Kolap: Cambodian Cuisine in St. Paul


It took us 10 years of living within 50 minutes drive of it to finally get to Cheng Heng, the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant. I reviewed it earlier this year and described it as probably the only Cambodian restaurant in the area. I was informed in the comments that there was in fact another not too far away: Kolap. You can certainly—accurately—see this as evidence of how unreliable a guide I am to the Twin Cities’ food scene. On the other hand, you might also be able to see it as evidence of how little attention these restaurants—and others not too far away from them on University Ave. that specialize in cuisines from other Southeast Asian countries—get from the local mainstream food media. That’s my alibi, at any rate. It is, of course, not the case that Kolap is totally obscure: in looking it up I discovered that the New York Times had included it two years ago in a piece on the diverse food scene of St. Paul. The New York Times may from time to time associate Minnesota with things like grape salad, but it also apparently does a better job than the local media sometimes of highlighting hidden jewels. In any event, it did not take us as long to get to Kolap after learning of its existence as it had to get to Cheng Heng. We ate there with friends a couple of weeks ago. Here is my report.  Continue reading

Cheng Heng: Cambodian Cuisine in St. Paul


Cambodian cuisine does not have a very high profile in the US. I’m not aware of any city that is reputed to have a significant Cambodian population, leave alone a significant Cambodian restaurant presence. Well, the greater L.A. metro area, probably, but even there there isn’t much talk of South East Asian cuisines beyond Vietnamese. While Minnesota’s Cambodian population is quite a bit lower than its Hmong and Vietnamese populations, we do have the fifth highest Cambodian population in the US outside California. As far as I know, this population is only represented by one major Cambodian restaurant: the venerable Cheng Heng on University Avenue in St. Paul. A Cambodian island in a sea of Thai, Vietnamese and Lao eateries, Cheng Heng has been around longer than most of them—about 21 years now. I’m embarrassed to say that even though this is our 11th year in Minnesota, we only just got around to eating there this past weekend. And I’m very sorry we waited this long as we really enjoyed the meal.  Continue reading