Soup alert

Illustration by Mark Stivers

California Cambodian: South Sacramento is known for its Vietnamese food—not so much its Cambodian. Adding to the two existing Cambodian restaurants in the neighborhood, Cambodia Restaurant (6035 Stockton Boulevard) might elevate Sacramento’s reputation for this other Southeast Asian cuisine.

The eatery opened on August 2 with an expansive menu of tamarind and lemongrass stir-fries, young coconut juice and coffee with condensed milk, dry vermicelli and oh-so-many noodle soups. That is what sets the new restaurant apart from the fusion-style Taste of Angkor and Bamboo Noodle House: Cambodia Restaurant serves purely Cambodian food, for now. It hones in on soups with offerings unavailable at the two other places, such as clear or curry soups of seafood, fish or braised pork stomach.

Owner Michael Lee, 55, crafts these dishes in the style of his native Phnom Penh, but he learned to cook in commercial kitchens as a high school student in Los Angeles. He eventually moved to the San Jose area and owned Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, including Happy Day Restaurant in Redwood City. To reconnect with his native cuisine, he says, he spent several months in Cambodia co-owning a restaurant called California Restaurant.

Explaining the name, he says, “Most Cambodian people, they think we have good food.”

To Cambodians it was Californian food, but to us it’s Cambodia Restaurant—the menus at both restaurants are very similar, Lee says. His wife and four kids begged him to come home, he says, so he agreed to open up another business in California. He found Sacramento to be more affordable than Fremont, where his family lives.

Growth at the new restaurant has been slow; Lee says that not too many Cambodian people live in the area. He says he might cater to the tastes of the surrounding area by adding Vietnamese and Chinese food. Regardless, he’s keeping one meal without a doubt.

“Cambodian noodle soup is very famous, and even in Vietnam and China, they love it,” he says. “You go anywhere, they have it.”

Patriotic pasta: You might know restaurateur Chris Jarosz from his burger-centric Broderick Roadhouse. Starting this week, you can try pizza and seafood at his latest venture, The Patriot in the Milagro Centre (6241 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael). The restaurant’s executive chef, David Dein, most recently whipped up farm-to-fork food at Yolo County’s Park Winters. At least this Patriot seems fit for the job.