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Restaurant review: Jammy Suki Soup

By: Conrad Keely Posted: April-05-2012 in
Conrad Keely

Do you like eating hot pots? Do you like local barbecue? Well if yes, then obviously this Cambodian tradition was invented with you in mind.

Now I suppose I'm a newcomer here, so these novelty dining experiences continue to excite me. Then again I've had other friends of mine who have admitted that they somehow feel "cheated" by having to cook their own food at a restaurant. That to me seems odd: sometimes I'm so furious at the way a restaurant messes up a dish I would be delighted at the opportunity to step into the kitchen and show them how to do it properly.

Other friends have expressed that they feel "stressed out" by the fast pace, chaotic nature of hot pot dining. Again, I would caution that this sort of thing is not for the weak of heart. Communal hot-pot cooking is an exercise in thinking - or eating - on your toes, not to mention teamwork ... if it's too hot, I suggest you lean back and let your friends do the cooking.

Jammy Suki Soup is one of a handful of places I've tried on the combination hot-pot/barbecue theme. One past complaint I've raised with some Khmer restaurants in the past is the beef being too much on the chewy side. Not so here, we were served very thin sliced beef sprinkled with sesame seeds that had absolutely no problem cooking up over the coal fire. Perhaps it was a little too good? On a number of occasions I had looked up from my plate of seafood fried rice (a very well-appointed side dish) where a minute before the barbecue grill had been full of meat, only to discover with dismay that my friends had completely finished that round without so much as a rapacious whisper.

Speaking of friends, this is the type of dining experience you will want to bring as many people as possible to (think: good place to bring a group of awkward new co-workers to help break the ice). No, I would not recommend an intimate date here - this is noisy, fun, talkative and boisterous dining, with other nearby tables exploding in laughter, the sounds of children playing from the adjacent and considerately-provided play area, and many rounds of cheering "Chul muy" and hitting of beer glasses. Despite the lively ambience, the atmosphere provided by the restaurant is a very peaceful one, with hand-carved statues gracing the low-lit corners and a helpful staff on hand to refill glasses and bring more buckets of ice or replace that chopstick that just rolled under the table.

The standard hot-pot will come with a typical selection of vegetables (all fresh, local, and organically grown) - cabbage, morning glory, spinach, etc., but there are quite a number of other more exotic selections to chose from. Among the many optional ingredients I could recommend to throw into the communal hot-pot I personally love the different varieties of mushrooms, from the thin, tiny yellow ones that resemble sprouts to the large, Chinese-style black mushrooms that I hear are excellent for complexion (an ancient Chinese secret!). I consider the green noodles to be an absolute must (though I have never bothered to ask why they are colored bright green), but then this is an area where you are encouraged to experiment and explore - just point to a picture and see what they bring! Bear in mind, the more you put in, the more complex (and delicious) the flavor your broth will boil down to, adding a further exciting dimension to the experience.

Because the steamed or grilled fish typically takes much longer (about thirty minutes), it makes for a nice surprise final course, when everyone is already mostly full and have forgotten that a fish had been ordered. So be warned - do not order one expecting not to wait! Somehow, however, the excellent flavor of the fish manages to make you forget that you're already stuffed (no doubt aided by more rounds of beer), and provides a much-appreciated leveling of the palette from the flavor-explosion of the barbecue hot-pot.

In conclusion, if you want a quiet, candle lit date I would recommend you go somewhere that plays Edith Piaf. If you want "something small and light" for dinner, have a salad. Jammy Suki Soup provides a friendly staff, a clean, picturesque surrounding worth taking camera snap-shots of, and a lively experience that is conducive to loud laughter and fast-paced, fun-filled dining (with optional karaoke upstairs!). $10 a person here will get you more than you can possibly finish.


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