Sopheara Cambodian Restaurant and Bar
Both Alexia and I and our partners have visited Cambodia, and we were looking for a restaurant where we could revisit Cambodian food and share our memories of that lovely country.
For those of you lucky enough to have visited Cambodia, you will know that their cuisine has much in common with other SE Asian cuisines, including the use of coconut than you find in Thai cooking and the fresh herbs that you find in Vietnamese cuisine.
We journeyed out to Manukau on a winter’s evening and found Sopheara in a small strip of shops. We were warmly welcomed to a pleasant dining area and dining tables with beautiful wooden chairs.
Because this was a special occasion, we did “push the boat out” and order more than was strictly necessary and ordered a dish that was over our usual $20 limit, but it does mean that we can comment on more of the menu for you!
First up, appetisers. We ordered Sack Ang ($9.50/5), skewers of char grilled beef and Kouring Rolls ($7.50/2), their version of the fresh or summer rolls that you find in Vietnam. Both were absolutely delicious and the Kouring Rolls were my favourite dish of the evening. The Sack Ang beef was tender and was topped with khmer spices and a peanut sauce. We had asked for the Kouring Rolls to be cut in half so that we could each have a taste. These were rice paper rolls filled with shredded vegetables, lettuce, mint and duck meat (or you could opt for chicken) and served with a delicious sweet and spicy honey hoisin sauce. An absolute flavour burst in every bite!
The rest of the meal lived up to the high standard set by the appetisers: A Mok curry with snapper ($20.50); Bay K’Dang crispy rice cake with minced pork and seafood ($22.50); Yoam Mee Sure vermicelli salad ($20.50) and Har Ban Lea Chantee mixed vegetables ($16.50).
We ordered the A Mok curry with snapper (other options were mixed seafood or prawns) and it was prepared in a red curry paste in coconut milk with crushed peanuts, lime leaves and herbs – a rich and smooth sauce with the fresh hit of lime leaves. The medium hotness was enough for our palates!
The Bay K’ Dang rice cake was fun – think rice bubbles meets minced pork and seafood in a red curry and coconut cream sauce.
We decided we needed the freshness of a salad, and the Yoam Mee Sure vermicelli salad with prawns and minced chicken (or you could opt for minced pork) with green salad in a lemon sauce with mint, herbs and crushed peanuts filled the bill perfectly.
We also thoroughly enjoyed our Har Ban Lea Chantee sautéed fresh mixed vegetables with cashew nuts and soy sauce.
These were accompanied with steamed rice so that we could soak up all the delicious sauces.
Dessert was a bridge too far but we crossed it nonetheless! Alexia and I love sticky rice so the Khmer Delight ($8.50) with sweet sticky rice and fresh fruit and coconut cream was a “must have” – and was worth every delicious spoonful. Sago is another favourite, so we also tried the Chek Sago Karem ($8.50) with sliced banana topped with sago in coconut cream with sesame seed and vanilla ice cream. Two desserts, four spoons and nothing left on the plates!
We brought a bottle of wine to have with our dinner (Sopheara is licensed and is also BYOW) and finished our meal with green tea.
Most of the dishes on the menu are in the $18.50-$22.50 range, which is a little high for our usual Cheapeats criteria, but the quality of the food is most certainly worth it. There are also a number of special chef’s dishes in the $24-$25 area, including, curiously, three salmon dishes.
Lunch is even better value when you can enjoy two spring rolls or glass of juice, steamed rice and one of the stir-fries featured on their special menu – all for $13.50.
Sopheara is located in the southern suburbs on Chapel Road, in an anonymous strip of shops, but is a real treasure and worth the journey. And definitely closer than Cambodia!