Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cambinos Asian BBQ - Cypress

Move over Kogi BBQ, I'm in for a new obsession: Cambinos Asian BBQ. And for this one, I can unplug the Twitter because Cambinos is a stationary brick-and-mortar, open at regular hours, and only found here in O.C. Although it may never get lavished with Newsweek articles or NPR segments, in my opinion, it deserves all of that and more.

So far, it has relied on good, old fashioned word-of-mouth from the strength of its product. A product, which other than the word BBQ, has nothing in common with what Kogi serves.

At Cambinos, BBQ means meats from all that clucks, moos, oinks or swims, marinated with flavorful things and chargrilled to order. Some are lubed in sauce prior to service. Some are skewered on bamboo sticks. All are served over dependable jasmine rice and piled on paper plates.

This is backyard BBQ food. The kind of grub common to all Asian family reunions when the charcoal grill is carted out.

And in Cambinos' Mix Plate ($9.95) one gets to enjoy the fruits of the fire without aunties telling you how much weight you've gained or asking you leading questions about your future.

The chicken skewer is burnished with a mahogany sheen and freckled with crunchy char, deeply flavorful and moist. The beef skewer is tender enough to be torn by bare fingers, slightly sweet and perfumed with lemongrass. The beef short ribs is a kalbi doppelganger and explodes with lip-lickin' fatty juces when bitten. A chicken thigh is chopped into strips, glazed in a hoisin-based sauce with a similar purpose as teriyaki. Veggies, like broccoli, red onions, squash, and bell peppers, are also grilled just to heat through, but not enough to wilt.

But the raison d'être is the pork spare ribs. These defy comparison to anything that I've ever had before or since: a citrusy, tangy, garlicky, sauce-covered masterpiece that collapses from the bone in unctuous, sloppy mouthfuls.

It can only be summed up with one word: incredible.

At this point you might ask, "So is it Asian?" Yes, no, and um...I'm not sure. The restaurant's name itself is a portmanteau of Cambodian and Filipino (Cambinos! Get it?!) -- a subtle hint about the nationality of the owner and his wife, respectively.

But any conclusions you may draw from this would be misleading. While there are some Cambodian and Filipino influences, the food is wholly original, born out of experimentation and pluck. And if you asked the owner himself, he'd say it was "camping" food since that's where he honed his recipes.

He is James Sar, a charming fellow who was originally in the steel business and got out when his friends and family encouraged him to open this restaurant last September.

How do I know all this? Simple: the dude told me his story.

My date and I were the only customers there on a Saturday night. So after bringing out our food, he struck up a conversation as he rooted for the Lakers on the flat-screen in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. James is like that poker buddy who brings the beer and knows all the good jokes. And when he hosts a party at his house, you RSVP immediately because you know he's going to do his BBQ.

Cambinos Asian BBQ*
5721 Lincoln Ave. Ste F
Cypress, CA 90630

Annapoorna Indian Cuisine** - Irvine

*Special Thanks to Ben Dayhoe for the tip on Cambinos.
**Special Thanks to Robbi for the tip on Annapoorna.


At 9:58 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

This looks awesome and I will try.

I am so glad you decided to stop writing about Kogi. I am sure its good and all that, but its soooooo played out by all the bloggers

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

How appropriate to have a review of a BBQ place on Memorial Day weekend!
As usual, you made me hungry.

Hope you have a nice day! We will be enjoying BBQ with my family and celebrating Xander's birthday (he turns 2 tomorrow) as well as my sister's (30 on Friday).

By the way, there is a really cute video of Xander trying to exercise in my blog. :-)

At 9:30 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yeah, I was starting to bore myself...and other than you, I'm my biggest critic! HAHA!

BTW, if you try them out, be aware that they are not open today (Memorial Day) and are closed Sundays.


Happy B-day to Xander! My goodness: two-years-old already? It seems like it's only been months since he was born.

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family!

At 11:23 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

The two words that stuck out to me after reading this review = WHO'S HUNGRY??

Answer = ME!!!

bummer they are closed on Sundays, that is half of the weekend =(

At 8:03 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - Looks great, and I love the name! since I'm a big fan of good Filipino BBQ, and have tried Cambodian BBQ in SR, this one is a must try for me!

At 3:45 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Another great place to try for me :). This queue of place to visit in the OC for me is getting larger and larger...

The food looks so good even when it is presented on a nice paper plate :). So much food at a great price.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Knowing you, I can tell how much you like this place. It's now on my short list and thanks for making me aware of it. It's definitely something I could make Steve eat too!

At 4:50 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


bummer they are closed on Sundays, that is half of the weekend =(

Tell me about it. I had a craving for it the day after, which had to be left unabated for two straight days since they were also closed Memorial Day Monday. Now I have to wait till next weekend, er, Saturday.


