Ratha Chaupoly tells us he’ll close his four-year-old Cambodian joint Kampuchea after dinner service this Saturday; in mid-September (maybe even sooner), he’ll reopen the Rivington Street storefront as something new. There were rumors about a new project last year, but the news comes as a surprise given that Kampuchea is a critical darling (among other things, it was a Michelin bib gourmand pick). Still, despite having recently opened a next-door bar, the restaurant hasn’t been doing the round-the-clock business of its neighbor the Meatball Shop. “We’re doing perfectly fine,” says Chaupoly, “but I feel like there’s a concept that’s better suited for that neighborhood and that space.” That concept, though still a secret, will be “a little more casual” (Chaupoly won’t say whether it will be Asian; when asked whether it will be a sandwich shop along the lines of Kampuchea offshoot Num Pang, he says “it’s possible”).
“We were turning a profit,” Chaupoly elaborates, “but for the size, for the rent, the style of cooking, and the type of staffing I’d have to do there in order to get good cooks and make a great profit margin, it’s just too much. We make a good profit margin, but it’s not worth it down there.” Chaupoly says the neighborhood is much quieter than it used to be. “The group of young adults and kids that were living there have moved on to Brooklyn. I’ve never seen a summer like this where certain nights the entire street area [Ludlow, Rivington, Houston] are just so quiet.” Chaupoly continues, “The neighborhood is not as happening as I’ve seen it in the past. Instead of two nights now, it used to be four or five nights that were pretty busy.”
There’s this, at least: Chaupoly says that after opening the new venue, he’ll try to find a new home for Kampuchea. “Kampuchea as a concept in itself is not dying off — I’m definitely looking for another neighborhood to put it where I feel like it can do a lot better.”
Also of note: Kampuchea Num Pang partner Ben Daitz will not be involved in the new project.