Bayon Cafe

Nam Yaa Soup - Bayon Cafe

Nam Yaa Soup – Bayon Cafe

Cambodian chefs and cooks are masterful in the art of spice blending. Pungent spices such as clove, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and turmeric are typical in southeast Asian cuisine, but when expertly combined into pastes (aka kroeung) using native ingredients like galangal, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro, and kaffir lime leaves, the results are distinctly Cambodian!

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In Rhode Island, Cambodian residents makes up the largest percentage of the Southeast Asian population. Approximately 85% of our Cambodian neighbors live in Providence and Cranston, so it should come as no surprise that excellence in Khmer cuisine is tempting the masses.

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Cue Bayon Cafe, (ហាងកាហ្វេបាយ័ន) applause please! Hidden in plain view on Reservoir Ave is a wicked fine find. I wish  I could speak of accidentally stumbling across this unassuming little restaurant in my travels, but I was thankfully invited without fanfare.

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Under the watchful eye of Chef Bopha, the shining star dish was the Nam Yaa Soup (curry, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and garlic). What Phở is to the Vietnamese, and Chicken Soup is to the Jews, Nam Yaa is the blissful and medicinal elixir that will cure what ails ya. With or without ramen, this bold flavored and spicy broth just made my day more memorable.

Grilled Salmon Fillet – Bayon Cafe

The Grilled Salmon Fillet, served with a sweet tamarind sauce was an excellent pairing. Salmon is often a stronger tasting fish and was successfully balanced with a sweet and savory element. Garnished so attractively on the plate, the dish was bright and inviting. In addition to the tamarind sauce, there is optional sauce – curry “Choo Chee.” I’m not sure what “Choo Chee” is, but it’s fun to say it out loud without getting in trouble.

Natang – Bayon Cafe

My absolute favorite was the Natang. Ground pork is a bland protein which requires thoughtful preparation in order for unique flavor profiles to be developed. The addition of coconut milk changes everything. As a person who does not enjoy coconut, Cambodian cooking makes me eat my words. Add in the crunchy rice crackers for dipping, and you’ve got yourself a party.

Bayon Wings

Of course you’ve had wings before, but have you tried the Bayon Wings? The wings are gently tossed in a mild lemongrass sauce and garnished with fresh jalapenos. The wings were crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy within.

Khmer Warriors

The Tuk Tuk Noodles (flat noodles stir fried with a protein, vegetables, egg, and a curry coconut sauce) were a standout in both taste and texture. I believe a Tuk Tuk is a type of  a small trailer pulled by a cyclist and a pleasant way of touring the Angkor temples in Cambodia. How this translates to a damn fine noodle dish is anyone’s guess.

The Bayon Cafe is simply appointed and noticeably clean. The service is attentive and warmly delivered.  The menu is ideally limited to that which Bayon can expertly prepare, and offers a reasonably affordable price point.

bayonI feel fortunate that there exists diverse populations and accommodating restaurants such as the Bayon Cafe in my neighborhood. Adventures in dining can only be made possible when there exists a need. When the dining public becomes accustomed to chain-food dining, the flavor profiles are reduced to salt and sugar. The cooking methods are reduced to frying, and landscape falls victim to a cookie cutter design. Nothing could be less interesting than this.

Head over to the Bayon Cafe, “tuk” in, order a large bowl of Nam Yaa, sit back and relax. Good things are likely…


Bayon Café | 745 Reservoir Avenue | Cranston, RI 02910 | 401-943-1728

ខ្ញុំស្រឡាញ់កន្លែងនេះ

Extra Info: Built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia.

Ebisu 恵比寿

Ebisu SignageIn Japanese mythology and folklore, the Seven Gods of Fortune is characterized as a seafaring group that arrived in town by treasure ship each New Year in order to distribute fantastic gifts to worthy people. Ebisu, the only originating Japanese member was the God of fishermen, luck and the workingman.

In the spirit of Japanese tradition and the conveyance of good fortune to the workingman, Ebisu delivers on its promise to excite the neighborhood’s culinary habit! Ebisu offers a unique dining experience due to a creative and unabashed menu brimming with varied proteins, vegetables and noodle combinations.

Korean Pork Belly

Korean Pork Belly

Ebisu’s menu primarily  breaks down in three appealing categories. The first is Robatayaki, which literally means fire-side cooking, similar to barbecue, in which various meats and vegetable combinations are skewered and slow-grilled over coals. We had the Korean Pork Belly with a spicy honey miso sauce and Kimchee, which was so personally satisfying, that quite frankly could have encompassed my entire meal!  The pork belly was tender and juicy on the inside, and sweet and spicy on the outside. I’m a firm believer that food on a stick is just plain fun – ask anyone!

