There's a new kid on Chippendale's Spice Alley block. Fittingly named after the river that flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Mekong's the more sophisticated and well-travelled sibling compared to its downstairs street food sister, Lower Mekong.
Your Southeast Asian journey begins with a walk up the stairs — or should we say, the Mekong — where you'll be greeted with a welcoming smile. Open space, soothing greens, bamboo feature walls, dark furnishings, fresh plants and some dim lighting set the scene for your culinary feast.
The menu reads like a delicious poetic tale. You can start with 'little jetties' like Thai crisp anchovies with lime, lemongrass, chilli and peanuts ($5), but it's better to dive straight in and go for the squid ink dumplings with crab and prawn Thai stuffing in the most flavourful broth ($12). The sweet smell of cinnamon and star anise will remind you of Christmas. You could have ten bowls of this stuff and still want more — it's seriously addictive. The other entrees are just as tempting, which makes it hard to choose just a few. The chef's share plate ($25) comes with fresh grilled scallops, Thai grilled pork neck in betel leaf and a Burmese-style pancake with chickpea, tomato, coconut and chilli chutney. It's jam-packed with fresh, spicy and smoky flavours and ensures you get to try a bit of everything.
But it's not time to come up for air until you tuck into the delicious duck confit in a Thai red curry with cherry tomatoes, basil oil and pineapple ($30), along with the Hanoi stir-fried pipis smothered in house-made chilli oil, garlic and basil ($25). It's best mopped up with a small bowl of steamed rice ($4) and a tasty side of stir-fried morning glory ($10). However, all the dishes are so fragrant and colourful, you'll probably get food envy no matter what you order.
If you've still got room for sweets, then the weird but wonderful Bangkok ice cream bowl ($10) gives all new meaning to dessert. Half a coconut shell comes stuffed with house-made coconut ice cream, ruby red pomegranates, roasted peanuts, plum seeds (you'll have to ask the waitstaff about these), sticky rice and a surprise addition of corn kernels, which aren't listed on the menu. Sound bizarre? It is. But trust us — it just works.
But if you're tucking into ice cream, make sure you pack a jacket — because unlike Southeast Asia's hot and humid climate, it's a little chilly in the dining area. On the plus side, you can BYO (with $10 corkage), and they've just received their liquor licence. If you prefer your drinks non-alcoholic, there's also a few fruity mocktails to knock back, traditional Vietnamese coffee served with condensed milk, and pots of herbal tea for a more traditional experience.
Images: Lauren Commens.