You visited Cambodia, returned to Paris, and would like to revisit the famous culinary Khmer experience but have no idea where to go? Indeed, when every other restaurant asiatique in town serves all types of Asian foods, one does become suspicious. Why are the Chinese making sushis and sashimis? Why does a restaurant menu mix Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food? Cannot they just focus on one thing? I understand the region’s culinary history is intertwined, but I personally have more confidence in a restaurant that has one specialty (with maybe one exception, which is Lao Lane Xang).
Bayon is a famous Angkor temple –temple of faces, but also a restaurant located in the southern end of Rue Monge, 5th arrondissement of Paris. When Jean-Marc Tang, the owner of Bayon, had to choose a name for his restaurant, he chose Bayon in order to honor his family who used to live near the Bayon temple. Bayon (http://www.restaurant-cambodgien.com) is a fairly new to the Parisian restaurant scene (it only opened 2 1/2 years ago) but it is already recommended by Le Fooding (http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant/restaurant-bayon-paris.html).
For starters, we ordered Chom Houk A Mok (cod, bell pepper, bamboo, herbs, coconut milk) and Pler Ko (lemongrass beef salad). Amok was really tasty and served in a banana leaf. Jean-Marc explained to us that they use cod because it is difficult to get access to the fish he would use back at home, but that cod serves the purpose very well as its taste is quite neutral. Our lemongrass beef salad tasted really fresh: something you would want to eat when it is really hot in Paris. Salad was particularly crispy, beef tender and there was a lot of mint. Both starters were copious and very, very good. Nothing was spicy, but Cambodian food is not traditionally very spicy compared to for example Thai food.
For main course, we ordered Tear bom pong empile thom (duck in tamarind sauce, green vegetables, dried basil leaves and coriander) and Curry sach moan (chicken, potato, carrot, coconut milk curry).
We were particularly interested in tasting the tamarind duck, because it is our favorite dish at an other Asian restaurant (Lao Lane Xang). The Bayon version was slightly different and had pineapple in it. I was surprised of this addition, because in Cambodia I never had pineapple in anything I ate, but Jean-Marc assured me that pineapple is traditionally used in the Khmer cuisine.
Our second main course, the curry, was full of potatoes and carrots, as we had had it in Cambodia. Jean-Marc explained that usually sweet potatoes are used in this type of a curry, but that due to its scarcity in Paris, potatoes make a good replacement (and I could not agree more!). We found this curry delicious but unfortunately could not finish it (portions are quite large and size-wise there is no big difference between starters and main courses).
We indeed had a very lovely Saturday evening. The setting is not particularly romantic (it is more cafe-like), and even the outside appearance may make you wonder where you are walking into, but what you eat inside is authentic and savory. It is always a good sign when tables are filled with locals and I now mean Cambodians! (FYI: there is a new, additional page to the menu, which specializes in dishes even more authentic, like fermented fish etc.)
Bayon Restaurant: 121 rue Monge, 75005 PARIS. Metro: Censier-Daubenton and Les Gobelins. Open daily 12h-15h & 19h-22h30. Closed on Sunday and Monday evening. Tel: 01 43 36 67 43.