Stopped in at Kampuchea (Allen/Rivington) last night--second night they're open. Manager held out an hour-long wait, as I expected, but the restaurant was half-empty for most of the next 40 minutes--they're doing the "leave-a-number-and-we'll-call-you" approach for every walk-in, which always struck me as inefficient, but i imagine they'll figure that out (it's good for the business of the bar across the street, for sure). no liquor license yet, so we ordered two watermelon juices to start, which arrived nice and cold and full of pulp.
the menu's split into a few short sections (4 or 5 choices each)--starters, sandwiches, grilled, crepes, soups. we went for two starters: the corn, served mexican-style, grilled and rubbed with a too-thick chili mayonnaise; and the five-spice grilled chicken wings, small and bland.
we went for stews as the main course. can't remember the exact make-up of the stews we tried, but i went for the oxtail stew and my gf chose the vegetable/coconut milk stew. both came with a bowl of crusty garlic bread for dippage. my bowl of stew, for the price ($16 for the oxtail), seemed awfully small, but the stew is thick and comes laden with sprouts, lime, and cilantro. i haven't had much cambodian food in my time, to be honest, but i expected the flavors to be pretty aggressive and spicy; instead, the soup had the sort of one-note Heartiness that you expect from a stew--regardless of its national origin. the meat was fine and fatty, and there was enough of it by volume to keep me from feeling insulted, but i'm not convinced it's worth $16, either. the party next to us was getting pretty into their crepe, so that may be a better angle.
short form: wait issues (they just need to smooth away the cognitive dissonance of an hour wait and 16 open seats), liquor license incoming, tight communal dining, hearty, indistinctly flavored, cambodian-inspired food. they're still pretty stressed out--maybe try a weekday?
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