A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
Friends Susan, Steph and I decided to skip McBob's fish fry during our latest Friday Night on North venture. McBob 's has been shaky in the fish quality control department since they expanded. Besides, we now have the chance to dine on "one magical river (with) three enchanted cuisines." The Mekong Cafe at 5930 W. North Avenue features food from Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Food maven Willard Romantini always tells me not to eat at a restaurant during the first three months, but in this location, if you wait that long the business might have vanished.
This one's a keeper. Despite being new and still under redecoration, the place is pleasant, our service was charming, and the food was good even before the owners have worked out the inevitable kinks in restaurant start-up. What a great addition to the Almost-Tosa restaurant scene!
Skip the appetizer sampler unless you're really big on deep fried food. Next time I might try the Yum Nua (char broiled meat with cucumber, onions, and tomato in lime juice and Thai herbs). Better still at a restaurant with southeast Asian cuisine, start with one of the astonishing soups (or make it your whole meal). Mekong has the expected Tom Yum and Pho, but the house soup features quail eggs and sounds intriguing. There's also Kow-Laow, beef soup with "secret ingredients." Who could resist?
The standout dish at our table was the Pud Kee Mow, or Drunken Man Noodles with beef. Lovely fat noodles, lots of peapods and fresh basil leaves, and densely flavorful dark sauce based on hot chili paste. Medium hot was hot enough for us, and we all like it hot.
I had the Mussamun Curry with chicken, potato, and carrots. Lovely flavor, generous portion, and peanuts added a nice texture contrast. But next time I'd go for something with a green vegetable in it, just because I like green vegetables.
I don't remember what Susan had. Something with chicken and veggies: she pronounced it delicious and ate the whole thing. I've never seen her that do before.
This is an adventuresome menu with interesting things most of us haven't seen before. The Dumpling Stir Fry has crab, shrimp, and fish dumplings with asparagus, black mushrooms, zucchini, onion, and water chestnut. You can get a deep fried quail with papaya salad, dishes with homemade Vietnamese sausage, and Purple Sticky Rice Pudding or deep fried taro for dessert. f you've got a timid eater in the bunch, you can't go wrong with Pud Thai.
We had Thai beer and jasmine tea. There's also a short wine list. And of course you can order that delicious and caloric Thai iced coffee or tea and the more entertaining Bubble Tea in mango, taro, avocado, strawberry, pineapple, honeydew, or papaya.
Entrees (and I include soups here) run from about $7-15 at dinner time. Lunch is in the $8 range. You could do a cup of delicious soup and an appetizer for about that price.
If you're inclined toward interesting food with lots of flavor, please try the Mekong Cafe. They're open every day until 9 or 10 pm. Not only will you have a good meal, but you'll be contributing to building North Avenue as a thriving destination business district. And that's all good. (Purple sticky rice image is not from Mekong but by Stef Noble from flickr).