tank.
A Vietnamese-style Bun Bo Hue soup, although this is one of the spiciest versions I have ever had. Really warmed me up after walking in from the 14-degree weather.
Phnom Penh Salad — Chicken, cabbage, onion, bean sprout, carrot, red basil, green paper and peanuts served with a special chili garlic sauce. Spicy!
Chha Kroeung Ma Rass Prowt, a Cambodian dish similar to a Thai curry. This was a Chicken, Beef and Shrimp combination, spiced with the all-important Kroeung, which makes the dish unbelievably spicy because it’s key component is a multicolored red/blue/purple “ornamental” bird chili. The sauce also contains coconut milk, Ma Rass Prowt (a special vegetable from Asia) and is Stir fried with onion, green pepper, red pepper and chunky chopped roasted peanuts. Ordered extra spicy. My face was on fire after eating this dish.
I came back to the restaurant the following night and had a Seafood with Rice soup. A simple Asian-style chicken broth with Surimi and Shrimp in it with green onions and flecks of lettuce.
Nating is a stir-fried ground pork dish seasoned with coconut milk, chiles and tamarind. It’s served over crispy rice squares. I loved this dish.
Bayon with beef. Bayon is a popular Cambodian spicy curry-like dish flavored with garlic, lemongrass, chiles and other exotic spices. The vegetables are yellow squash, green beans, Asian eggplant and snow peas. Again, ordered extra spicy, and it nearly blew my head off.
I returned again the following week and tried a spicy eggplant with shrimp and pork dish. This sort of reminded me of a Middle-eastern style eggplant salad, but with Southeast Asian spices.
Samlaw Machou Kreoung, a very spicy and sour stew with Beef, Lemongrass, Tamarind and Spinach. The Kreoung flavor is very pronounced in this one.
Chicken Curry Soup. Another blow your head off spicy dish.
Here’s Phnom Penh’s “Pad Thai” which my co-worker, Nino, asked me to bring him takeout. He was back at the hotel catching up on his emails.
Nino enjoying his Pad Thai. “Holy crap, that’s spicy!”