Spicy Tuna Tostada

Spicy Tuna Tostada

The second menu category is a Japanese style Tapas. Ebisu does a brilliant job of elaborating on the Spanish version of small plate appetizers, which in combination; offers diners a sophisticated option for combining varied flavors, textures and spices in order to enjoy a dining experience not traditionally centered on one entrée.

Upon our server’s recommendation, we ordered the Spicy Tuna Tostado on a bed of crispy seaweed rice crackers, with a spicy mayo.

Ika

Ika

The tuna was perfectly fresh and flavorful, and the rice crackers were homemade, crunchy and warm. Eat your heart out sushi fans, this was a home run!

Additionally, we ordered the Ika (grilled whole Surume squid) and Geso (the accompanying tentacles with a teriyaki glaze). The squid was tenderly grilled and beautifully presented. This is the perfect alternative to traditional fried calamari for which we have all come to knowingly love as our standard dining starter.

Nagasaki Chanpon

Nagasaki Chanpon

And finally, the third menu category is Ramen. Step aside Maruchan; this isn’t your college hot-pot, sodium-laden, block of pasta under cellophane! These are freshly prepared noodle dishes with rich and flavorful broths that bring sheer joy to the soup-slurpers among us.  We ordered the Nagasaki Chanpon (medium thick noodles in a pork broth, shrimp, squid, scallops, soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, cabbage and carrots). The seafood was perfectly prepared, the vegetables were fresh and crunchy, and the noodles firmly swimming in a bath of warm broth.

Tan Tan Men

Tan Tan Men

Additionally, a bowl of Tan Tan Men (egg noodles in spicy pork miso broth, soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, spinach, fish cake, seaweed, cabbage, carrots and seven spices) made a welcome appearance at our table. The addition of pork combined with a rich and spicy miso broth elevated this dish to a memorable category.

Whenever I exit a restaurant, the same question plays over in my mind; is this place worth visiting again, or would my dining dollars be best spent somewhere new? In response, I’m confident that I have not yet scratched the surface of Ebisu’s exciting menu, and feel compelled to return to a restaurant that I believe may quickly become an old friend! 果報

Ebisu 38 Pontiac Avenue, Providence, RI 02907 (401) 270-7500

King’s Garden 點心

David’s Review

Well the big secret is out; I’m still in love with Asian cuisine. I’m drawn to it like “white on glutinous rice.” To be more specific, Dim Sum is the elusive meal that remains enigmatic for most locals, and if you’ve not found your way to King’s Garden in Cranston for this experience yet,   grab some non-Asian friends and go because your Asian friends are already there!

Congee is a warm thick rice porridge or soup that is served in many Asian cultures primarily for breakfast, but can be substituted for just about any meal because of the variety of proteins that can be added (i.e. chicken, pork, beef and fish). Anyone who likes oatmeal, cream of wheat or rice cereal would equally appreciate Congee. This Asian comfort food is simple tasting yet terrifically satisfying and an absolute must at King’s Garden because it arrives at the table bubbling in a baked crock, and is the creamiest and most flavorful Congee I’ve ever had.

The Dim Sum menu is extensive and allows diners to check off those small plate dishes (and quantity) he/she desires.  So, in addition to Congee, the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings were fresh, flavorful and perfectly prepared using the delicate dumpling skin that turns translucent when done.  The Steamed Minced Meat Ball reminded me more of Shumai and was also tender, juicy and appetizing.  The Fried Shrimp Balls (3 golf ball sized) were perfectly crispy and non-greasy on the outside with a piping hot and tender shrimp center.  The Steamed Roast Pork Bun (2 per) was worthy of a second order because the freshness of the sweet hot bun coupled with the salty roast pork center was clearly the envy of all the other buns yet to be eaten!  The Chao Chow Dumpling was the stand-out winner during our meal. I really enjoyed trying something new which pairs interesting ingredients and textures together. The dumpling combined chopped taro root, watercress, peanuts, pork and cilantro. I shared a private moment in silence to respectfully honor the glorious “dumpling.”

My only regret is that I have but one stomach to give per meal and was not able to continue my journey down the King’s Garden menu any further. The silver lining to this cloud is that I will thankfully return in order to sample much more in the near future.

The King’s Garden may  be a new Fork in the Rhode for some, but I have a feeling that this place has been lovingly “forked” many times before me…..

King’s Garden 90 Rolfe Street Cranston, RI  401.467.8916