Monday, December 24, 2012

New Asia on Market Street: New Cambodian Restaurant with buffet

With my mother living 2 hours away in CT, its not always the easiest to fulfill my cravings for authentic Cambodian food.  Although I do know how to make a handful of simple dishes, I leave the time consuming traditional dishes to others.

Sure, Cambodian sandwich shops and fast-food joint are opening up in town quicker than anyone can keep track of, but sometimes its nice to just have a small sample of everything instead of committing to just one or two dishes from places like Yummy Express in Lowell.

Growing up in the 90's, my siblings and cousin used to take turns and help out at my uncle's office on Westford Street doing basic filing and answering phone calls.  During lunch, we would walk across the street (then later next door) to Khemara restaurant where my uncle had a tab and we would eat the Cambodian lunch buffet.  It was a steal then at $4.95.  We filled our little tummies with rice, chicken and soup.

As a young adult, I still loved going to Khemara restaurant and would go with friends for the weekend brunch buffet that served Cambodian specialties such a "nom pa chok" rice vermicilli and a traditional fish lemongrass soup base or "bun xiow" more of a Vietnamese dish with pork and bean sprouts filling in a tumeric rice flour crepe.  I was sad to see it close a few years ago and have longed for a new Cambodian buffet since.

Viet-Thai in Lowell offers great Southeast Asian cuisine and authentic Vietnamese dishes and the Mo and I like to go whenever we get a chance.  The only downside is that is that the buffet is only served on weekdays so the Mo and I can only go when we have the day off from work.

After going to a small mom and pop's Asian store, New Asia Market, I discovered that they had purchased the restaurant in the same building, the old Southeast Asian restaurant.  The Mo and I actually both worked there for years and I was sad to see it go through different ownership over the years.

The new restaurant, "New Asia Restaurant"  has a weekday lunch buffet was advertised in the store for  $7.50.  I asked the clerk what kind of food was offered and was thrilled to hear that it was mainly Cambodian.  The restaurant also serves a la carte Cambodian dishes in addition to Cambodian hot pot and grill. (Koh Leung Phnom..aka cow goes up the hill...aka butter beef pan)

The Mo and I decided to head there today for Christmas eve brunch.  The restaurant got a mini face lift and the moved the food stations in the main dining hall versus the previous set up.  The restaurant seemed brighter and a new flat screen TV was installed.  This is pretty typical in any Cambodian restaurants where karaoke or Asian soap operas are on display for the patrons during their meal.

We got there a little bit after 11:00 AM so they were still putting out a few dishes under the food warming lamp.  It was definitely a Cambodian buffet with traditional soups, stews, curried pork, pra hok dishes, etc.  A few dishes can fall into the general Southeast Asian category  such as eggrolls, wings, phad thai, fried rice and chicken sate.  There was also a variety of vegetarian dishes that included stir fry vegetables, steamed garlic and green beans and tofu.
Buffet Offerings View 1
Buffet offerings, view 2, before they added the other 2 dishes
Fresh Vegetables paired with pork curry and prahok, fresh garden rolls on the far right
The food at the buffet was presented very nicely and most importantly, everything looked clean.  Since the restaurant had been only opened for a month, there was only one other table that was there. The owner/waitress advised that it does get busy during the lunch rush with its close proximity to city hall and downtown Lowell.

The food was average and it did the trick to satisfy any craving for Cambodian food.  I was excited that they had one of my favorite soups, stuffed bitter melon with pork and vermicelli. It's one of the many things my mom always made growing up in our household.  It's sometimes hard not to be biased as one is always used to their own family's recipes.

The curried pork was a bit spicy for me but the Mo enjoyed it.  The fresh rolls left a lot to be desired. I'm not a fan of ground meat in my fresh rolls and they had ground chicken, the texture didn't go well.  The Phad thai was great and the wings were full of flavor.  It stayed crispy under the heating lamps and I was surprised that it didn't turn into a soggy gross mess.

We were too stuffed for dessert but it looked like there was only one offering, tapioca in coconut milk.

We would probably be back again on a lazy day as the service was fast and friendly and the price was just right.

My only wish is if they served "Nom Pa Chok", "Bun Xiow" or "Nom Crook" (Pureed rice and Scallion pockets with fish sauce)

For more pictures, visit their Facebook page.