The Cambodian record shop cafe opened their second branch last month in Alty with the same blueprint as their Marple branch, minus the vinyl, so we popped over to try some food from one of South East Asia's most underrated cuisines.
If Angkor Soul was an LP it would be classed a rare import. Their first restaurant was only the country’s second Cambodian diner, making the Altrincham venue a third. It’s a little known food culture, but if you’re wondering what to expect on your plate, the land separates Thailand from Vietnam, and kitchen imitates geography to a certain extent, there are similar combinations of herbs, spices and ingredients on display.
One element of cooking most certainly mastered in that part of the world is the salad, and we began with one that was as good as you’d find anywhere. The sweet, sharp, spicy combination of lime and chilli with crunchy peanuts is an overpowering pleasure at the best of times, but throw in generous shavings of rare beef and you’ve got me. Pleah also combines red onions, shallots and bean sprouts for pretty much the perfectly executed starter, indulgent but also acidicly appetizing.
Moun keeps things somewhat less complicated, bringing together tender but textural chicken goujons in a sticky lemongrass and garlic marinade. Pickled green papaya was replaced with cucumber due to a stock shortage unfortunately, but a gooey, potent hoisin peanut sauce rich with soy made up for the fruit’s absence.
I often think it’s strange how the same fragrant combination of salty and sweet plus nut and spice that works so well in a salad can also translate to slow-cooked stews. Sure in this case there’s the earthy sweetness of cinnamon, cloves and star anise but the principle certainly seems quite similar. Saraman takes the aforementioned spices to form a hearty northern Cambodian dish that centres around three hour braised beef, (Angkor) Soul food indeed.
More on the stir fry tip, Koh Kong is a seafood tour de force, a plate packed with plump shellfish- king prawns, scallops, squid, and green shell mussels are all in attendance. I have to admit to finding too much of a good thing can be over-facing, even an excellent frito misto can end up a chore for example, but a zesty sambal chili sauce keeps things interesting and crisp fresh vegetables complete a perfectly executed portion of fruits de mer.
Desserts are off menu and in fairness, on our visit at least, quite simple. First we tried black rice with coconut and sesame seeds, the nicely nutty grains had a pleasant al dente crunch. Better but no more complex, a rough and ready banana filled crepe that was tasty enough but was probably a bit more pancake day than posh Parisian creperie, if you know what I mean.
The only regret from an excellent meal was wanting to try more, Cambodian food isn’t something you get to try often, and there was nothing on the menu that didn’t tempt. I’ll certainly be back to try the Royal Amok fish curry and Loc Lac steak- I’d suggest getting a few people involved when you make your visit. Altrincham has another excellent eatery on its hands here, and also one offering something little bit different, Angkor’s most definitely got Soul.
20 Ashley Road
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