NYC doesn't have a ton of Cambodian food, so when we first read a year or so ago about the opening of Angkor Cambodian Bistro on the Upper East Side, we knew we had to try it. It may have taken us longer than we would have liked to get there, but we were so happy that we finally made it.
We started out with two appetizers, the first of which was nem nuong, described as Khmer style barbecue pork hash. We had a similar type of pork preparation in summer rolls at a Vietnamese restaurant in Vegas which we absolutely loved, but here there were six meatballs grilled on skewers and served with a peanut dipping sauce. They were really good, soft, and full of pork and seasoning. The peanut sauce tasted good as well, but it wasn't fully necessary as the meatballs themselves had so much flavor.
The other appetizer we got were the Khmer fish cakes, deep fried cakes filled with fish, shrimp, string beans, and curry powder. These reminded us of tod mun pla, Thai fish cakes, except that compared with all the Thai fish cakes we've had in the past, these had so much more flavor, lots of herbs and spices. The slaw was a small batch of pickled radishes and carrots, and the sauce was a sweet chili sauce. As with the meatballs, the fish cakes were delicious with or without the sauce and slaw, but together the slaw added a freshness and crunch to match the soft fish cakes.
We decided to try some noodles, going with the "famous Cambodia noodle dish" of kuythiew, described as "rice stick noodles sautéed with shrimp, scallion, eggs, dried bean curd, crushed peanuts, and bean sprouts in tamarind sauce." Unlike similar noodle dishes put out by some Thai places, this one had sweetness to it from the tamarind sauce but it wasn't overly sweet which was nice. We've had similar dishes at other Southeast Asian restaurants, but this was an extremely tasty rendition.
The star of the night and the one thing that we knew without a doubt that we were going to order before we walked in the door (unless they were out of it) was the baked amok. Traditionally amok is a fish curry steamed in banana leaves, but the versions they offered here were baked or grilled. The baked seemed to be pretty close to the traditional steaming, and the amok had the mousse-like texture that it is known for. The flavors were amazing, and wrapped inside the creamy fish curry with its red curry sauce and coconut cream were prawns and scallops, as well as what seemed to be basil and kaffir lime. Texturally, we haven't really had anything quite like it and it was so good. It was rich and creamy tasting, and the fish was so soft. The kaffir lime leaves and basil added herbal freshness and a really clean element.
The baked amok came with a small portion of rice on the side (we chose brown) and some vegetables stewed in a similar red curry sauce (okra, zucchini, and ribbons of carrots). This was a really complete meal on its own, and we pondered how we could come here and try new things when we were going to want to get the baked amok every time.
There were some interesting sounding desserts, like a sticky rice and corn pudding or mango sticky rice, but we were so full and so happy with the baked amok that we didn't really even consider dessert. It was a successful first dinner at Angkor, and we would love to go back again sometime soon.