Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant in New Brunswick
Only two months old, Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant on George St in downtown New Brunswick is a find.
Friendly staff, fast service, well priced (low), and good food. BYOB.
The tea was terrific. We had several appetizers, soup (huge bowls!), and various entrees. The dessert --flan and fried banana drizzled with honey-- was great.
Jicama and flan? Are you sure it isn't a Mexican/Vietnamese restaurant? I would expect French influence, but not Spanish/Mexican. This restaurant is recommended by a Vietnamese friend of mine, but haven't tried it yet. I am a crepe fan of all sorts and ethnicities, so that will send me there sooner.
On the heels of this recco and also Cabrales' over on the Tristate Board, my chow safarist pal and I hit NJ Transit and rode up to New Brunswick to check out Mekong. Foregoing our standard practice of ordering Pho (beef tendon for her, chicken for me) as barometer of quality, we instead ordered the Bun Bo Hue for our soup. Usually, we find ourselves applying a fair amount of Sri Racha, to up the heat quotient, but this soup was nicely spicy in itself. We really like the noodles, which were a bit thicker than the vermicelli or rice noodles you usually get. The broth was definitely not the same as Pho and that's fine, since we didn't expect it to be. However, it wasn't as interesting as we'd hoped, just sort of a standard hot chili flake spice, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg(?). We couldn't figure out quite what the subtle spice was. We adored the Banh Hoi Bo Lui or Grilled Rolled Beef, which we ordered per Cabrales' rec. This was lightly sweet but not at all in an offensive way (the way that Thai food can be super icky sweet). The rice stick's texture was great, not soggy, not dry, perfect for wrapping around the delicate beef. The beef itself was of a nice cut, not fatty at all.
We also LOVED the Vietnamese crepe and would go back just for two of these. Often, this dish can be overly eggy and greasy and the crepe entirely too thick to be deserving of the name. We ordered the veggie one and there was one vegetable we couldn't quite name, perhaps jicama? Who knew. The crepe was just awesome, perfect texture, a bit crisy at the edges, and the shitake mushrooms really tasted all woodsy and autumnal.
The Grilled Pork chop with shredded pork and crab patty was kind of odd. The chop itself was fine, on the dry side for my friend's taste, but since i grew up eating dry chicken, i don't mind a bit of overgrilling and in fact prefer it. gasp. The patty was kind of bizarre, sort of like fish cake, kinda like pate. Not a dish we'd order again, not offensive, just bland.
Lastly, despite feeling a bit full, we had to try the summer rolls, though they call them rice paper wrap here. These had cucumber in them and while I'm all for cukes in, say, raita or mediterrean dishes, or tossed with rice wine vinegar, I just don't care for their subtle flavor in my summer rolls. Also these lacked a basil-mint punch, which I've come to expect and enjoy in a summer roll.
Overall, my only major criticism is that there could be more basil, mint, cilantro in the soup garnishes and in the summer rolls. We do still need to go back and give the Phos a shot, but even before doing so, I'd argue this is definitely the best Vietnamese I've had in the NJ or NYC area. Do give Mekong a try!