We spin the globe and search for other-worldly spots to expand our eating horizons around the Valley.
Reathrey Sekong 1312 E. Indian School Phoenix, AZ 85014 (602) 238-0238 Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. for dinner. Closed Sundays.
Along the stretch of Indian School Road between 12th &16th streets, there's a 99 cent store, a couple of auto parts stores, and Reathrey Sekong, a BYOB Cambodian restaurant that serves some typical and not-so-typical Asian fare.
Look closely when you drive by, the building is nondescript. Parking and the main entrance are located in the rear of building. You know you have the right place if you see an empty fountain and a festive wall mural.
Inside the restaurant, the vibe is clean and modern; Buddha paintings line the walls and tables are appointed with minimalist touches. There's an attractive (for decoration only?) seating area which looks as if it was plucked from someone's living room. The menu is expansive with a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, noodles, fried rice dishes, Cambodian specialties and desserts.
For those rusty in geography, Cambodia is sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, so if you are familiar with either of those cuisines, you'll know what to expect from much of the menu, like the noodle soups, curries, and rice dishes.
On a recent visit, My dining partners and I sat ourselves at a booth and proceeded to sample a bunch of different items from the menu. Dishes come out when they're ready, which can stagger throughout the meal. For this reason, and to maximize sampling power, I'd suggest ordering family style.
The Bok Lahong, otherwise known as Papaya Salad, ($10) is made to your specifications from mild to spicy (I ordered medium/spicy which had a pleasant kick). The julienned papaya and carrots are pretty standard for a papaya salad, tangy and refreshing. There were a few unidentifiable hard, black hard chunks interspersed throughout , which, upon further examination, turned out to be pieces of crab. I assumed it was like the addition of a bay leaf to a recipe (something for flavor, but not to be eaten) and set them aside, and continued gobbling up the rest of the salad.
Two giant Noum Baiynchaiv Crepes ($10) filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and red onions accompanied with romaine lettuce, cucumber, herbs and a sweet dipping sauce were impressive in both size and flavor. The dish, very similar to Vietnamese Banh Xeo pancakes, is huge -- more than enough for one person. Three of us decimated it. Here's how: Wrap bits of omelet up in leaves of romaine with a few herbs, a cucumber and dip in fish sauce (made even more delicious by adding some spicy chili paste).
Next up, the Lok Lak Beef ($8 small and $12 large); Chunks of marinated beef sitting atop a bed of lettuce with slices of tomato and onion. The flavor of the beef was really good, but the salad was a little dry and felt like an odd pairing with the beef.
The restaurant was out of Cambodian specialty, Amok Fish, and suggested a plate of Cha Kreung or Lemongrass Stir Fry which we ordered with chicken. It was a tasty, if typical stir fry dish with a strong lemongrass flavor.
The Mi Seang ($9), crispy noodles mixed with pork, tofu, eggs and bean sprouts, was delicious, crunchy and flavorful. It did have a slightly funky odor, but it was quickly overshadowed upon eating. I was tempted to order a noodle soup I saw heading to another table, but I wanted to save room for the desserts.
My first choice, Jackfruit Sweet Rice, wasn't available, so I decided branch out with something new. The Banana Tapioca ($4) is served hot and has a flavor like rice pudding but with a more gelatinous texture mixed with slices of banana. My dining companions were a little wary of the porridge-like dessert, but I found myself refilling my little bowl over and over until it was almost gone.
I also tried their Grilled Corn ($4) because, hey, it's dessert corn! The grilled cob was covered in a sweet and salty syrup, but the corn itself wasn't very flavorful, which made the rest of the dish fall a little flat. Perhaps with a sweeter ear it would be a better finale.
There were a bunch more things on this menu I would have liked to try: Noodle soups, sandwiches, boba smoothies, but alas, that will have to wait for my next visit.