Amazing seafood soup and an addicting peanut sauce!
Due to the snowpacolypse of two weeks ago, we were shut in for a while, as was the rest of Baltimore. Luckily we had plenty of stock to keep us supplied until the roads became more accessible.
When it’s this cold, there’s nothing better than a good hot soup as you feel the warm broth course through your body all the way to the fingers. And when I think of a good hot soup, I think Vietnamese. I had Mekong Delta on my wish list for several weeks and decided today was the day to go. We intentionally timed our visit for around 3pm in order to miss the lunch rush and be out before the dinner crowd started to form. The dining area was empty and we were attended to immediately right near the front windows with the full view of Saratoga Street (not that Saratoga Street boasts anything spectacular to view). The simple décor and the family element of the restaurant I found quite charming. The father seated and served us, the mother calling out from an unseen area behind the counter, and the son working on his math and reading at a table in the far corner of the dining room. At one point, the boy called out, “Daddy, can you help me?” and since we were the only customers, he sat down and worked on story problems.
I knew what I wanted before I arrived: the seafood soup. My fiancée browsed the menu for a few minutes and decided on the lemon grass beef with vermicelli. To begin, we had shrimp and pork summer rolls that came with the most amazing peanut sauce.
Summer rolls – you can see the pork and shrimp running along the inside of the thin wrapping. Cool and refreshing with the crisp cilantro flavor taking center stage, they would make a nice summer treat. Make sure to use every drop of the strong peanut sauce, it’s very addicting.
Seafood Soup – Menu item H2 was my choice. Full of cilantro and the aroma of garlic, this soup did not disappoint. I added a small bit of the chili sauce because I always like a little bite to my food, but was careful not to detract from the overall flavor. This dish came with sprouts, basil, and large deep green slices of jalapeño, and a wedge of lime. I tore, not plucked, the basil leaves and stirred them in the broth along with the bean sprouts. The soup had scallops, shrimp, and lumps of crab floating around the bowl, much more seafood than anyone could expect for $8.95. This soup is so good, it will make you want to forgo any sense of manners and lift the bowl to your lips to sip down the last drops the spoon cannot get. The clear noodles and bean sprouts help give the soup some bulk for appetite appeasement.
Lemongrass beef with vermicelli – Rice can be substituted for the vermicelli if desired. The beef was savory and the lemongrass flavor definitely shined and the fish sauce added a nice tang to start off each bite.
These two dishes are great for anyone who may be shy to try Vietnamese food. Obviously, as shown by length of descriptions, we both agreed the seafood soup was the preferred selection. Will we go again? Definitely. We will still time our visits to avoid meal crowds because we’ve read that due to it being a single family operation, the service can be slow when there’s a full house.
Mekong Delta Cafe
105 W Saratoga St, Baltimore, MD 21201
Almost everyone agreed Mekong Delta was excellent when they first opened. After their "streamlining", however, this board was split on whether Mekong Delta was still worthy chow. I was in the "unworthy" camp and was wondering if maybe they had gone back to their old ways given the recent positive reviews. Unfortunately, our recent visit last week for a light lunch did nothing to change my mind.
We arrived around 2pm on a weekday, well after the lunch rush. There was only one table (two people) there besides us two. Our summer rolls were well prepared and the peanut sauce, although not as amazing as it was originally, was still better than our last visit. So far so good. Then came our grilled marinated tofu. It was marinated well and tasted good, but it definitely was not grilled. Next was the shrimp fried rice, one of our favorites from the good 'ol days. Honestly, I can't believe they even served it to us. The rice was just so greasy, it was borderline inedible. On top of that, it tasted as if they used old oil to fry the rice or the wok hadn't been cleaned, or something like that. And if that wasn't enough, the shrimp hadn't even been cooked with the rice. Rather they just threw a couple pieces of bland steamed shrimp (the same ones in our summer rolls) on top of the rice. The best part about the dish was the piece of lettuce and two slices of tomato on the side. Although completely my fault, I had also forgot the place was cash only...
I spoke with the owner and asked them to please go back to how they were, but I don't think it helped much. He feels like the quality is the same. (!!??)