Suvarnabhumi Kiri

Cambodian food takes off, with Thai and sushi in tow
By MC SLIM JB  |  March 5, 2008
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As an English speaker with little Thai-language knowledge, I was nonplussed to note that Suvarnabhumi Kiri, Allston’s newish Thai/Cambodian/sushi restaurant, shares a name with Bangkok’s main airport. Who’d name a restaurant “Logan Terminal E”? But Suvarnabhumi means “golden kingdom” and Kiri, “mountain,” meant to evoke a pastoral Xanadu, not a stale sandwich scarfed between security and boarding. That’s a relief.

With Boston awash in Thai and sushi dining options, I gravitated to the Cambodian menu here. Phnom Penh fresh rolls ($6.95) and mouan ang ($7.95) are familiar glosses on Vietnamese fresh rolls and Thai chicken satay, respectively, the former benefiting from two dipping sauces, the latter from strong lemongrass and galangal flavors. Samlor katee ($12.95) is like a fiercer, more complex Thai green curry, authentically soupy and chartreuse-yellow, with a numbing heat that recalls Sichuan peppercorns. Lort cha ($8.95), a mild rice-noodle stir-fry, is well-served by a jolt of the accompanying chili/garlic condiment. S’nao namgnou ($4.25), a clear-broth chicken soup, finally charts less familiar territory, its hunk of pickled lime adding a breathtaking salty/sour undertone.

But the real showstopper is prahok katee ($12.95): ground pork, chilies, and prahok, the fermented fish paste whose stinky charms are often lost on non-Cambodians. The dish looks like a bowl of Coney Island hot-dog sauce served with crudités for dipping: carrots, cukes, sweet peppers, broccoli, celery, green beans, and Thai and Japanese eggplant slices. Here at last are the uniquely Khmer flavors I crave: pungent, coconut-milk-rich, and fiery, with just enough prahok to give it otherworldliness.

Penny-pinchers should love the long Thai/Cambodian prix-fixe “Perfect Match” menu: soup, entrée, and glass of wine for $19, plus two more courses and a dessert wine for an extra $10. These are excellent deals, especially since the wines aren’t plonky afterthoughts. With its casual room and friendly service, Suvarnabhumi Kiri is the perfect venue to explore an underserved cuisine while giving your timid friends some safe options. I’d endure a mile-long line at the other Suvarnabhumi for more of those.

Suvarnabhumi Kiri, located at 90–92 Harvard Avenue, in Allston, is open Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and 4:30 to 10:30 pm; on Fridays, from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and 4:30 to 11 pm; on Saturdays, from noon to 3:30 pm and 4:30 to 11 pm; and on Sundays, from 5 to 10 pm. Call 617.562.8888.

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