Vicki Paris Goodman
Monorom Cambodian Restaurant is a delight. Clean and bright, the restaurant is a welcome refuge amid the Anaheim corridor’s “concrete jungle.”
Sam and I paid our first visit to Monorom late on Sunday afternoon of the New Year’s weekend. We were greeted warmly by the proprietor, Pros Chea. Flat-screen TVs mounted on opposite walls were playing a (presumably) Cambodian concert or festival featuring the pleasing strains of the young female vocalists depicted on screen.
Monorom’s menu is not as extensive as some I’ve seen, which is a good thing. It makes it easy to choose. And since the featured dishes are soups, rice plates, and noodle dishes with meat options of beef, pork, chicken and an array of seafood, the variety is still plentiful.
As is usually the case when we are not wholly familiar with a particular cuisine, figuring out what to order can be daunting. Fear not, as Monorom’s menu has good, if not perfect, descriptions of ingredients. And many of the dishes are pictured. We had little trouble deciding.
Sam and I ordered three dishes, which fed the two of us amply, and allowed us to take home a small quantity of leftovers. We chose the Sour Beef Soup with Watercress ($9.75), the Ginger Chicken with Rice ($5.75), and a noodle dish with the curious name “the Student” ($5.25), perhaps for its popularity among the collegiate crowd?
Our goal is generally to order a complement of dishes as unlike each other in flavor and texture as possible. It can be a crapshoot. On this occasion, we gambled and won!
The soup was hearty with a strong flavor of the ground beef. Lots of mildly sour watercress greens imparted a healthy appeal to the “stew,” while sliced chilis and Thai spices added complexity of flavor and a good kick. Sam avoided the few pieces of tripe he found in his serving, but I didn’t mind them. All in all, this soup was a satisfying example of tasty Cambodian comfort food.
The Student noodle dish reminded me of the bun noodle salad I so often order at Vietnamese pho restaurants, except the Student wasn’t a salad. Soft and tempting pan-fried noodles were served with green onions, medium shrimp and miniature scallops alongside piles of fresh bean sprouts and chopped peanuts. The requisite fish sauce that has always been the crowning touch to that bun salad I love was served in a small bowl alongside. The Student proved a lesson in combining all the ingredients provided in order to maximize enjoyment of the dish.
Finally, the Ginger Chicken with Rice. What a dish! Sam and I both agreed it was our favorite. An abudance of shredded fresh ginger had been stir-fried with chunks of lean chicken. The delectable dish was garnished with green onion and served with chili sauce. A hemisphere of lovely steamed rice accompanied the dish. I’d order it again and again.
Sam had ordered an item from the beverage menu that caught his attention– the iced Ovaltine ($2.50). If you like the malty taste of Ovaltine, this is the real deal. A staple of Khmer cuisine, do you suppose? I wonder.
Monorom is open early in the morning for coffee. The entire menu is available at that time, too. But the very nice proprietor told us the restaurant doesn’t fill up until about 10am. I suppose the Ginger Chicken would make a delicious, if somewhat non-traditional, breakfast. Why not?
We’ll be back to Monorom very soon. The Lemongrass Chicken, a menu option I was unfortunately compelled to forego on this occasion, beckons. We also found Monorom’s prices to be quite reasonable.
It is also worthwhile to check out the restaurant’s website, as it is rather impressive. The site boasts “the best Khmer cuisine in Long Beach.” I wouldn’t know whether or not this is a fair claim, as I haven’t tried many of the Cambodian restaurants in the area. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Monorom is up there with the best of them.
Monorom Cambodian Restaurant is located at 2150 E. Anaheim St. (two blocks east of Cherry) in Long Beach. Phone (562) 434-1919. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 7:30am to 7pm; Sunday from 7:30am to 6pm. Visit monoromcambodianrestaurant.com.