Mekong is the Chippendale restaurant transporting you to Southeast Asia
Big flavours and ambition abound at Mekong, the newest restaurant to join Chippendale’s Kensington Street. Housed on the upper floor of a former warehouse it sits above it’s more casual sister eatery Lower Mekong. The menu consists of dishes from around Southeast Asia.
There is great attention to detail here at Mekong. Everything from the rich green walls to the ink washed menus, and the installations by floral sculptor Alison Coates. The addition of bamboo evokes the look, feel and colour of the Mekong River. And walking up the stairs, the aromas wafting from the kitchen immediately lure us in.
Heading the kitchen is Thailand-born Chef Tiw Rakarin. Formerly of Surry Hills’ Mama’s Buoi and Cronulla’s Alphabet St, he has spent much of his career travelling and working around the world absorbing ideas and flavourings before finding a home here at Mekong Chippendale. And the menu really reflects this.
Diners are greeted with a complimentary starter of a baby carrot topped with spicy chilli jam and pork floss. This Thai-inspired dish is so simple yet crunching with flavour, it certainly whets the appetite.
Venturing into the entrées are the ‘little stacks’ ($6). These tiny Thai nibbles present bite-size portions of pineapple topped with smoked salmon, caramelised radish, cream cheese and coriander. And the combination of flavours are a sweet surprise.
Next is the must try dish (see the image at the top of the page). Northern Thai-style squid ink dumplings with crabmeat and prawn ($12) with the bonus theatrics of broth poured over the top at the table. It is divine and deliciously delicate.
Venturing a little further afield is the ‘coco & chick’. One of the purely vegetarian dishes on the menu, it’s a central Burma-style pancake, beautifully presented with chickpea, tomato, and coconut strips served with fresh chilli chutney. The pancake is surprisingly weak on taste but the chutney more than make amends for this. But just a note of warning, the cutlery is oddly heavy and the bowls often top heavy, so watch for dishes and condiments tipping over or falling from the table.
The ‘truffled garden’ ($8) was a quiet revelation. Grilled cabbage and sweet brown mushroom with soy sauce and truffle oil, it was a surprise that a side dish was one of the tasty offerings on the menu. But only order this if you’re a fan of the funghi family, as it packs a pungent punch.
‘Fisherman’s catch’ ($35) was another favourite. Steamed barramundi topped with Thai green chilli sauce, mint, lime, coriander and fried shallot. The fish was extremely fresh and cooked to perfection. And that Thai green chilli sauce! Superb. Rakarin and his team are crazy not to bottle and sell the stuff.
The ‘family chan’ ($10) was unfortunately a little underwhelming given the number of ingredients. A Burmese salad, it ups the vegetable intake with chopped tomato, fried shallot, garlic, coriander, roasted peanut, chilli powder and chickpea tofu.
The ‘royal seafood amok’ ($32) is a Cambodian-style curry with your choice of seafood, cherry tomatoes and asparagus. Any hints of sweetness is soon overpowered by the mercilessness of the chilli. Not for the faint hearted.
The strength of Mekong lies in its savoury dishes. The desserts, while solid endnotes to a wonderful meal, are unnecessarily complicated and incredulously unexciting. Although charmingly presented in an actual coconut shell, the ‘Bangkok ice cream bowl’ ($10) is a visual washout with the coconut ice cream being camouflaged by the white rice and plum seed. And unfortunately, the corn, persimmon and roasted peanut do not add much in the way of flavour or visual appeal.
The ‘rosewater lychee’ ($12) has too much going on in the one small plate. Lychee and rosewater mousse with meringue drops, pinenuts, mango puree, pistachio crumbs and fresh fruit. A straightforward tweak that would better unify the dish and add a bit of crunch would be to replace the rubbery pinenuts with chopped pistachios. But even so, there is not much of the Mekong River in this dessert.
A lot of care and thought has gone into the creation of Kensington Street’s Mekong. The premise is exciting and the food is mouth-watering and aromatic. Rakarin has cleverly crafted a menu that emphasises that there is more to indochine cuisine than pad thai and phở. It is a a welcome addition to Chippendale’s dining scene.
Upper level, 14 Kensington Street, Chippendale
Ph: 02 9282 9079
Open Lunch 12 – 3pm, Thu – Sun, Dinner 6 – 10pm, Mon – Sun
For further information, visit kensingtonstreet.com.au