Restaurant review: Angkor Grill
Angkor Grill, owned and operated by Ricky Do, recently opened its doors in the space formerly occupied by Pho Little Saigon on Park Street. I wasted no time in visiting Alameda’s first Cambodian eatery, the third restaurant from the Do family (sister restaurants are Phnom Penh House in Oakland’s Laurel District and the original Phnom Penh House on Eighth Street in Oakland’s Chinatown).
Our meal started with two appetizers: the Cambodian crepe stuffed with pork, shrimp, coconut, and bean sprouts, and the fresh spring rolls with rice noodles, lettuce, and carrots and tofu. The menu offers a choice of BBQ chicken or shrimp spring rolls, but we chose to substitute with tofu, and this may have been a mistake. The tofu slices were hard around the edges and tasteless. Even when coated in Angkor’s spicy dipping sauce, the dish was very bland – nothing really objectionable, but we agreed we would not order them again.
The Cambodian crepe looked promising – a light, fluffy omelet that our server split in half for us to share. The crepe itself was pleasant enough, but the filling was disappointingly flavorless. The shrimp were small and unseasoned, and the overall effect was, for lack of a better word, “blah.” (The table next to us, however, loved the crepe, so I’m happy to assume that our opinion was just a matter of taste.)
Fortunately, all three of our main dishes were a success. The Kary Tia (duck curry) was soft and tender, each piece falling easily off the bone. The accompanying eggplant, potatoes and green beans were perfectly cooked and flavored, but not overwhelmed by the rich curry sauce. The Traop Ann Neun Sach Chhrouk (spicy eggplant with shrimp and pork) was thick and stew-like, and the familiar pork and shrimp fared better here with the addition of sauce and seasoning.
My personal favorite was the Vegetarian Deluxe – a velvety mix of carrot, broccoli, florets, cabbage, mushrooms, and green beans in dark brown gravy. The brown rice over which we ate our entrees was plump, sticky and hot.
Despite our rocky start with the appetizers, we were pleased with the Angkor Grill. Our favorite part was just how it felt to be there. The service was genuinely friendly and attentive, the atmosphere quietly social. We loved the décor – dark wood paneling and carefully chosen Southeast Asian-influenced artwork. Budget-conscious Alamedans will no doubt appreciate a restaurant that has a special-occasion feel while managing to keep most entrees at or under $10. It is obvious that the proprietors and staff at the Grill planned carefully before opening, and I think it will prove a positive addition to the downtown culinary scene.
Following dinner, our server brought us a lovely bowl of green tea ice cream and strawberries, compliments of the chef. We had no room for the Chhet Chean – deep fried banana with coconut, sesame and ice cream. Let me know how it is.