Mekong is one of my old and reliable haunts that I’ve been frequenting for well over a decade. It’s where I was first introduced to Vietnamese cuisine, as well as the spot where I met my match in terms of extremely spicy dishes. Their menu has over 50 unique items, which makes ordering a daunting challenge for both new and returning customers. Admittedly, the decor is seriously lacking to the point that it could turn some folks away, and yet the appearance of Mekong is pretty much on par with any other Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurant you’ll find in the downtown core. In spite of the minor blemishes, the fact of the matter is Mekong offers outstanding food and decent prices. The fact that the staff are friendly, and as I’ve come to experience, will get to know you and what you order, are definite bonuses!
Mekong’s menu tempts you with just over a dozen appetizers and soups to start off your meal. One of my go-to favourites are their Cha Gio Viet Nam (Famous Vietnamese style spring rolls, #01) ($4.95), which consists of 3 spiced pork and vegetable-filled rolls, wrapped in rice paper. Mekong has a tendency of leaving their spring rolls in the deep drier for a touch too long, which is evidenced in the above photo by the darker, bubbly spots on the ends of the rolls. These small, crispier bites may seem unappetizing to some, however its not only something I’ve gotten used to, but also something I look forward to. Another fave in our household includes the Goi Cuon Chay (#04) ($5.50), which consists of tofu, vegetables and noodle wrapped in rice paper, with a hoisin-flavoured sauce topped with crushed peanuts. You honestly cannot go wrong with either one, but keep in mind there are many other appetizers to choose from. And we haven’t even talked about their popular soups.
Mekong offers 10 different dishes served with vermicelli, a few variations of pad thai and 18 spectacular stir-fries served with rice. Two of my favourites are the Com Tom Ga Xao Rau Cai Thai (28b, pictured above) ($9.50) and Com Ga Xao Rau Cai Thai (28a, pictured below) ($8.50). Both are green curry dishes consisting of spicy stir fried chicken and vegetables with coconut milk, while the more expensive option comes with 3 shrimp. Although these dishes are advertised as being spicy, anyone who can stomach medium pub-style hot wings will likely not be challenged nor satisfied with the level of heat here. I enjoy over loading my dish with their spicy red pepper sauce, which makes Sriracha seem like child’s play, and is great for battling congestion during cold season.
I’ve also been impressed by Mekong’s decent selection of beverages, ranging from green bubble teas flavoured with lychee all the way to green apple, to Ca Phe Sua Da, a cold filtered espresso served with condensed milk. And of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention their vegetarian dishes, Com Dua Hu Xao Rau Cai (#41) ($8.50) spicy stir fried tofu and vegetables with coconut milk on steamed rice of vermicelli, and Com Dau Hu Xao Mang Tay (#42) ($8.50) spicy stir fried tofu, asparagus, snow peas, mushrooms, red and green peppers on steamed rice.
My biggest beef with Mekong is the fact that, as of a few years ago, they stopped accepting debit for bills that are under $15. A minor and forgivable inconvenience, but good to know if you’re planning on ordering take out and pop in without cash. A close second is the stale decor. Some may overlook this, but it’s turned me into a customer who prefers to rely on take out from Mekong 9 times out of 10.