Today’s review of Cambodiana continues our ongoing exploration of local Cambodian and Thai restaurants, which has included the likes of Cambodian Village, Phnom Phen, Pat’s, Ly’s Place, Mango and Thai House Cuisine. Cambodiana has earned a solid reputation for fast service and tremendous value, while their convenient location doesn’t hurt either. Perched next to the busy downtown transfer point for buses 1 through 4, 12 and 19, it’s a busy lunch and dinner spot that also does decent business via take out orders. With tight seating for just under 2 dozen diners, and an eye-catching painted mural, the interior is functional but not fancy.
After a thorough study of the appetizers on Cambodiana’s menu, we decided to order their Cambodian Spring Rolls, three rolls packed with pork, various spices and vegetables ($4.50). Spring Rolls are my go-to app at most Thai restaurants, while this common denominator sort of helps me differentiate who’s better than who. Although we were the only ones in the restaurant at the time, my past experience at Cambodiana has proven them to be extremely fast. This instance was no exception as we were eating in less than 5 minutes after placing our orders. The balance of flavours inside these crunchy rolls were perfectly complimented by the sweet, house made peanut dipping sauce. Cambodiana also offers their spring rolls in vegetarian format with tofu, while they serve fish cakes, and different varieties of soup as well. Oh yes, and of course they brought us some fiery-hot, home made, red pepper chilli sauce as well. Delicious.
If you’ve followed along or remember any of my past excursions to local Thai and Cambodian haunts, you’re likely well aware of my tendency to lean towards the spiciest items on the menu. At Cambodiana, that’s the Devil Red Curry Chicken ($9.50). This generous offering consists of a chicken, red curry, coconut milk, sweet potato, carrots, bamboo shoots, served with a decent portion of white rice. Interestingly enough, the name Devil’s Curry isn’t a gimmick to attract fire-breathing diners, rather it’s a bonafide traditional Southeast Asian dish that is predominantly served around Christmas and other special occasions. I can’t speak to the authenticity of the dish, however the Devil’s Curry lives up to it’s name as it definitely packs a wallop in terms of spiciness. Although my lips were going somewhat numb from the scorching heat, I found the curry to be quite smooth and really filling. Not one drop of lava remained on my plate by the time I was done.
Second up was “today’s special”($10.99), which was technically this past Tuesday, but who’s counting. The daily offering consisted of cubed chicken that had been cooked with spicy sour red curry, coconut milk, sweet potato, carrots, green beans, coriander, served with a bed of rice. This mellower curry was similar to the Devil’s version, however it had slightly less kick. Still enough to warm you up on a cold winter’s night. It too offered a creamier curry than what I’m used to, and was somewhat stew-like thanks to the heaping portions of chicken and vegetables. Again, nothing better than a spicy dish to zap a head cold and raise your body temperature when the weather outside is frightful.
Similar to other Thai and Cambodian restaurants, Cambodiana helps out uncertain diners by displaying their entire menu with accompanying photographs so that you can get a sense of what each dish looks like. There are just over two dozen other main entrees on the menu at Cambodiana. From everyone’s favourite (not mine) Pad Thai ($9.25) to tofu and pineapple ($7.50), Samlaw Khmer ($8.50) to Kolab Cambodiana ($7.95), it’s easy to see just how creative and affordable Cambodiana is.
As our heaping plates vanished and we enjoyed a second pitcher of water, we knew that we’d just made it even more difficult to choose a Thai or Cambodian restaurant in Kingston. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Cambodiana is the best of the best, that title still belongs to Pat’s as far as I’m concerned, but suffice to say it joins the long list of runners up. It’s probably the second closest Thai restaurant to our house, so for me, and many other bus commuters, Cambodiana wins in terms of it’s convenient location.