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The Tip

Khmer cuisine, now in Cambridge

Floating Rock recently opened in Cambridge. The decor at the new restaurant (above) is more upscale than at the original, located in a brick storefront in Revere. Floating Rock recently opened in Cambridge. The decor at the new restaurant (above) is more upscale than at the original, located in a brick storefront in Revere. (Erik Jacobs for The Boston Globe)
By Devra First
Globe Staff / May 27, 2011

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Floating Rock 485 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

617-455-4009

At a little restaurant in a brick storefront in Revere, many Bostonians had their first taste of Khmer cuisine. Floating Rock served dishes laced with chilies, fresh herbs, and the fermented fish paste called prahok to guests from Cambodia and Cambridge alike. For those discovering the bright flavors, the food was a revelation. The restaurant wasn’t glamorous, but it fed customers like royalty, on the cheap. Dishes like tiger tears (a spicy salad of beef, peppers, herbs, and toasted rice powder) and amok (fish in coconut curry) won it a place in our hearts.

When word came that Floating Rock would open in Central Square, fans rejoiced (well, not fans who happened to live in Revere). All of those dishes would be at their fingertips, right off the Red Line.

If they imagined an identical little brick storefront, nothing glamorous, they were in for a surprise. The new Floating Rock opened last month, after many delays. It’s an elegant space, with wood floors and flattering lighting, painted and upholstered in warm tones. There’s a full bar. It seems designed to attract a crowd that might not head to Revere to track down a Cambodian restaurant.

The menu is different, too. It features some familiar selections, but there’s less of an emphasis on traditional dishes, more of an emphasis on appetizers like shrimp in a blanket. Prices are higher at the new restaurant, reflective of Cambridge real estate. And there is a cocktail list featuring concoctions such as the Phenom of Phnom Penh (caramel vodka, Goldschlager, Pucker, Frangelico, triple sec, and pineapple and lychee juices). A recent post on the restaurant’s Facebook page read, “Get down to the Floating Rock Cambridge tonight! $0.50 wing @ the bar, 1/2 price apps w/ college ID!! We’ve got the B’s on all 3 flat screens . . . stay and meet the BUD LIGHT GIRLS 9-10pm!’’

We’re not in Revere anymore. This Floating Rock may introduce a new generation of diners to the pleasures of Cambodian cuisine.

Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com.

Ratings

  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor