1733 Middlesex Street
Lowell, MA 01851
Apsara is a brand new place on Middlesex St - almost to the Rourke Bridge (it used to be a sports bar).
This is an absolutely don't-miss find. We had a great meal - the quality transcended nationality, authenticity, whatever... it was just great tasting, wonderfully presented food - just a joy to eat.
They advertise as Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, and Vietnamese. The menu is certainly varied - but it is in English and Khmer, and they have Cambodian music video's in a karaoke format (words scrolling across the bottom in Khmer) running on the big screen - so my general impression was that this was primarily Cambodian with some other South-east asian cuisine.
My son and I ordered the Beef Teriyaki (5 pieces) as an appetizer - this is an euphemism for beef stick, and can mean anything. Theirs was a very tasty set of small marinated beef chunks on sticks - nothing to do with real teriyaki, but very tasty, with some five-spice flavors... served with a bed of julienned carrots and daikon in a rice vinegar vinaigrette and slices of jalapeno on lettuce. I made little lettuce burritos with the meat and the veggies - I have no idea if this is proper, but it was delicious.
The Tom Yum soup was great - a strong, somewhat fatty chicken base - like the best of chicken soups, whether Jewish, Chinese, or whatever (no fat, no flavor) - and a strong shrimp taste. Some cilantro floating on top - a squeeze of sriracha - it just left me wanting more.
Their fried rice is great - light and full of vegetables and pieces of meat - much closer to a Japanese Chahan than the typical Chinese dark soyed to death mixture (but no egg, and the rice wasn't japonica).
My son's Rice with spicy beef was quite spicy - lots of jalapeno. But the real pièce de résistance was the fried catfish with mango. Wow... A Thai catfish, scored diagonally and deep fat fried. The skin was deliciously crunchy all around - the small outside bones were fried crunchy and edible - and the flesh itself was just so flavorful. The mango was served like a cole slaw on the side in a small bowl - it had a fish sauce and vinegar base, some cilantro and jalapeno - and was very tasty - certainly complimented the crunchy fish.
There is a lot to explore on this menu. I was so impressed by the quality of each dish - regardless of how common it might be (like the Tom Yum soup) or perhaps somewhat rarer, like the catfish. It will take a lot of time to get through it all - time I will certainly enjoy.