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.
Anyone familiar with Chatswood will know it has one of the best collection of Asian eateries on offer in Sydney. Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean...you name it, Chatswood has plenty of it. Chao Ba, a modern Vietnamese restaurant, is a welcome entrant to this jam packed dining scene.
I noticed this restaurant walking by the Concourse one night, and visited with a friend a couple of weeks later. The menu was quite extensive, ranging from small tapas style share dishes to more traditional mains.
We started with the Clear tapioca shrimp dumplings topped with crunchy fried shallots and chives. The dumpling skin was slippery and the right thickness to hold it together. The prawns were yummy and went well with the fried shallots and fish sauce which accompanied the dish.
The House special poached chicken salad was a little disappointing as I found the flavours a little bland. The crispy rice cracker on the side was unfortunately not very crispy.
On the other hand the Hanoi style crispy rice vermicelli spring rolls were beautiful, offering a lovely crunch as you bite into it. The pork and wood eared mushroom filling was flavoursome and even though it was fried, did not feel oily at all. I'd happily come back for these.
The Chargrilled beef wrapped in betal leaves with rice vermicelli was quite refreshing to eat. I loved the addition of the roasted peanuts and crispy shallots, and the betal leaves gave it an extra lift in aromatics.
Chao Ba is a great Vietnamese eatery with a casual vibe offering both indoor and outdoor seating. The dishes weren't all perfect but I am happy to go back to try out the rest of their vast menu.
Ms G's is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney and my last outing there was no different. It ticks all the right boxes in terms of atmosphere, service and food (both in quality and inventiveness).
In recent years, franken food have begun making its way onto menus (e.g. ramen burger, cruffic and cronut to name a few). Here at Ms G's, they offer Cheeseburger springrolls - it sounded too intriguing to resist. Biting into one of these, we felt like we had entered food heaven! So what does it tastes like? Exactly like how you would imagine it would taste - it's like having a bite sized cheeseburger wrapped in deep fried pastry!
The grilled corn on a cob is a staple on the Ms G's menu and paired with the lime and generous shavings of parmesan, is absolutely delicious.
The Vietnamese style steak tartare comes with prawn crackers rather than croutons. The steak tartare was tender with the sweet, salty and tangy notes that Vietnamese cuisines are known for. I also loved the addition of the fried eschallots sprinkled on top.
The photo doesn't do our next dish, the Nasi Goreng hitam justice. It's a twist on the Malaysian classic with the rice fried with chorizo and squid ink. The dish was bold in flavour, with a good degree of heat, and topped off with a sunny side up egg.
For dessert, we went for The BOSS - primarily because it contained kaya French toast, which I discovered whilst holidaying in Malaysia recently. The mixture of coconut, pandan, egg and sugar in the kaya spread is just intoxicatingly good. But that wasn't all that I loved about the dessert - the thai milk ice cream was velvelty smooth and intense in flavour, and the blueberry jam added a touch of freshness. Together with the puffed rice and honeycomb, it was definitely a fun dessert to eat though it did get a little too sweet by the end.
Once again, Ms G's has delivered. It's fun place to go for a date or with a group of friends. The only downsides are the lack of parking and poor lighting for food photos!
Most Sydneysiders would agree the best Vietnamese restaurants are in Cabramatta or Bankstown, but if you don't want to trek all the way to the west and am after a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine, Mama's Buoi is for you.
Located on Willoughby Road in the bustling Crows Nest dining scene, Mama's Buoi was packed with diners when we visited on a Thursday night. The interior is vibrant and beautifully designed, with an open kitchen.
We started with the pulled duck pancake - with pineapple, pickled carrots, mixed herbs & honey. I would have loved a bit more duck, but the flavour was spot on. The pineapple and pickled carrots gave the dish a distinct freshness and wakes up your palate.
Being in a Vietnamese restaurant, I couldn't go past trying the Pho (Saigon style). The noodles were beautifully made, with just the right amount of 'bite'. The broth was very flavoursome, and a bit lighter and sweeter than what I had tried at other Vietnamese places. There was also an option to get a small serving, allowing you to try more dishes.
We also tried the Lemongrass Curry Chicken on the Bone, which was one of the recommended dishes on the menu. The chicken is melt-in-your mouth soft and the sauce very fragrant, with a strong hint of the lemongrass aroma. Definitely a satisfying dish!
Prices are obviously not as cheap as those found in the West, but still very reasonable. The atmosphere is lively and the food is very tasty. I'm eager to try the rest of their menu.
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