Sitting above Kensington's Spice Alley is Mekong, serving a melting pot of cuisines from all the South-East Asia countries along the Mekong River. Dishes from Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are all represented. The restaurant is split into two parts, a more casual eatery serving predominantly Vietmanese food downstairs and the full service restaurant upstairs.
We started with their signature Squid Ink Dumplings. The squid ink dumpling skins were very delicated, encasing a Thai crab meat and prawn filling. It was served with a amazingly fragrant chicken pho broth poured from a teapot. The broth really elevates the flavour of the dumplings and was definitely the highlight of the dish.
Next was the Thai grilled pork neck wrapped in betal leaf with housemade tamarind sauce. These little parcels packed plety of flavour and the pork neck had a lovely sticky caramel texture.
The Lao crispy omelette was stuffed with sliced pork roll, sour pork, morning glory and accompanied with a soy chili sauce. Another tasty dish but not as memorable as the preceding two.
With the aim of tryig as many dishes as possible, we ordered the Indochine shareplate. The highlights were the Lao sour pork sausage and the Vietnamese rice flour cups with prawn, sweetcorn and cucumber relish.
Onto the mains and the quality food just kept on coming. The Sweet lemon rumdul, a Cambodian beef rib curry with sweet potato and lemongrass paste was utterly delicious. It makes me wonder why there aren't more Cambodian curries on menus in Sydney. The beef fell apart at the slightest touch and the sauce was wonderfully rich.
Next was the more familiar Thai red curry with duck confit. The duck was exceptionally cooked - juicy and moist on the inside whilst retaining its crispy skin. The cherry tomato, and pineapple added some freshness to the creamy and aromatic sauce.
For a lighter dish to offset all the curries, we had the Young Ginger, a stir fry with Vietnamese black soya chicken. It was well executed and the quality of the produce was clearly on show.
The Royal Seafood Amok is one of the more famous dishes of Cambodian cuisine and Mekong's intepretation is definitely on point. It's a coconut based yellow curry with a ton of seafood - here, it was served with barramundi, scallops, prawn and pipies. The seafood really soaked up the flavour of the sauce and we had no trouble finishing this off.
Luckly, we still had room left for dessert. The Bangkok ice cream bowl was just the refreshing dessert I was after. It consists of Coconut ice cream with pomegranate, sweet corn, roasted peanuts and palm seeds sitting on a bed of coconut sticky rice and served in a coconut shell. The Coconut ice cream is the best I've ever had. It's super smooth and creamy, and packed with coconut flavour. All the other accompaniments just fitted wth the ice cream perfectly. It definitely left a smile on my face.
Of course, one dessert wasn't enough. The Basil panna cotta with raspberry puree, walnut and lemon meringue was another flawless essert. Strawberry and basil is a great flavour combination and the puffed rice and walnut gave the dish a great crunchy element.
The food at Mekong was very impressive, both in taste and presentation. It's wonderful to see the cusines of Laos, Burma and Cambodia featured along the most common varieties. It's a bit more expensive than your average South East Asian restaurant but well worth it. My only gripe is that the menu is a bit hard to decipher as the title of the dishes aren't very descriptive e.g. 'Grandma in the garden' or 'Full moon' but I can overlook it when the food is so delicious.
Chum Tang, Chatswood
With the opening of The District above the train interchange, Chatswood has gained a ton of new eateries overnight. Tim Ho Wan has got all the headlines (and queues) but there are other exciting additions, such as the Thai eatery Chum Tang, a sister restaurant to the much loved Khao Pla.
The restaurant design takes its cue from the name Chum Tang, which translates loosely to train terminal. The kitchen area is set like a rural Thai railway ticket booth with the dining area resembling the waiting area.
We started with the pork belly curry which was the highlight of the meal. The combination of the tamarind and palm sugar gave the dish a lovely sweet and sour balance. The pork belly was very tender and I loved the addition of the cashew nuts in the curry.
I was intrigued about the jackfruit salad with poached chicken, roasted coconut and chilli jam. Unfortunately, this dish wasn't really to my liking. The dressing was too strong and I didn't get the lightness out of a salad that I was after. The jackfruit is quite overpowering and I would preferred more chicken and less jackfruit.
Our final dish was the Grilled wagyu sirloin with roasted rice and roasted chilli. Cooked on a charcoal grill, the wagyu was deliciously tender. The spice mix was quite hot for my palate, so I was glad there were some raw cucumber on the plate to offset some of the heat.
Being a new restaurant, the waitress was keen to get our feedback. We were told they will be moving from the current soft opening menu to a fuller menu, with more non-spicy options but still showcasing Thai regional cuisine. I look forward to trying more of their menu!
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