Rangalore has been bursting at its seams with restaurants that pride themselves with the specialized cuisine tag. But none of them have explored Cambodian cuisine, a little-known cuisine not only in the city, but across the world too, as we find out during the course of our meal. This is where Khmer Kitchen steps in and by the looks of it, Bangalore probably needed it: the restaurant is packed when we step in on a week day.
Khmer Kitchen is located in the same space where the late litterateur and actor Girish Karnad’s home was and Khmer’s proprietors Veena and Naveen Reddy have retained the space as it was — with trees and creepers dotting the restaurant. There’s one going through the middle of the restaurant and another in the men’s restroom, I’m told! The restaurant has three levels, with two of them being currently operational owing to the pandemic.
At the entrance is the Khmer Café, which soon opens up to the Khmer Kitchen bar area. An edifice representing the Bayon temple of Angkor Wat makes for a stately sight in the background. The space also gives access to little nooks for families who wish to dine privately, under welcoming canopies. The second floor has a library (where Girish’s library was also located) and an indoor and outdoor dining space. The outdoor section has trees shielding the privacy of patrons despite being located in bustling JPNagar. Naveen, an architect himself, has ensured that every aspect of the restaurant is homage to Khmer regime. Read large and enchanting murals, brass bells, artifacts and the absolute hush of nature.
It’s then time to get to the essence of Khmer Kitchen: the food. Naveen recommends we try the signature Khmer cocktails, all brewed by a team of mixologists who transform trademark flavours of Cambodia into aromatic artisanal cocktails. We try the Phenomenonal Phnom (gin based musky cocktail with Sandalwood mist) and the Wat De Ampil (tequila with green pepper corns with home-made spring onion infusion, mint and black salt). Refreshing and rejuvenating, them both. The menu also has other interesting concoctions with native flavours that include lemongrass, vetiver, basil and coconut pulp apart from the expansive liquor and mocktail collection.
The appetizers were up next and various dimsums made their way to our table: the Spiced Pumpkin Dimsum (self-explanatory), the Jiaozi (vegetable dumplings in yakitori sauce), the Mushroom and Black Fungus Dimsum, Camembert and Sambal Wonton (A French influence, these cheese and veggie dumplings sitting on a bed of sambal broth), Asian Cauliflower Wings (cauliflower in Khmer special spices served with chilli coconut dip), the Carrot and Mushroom Bao (wild mushrooms and carrots encased in a bao) and the Jumbo Prawns (wok tossed prawns in leek, chilly, garlic and wine crumble) were a delight and absolutely spot on; we had a hard time picking a favourite.
Having sampled so many appetizers, we kept the mains simple. Keen on tasting every day Cambodian food, we chose a portion of the Pumpkin and Tofu Amok and a Fish Amok. The ingredients of this national dish are gently steamed in banana leaves in a concoction of coconut milk and subtle spices and served with jasmine rice. Simple yet soul satisfying.
But one can never say no to dessert, right? We decided to get small portions and were given the Trio Dessert Platter to get a glimpse of some of the specials. There was Tapioca and Red Banana Pudding, Steamed Cambodian Rice Layered Cake and Pepper Corn Crème Brûlée. Each unique, flavourful… but the crème brûlée was the highlight.
The evening spelt gluttony to say the least but surprisingly, it wasn’t one of those meals that leaves you groaning in your chair, unable to move. We rounded off the meal with Pu’erh tea — an exotic, East Asian heritage tea that was just the perfect conclusion to our evening.
Khmer Kitchen is located on 697, 15th Cross Road, 2nd Phase, JPNagar, Bangalore – 560 078.
For reservations, call +917337808157