Friday, January 16, 2009

Cheng Heng – St. Paul, MN

We got a recommendation from one of my coworkers with this caveat, “Don’t expect much in the way of ambience…” Actually my coworker raved about the food, but when I hear warnings about ambience, it’s a green light for me. This is a Cambodian restaurant, and since we’d never eaten Cambodian food, an almost-recommendation was all I needed.

We dropped by this place after work after a really long drive down University Ave. It’s almost to the capitol building (the opposite direction of home). The building is split into weird sections. When you walk in, you’ll be faced with a smattering of toys – apparently this is where the owners/workers kids play. To the left are a handful of Asian-inspired decorations (planters, statues, and plants) and also the entrance to some sort of jewelry store (also filled with toys and randomness). To the right is most of the restaurant. A little further back and there is a sectioned off area which I assume is overflow.

We got a table and Gerd put her purse down loudly and started emptying it. Apparently, her spillproof coffee mug wasn’t all that spillproof. So I offered to order some cream cheese puffs (crab rangoons basically) and that cheered her up just a little bit. I also ordered some fresh spring rolls since we always have to get them when they’re on any menu.

We ordered our meals as well, but I can’t tell you what we got, unfortunately. There were a lot of “c”s in the items if that helps. We got a #24 and a #28. I can’t give you any more than that.

The crab rangoons were quite good. You know they’re good when you pick them up and grease drips out the end. Seriously, that means they’re good. These were very good. The fresh spring rolls were awesome as well. To be honest, we’ve never had bad spring rolls anywhere, so it’s a safe bet they were going to be good. And they were.

The #24 was some sort of glass noodle and mushroom dish that was really good. Wasn’t spicy at all and Gerd really liked it a lot. There were some cabbage-y things in it as well as some long skinny Asian mushrooms that look like worms. I even got to finish up the plate when Gerd got full. It was a winner.

The #28 was also good, but a bit bland honestly. It was noodles and bean sprouts and chicken and was pretty good, just not a lot of flavor going on. I dumped the sauce they brought out for me all over the top of it and that seemed to help though. Nothing weird about it, although it didn’t taste like Chinese food – more like Vietnamese food. So I guess where Cambodia is at, they stole more things from Vietnam than China. Go them.

After being worried about receiving a plate with a stick and some blades of grass on it – you KNOW you think of Cambodia the same way *I* do – I was pleasantly surprised to have really good food. I’d recommend this place, but we still have another 2,000+ restaurants to go to before we get back here. We won’t be scared of it any more if that’s any consolation!

Top 5 things about Cheng Heng
1. #24 (whatever that is)
2. Fresh spring rolls
3. It was pretty cheap
4. They have hoissin in ketchup bottles on the table – awesome!
5. Really good descriptions of each dish – very helpful

Bottom 5 things
1. Seems like a lot of weird stuff going on in there besides cookery
2. #28 was a tad bland
3. It’s really far from us
4. Pop in cans – Gerd HATES to ration her drinking
5. Gerd’s spillproof fail – not the restaurant’s fault of course

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