This is simple, good, honest BBQ done by a home cook. God I want some right now.


The mix plate is a great deal, and even better on Saturday! Two bucks off!


You know me well! I was going to also write that this is now my second favorite reason to drive to Cypress. The other being Cafe Hiro. But it should stand on its own merits, and it does!

At 8:00 AM, Blogger imjustatree said...

wow this place looks so damn good. gona have to check this place out. i like how you put in their menu too. love how they got grilled veggies too

At 7:24 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


And the one thing that's not on that printed menu is their cake. I haven't tasted it yet, but it sounds awesome. I think it involves butter.

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I have Cafe Hiro noted as well. Been in my brain (god, somewhere in there) for a long while.

At 12:42 AM, Blogger Ben Dayhoe said...

Oh man, that yellow cake that James makes is a must have.

I think I've actually convinced myself that he sprinkles crack on it cause it's so damn good.

The problem is that the servings at Cambinos are so huge that we usually end up taking the cake to go.

The good thing is that the cake stays fresh and moist for days.

Thanks for the great review :)

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Stanielsan said...

Oh man, I gotta check this place out. It is not too far away from my wife's cousin's place. Thanks always for such yummy reviews!

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Celeste said...

The meat looks kind of charred on the edges. Can you taste the burnt parts?

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

*drool* Meeeaaaat...

First I started thinking we should do an OC Food Bloggers BBQ. Then I realized we could just go there.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Gustavo Arellano said...

OH MY EFFIN' GOD, ELMO! I was there that Saturday night you were there! You must've gone before me, because I was there near the fourth quarter, as sunset turned to night. CRAZY.

Dayhoe: You TWO-TIMER!!!

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Just Spotted said...

YUM! definitely will have to give it a try!

xoxo, K

At 1:37 AM, Blogger joanh said...

mm.. looks good.. love these random finds..

At 9:37 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Seriously, you can't go wrong with either. With apologies to Snoop Dogg, they are the shiznit of Cypress.


The picture they got of the cake on their menu marquee already looks inviting. It may be the lighting, but it looks like it has a frosting made of pure butter! Got to get it next time (unfortunately, they weren't expecting that many people the day I went, so they didn't make any). Thanks again for the tip.


If I didn't have other things planned I would've eaten here this weekend...and every weekend. And I don't know anyone in Cypress!


Actually, you can. I like a bit of char on my meat. But I can see how some people might not (a friend of mine can't have ANY charring on his meat). James is very accommodating, and since everything is cooked to order, if you ask them to, I'm sure they'll prepare it to your liking.


YES! YES! Now that you mention it: This is a great place for a OC Food Blogger's meet up! We'll have the place to ourselves on Saturdays. We do have to make sure he bakes that cake though...


Missed each other by *that much*. The Lakers were down when I was eating. So I think we must've been minutes apart. And you're right! Dayhoe's a slut! HA! I say that affectionately, of course.

Just Spotted,

I hope you like it and get the word out too!


Me too! Especially when they're in need of more business, like this one!

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi Elmomonster,

Very cool! :) Thanks for the info on this place. I can't wait to go.

At 8:12 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Exile Kiss,

And I can't wait to hear what you think of it!

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous lonegungirl said...

We tried this yesterday and everyone really liked it! My Mom and I split the mix plate (big enough where we had to take some home,) and my sister had the small Asian salad (a big enough serving of lettuce, but she would have liked more of the chicken.)

I actually thought I liked the beef best, but I'll have to compare and contrast with the Matiki Island BBQ beef one day, which has so far been my fav.

We even tried to buy a t-shirt because the pig with the chef's hat and raised eyebrow was so cute, but he was out of our size. At least it's a good excuse to go back!

At 11:09 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I'm glad you liked it! So cool that they have t-shirts! You know I only noticed that they did just now, as I'm looking at the picture I took. I guess I was so focused on the grubbin' I forgot to look around!

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good place. It's become one of my favorite BBQ places.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Tried it this past Saturday. Thanks to you for pointing it out. We really liked it. The biggest thing we noticed was all the meats had distinctively different seasonings. Its too easy for grilled meat places to have everything start tasting the same.

My wife and I got a mixed plate each and also ordered a beef skewer each so we could try everything. We forgot about the cake. Oh well, excuse to go back soon.

Amazing prices for such a large amount of good food.

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Kim Chee said...

VEGETARIANS NOT WELCOME. Meat, Meat, Meat, and more Meat. However, each item on the mix plate (aka mini sampler plater) had it own distinct flavor. The owner uses a different marinade for each item on the menu.
Much MORE SUPERIOR THAN KOGI. Had Kogi's burrito & taco in Torrance. There was more GREASE in the food than a 1950's guy's hair.


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