Waltham's has become a destination restaurant, the kind that attracts diners from throughout the region. Its chefs use creative combinations of ingredients to make dishes that you don't typically find in many other Asian restaurants. Their menu reflects their lives growing up in Cambodia when it was a French protectorate, reflecting a blending of traditional Cambodian ingredients and cooking techniques and the French influence.
Suggested dish: There are a dozen or so Cambodian lunch specials. We chose the catfish in a spicy broth made up of fresh tomatoes, garlic, rice vinegar, shallots and a few sprigs of cilantro, served with white rice ($9.50). It was aromatic and unique -- the creation of a chef, not a cook. The catfish was mild, which was good since the broth was rich and spicy, with a nice blend of tangy ingredients.
The vibe: Elegant yet cosy, with good natural light and a quiet atmosphere.
Cool factor No. 1: One caveat: The portion was modest, focusing on quality, rather than quantity.
Cool factor No. 2: The check comes with a simple brochure about the restaurant's food philosophy and its work donating proceeds to nonprofits. (Their recipient in July is the bookstore on Moody Street.) The brochure is a good marketing tool, of course, but it's also informative.
Cool factor no. 3: The founder, Bob Perry, wanted to call his restaurant the "Cambodian Cafe," but his mother told him that name was too literal and he should call is something more memorable and romantic -- like "The Elephant Walk."