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Mar 24, 2011 10:55 AM

Mekong East, Bayside -- Vietnamese in Eastern Queens

Mekong East 43-13 Bell Blvd (just north of Northern Blvd)

Unassuming, sparsely decorated little place, very inexpensive. A great addition to the neighborhood! Better than many Vietnamese places in NYC (I am spoiled by trips to Philadelphia and Minneapolis--NYC can't compare). Vietnamese owner. There is no relation to any other Mekong restaurant in NYC--it's just east of any other Mekongs, hence the name.

This food was excellent and I will be back to try the rest of the menu. You have to ask for extra spicy or everything will be very mild. Here is what we tried:

Calamari au buerre - fried pieces of squid (no tentacles) that somehow had a wonderful buttery flavor. Awesome lemon-black pepper dipping sauce.

Spring rolls - excellent, super crisp, with wood-ear fungus making them nice and earthy, served with mint and lettuce to wrap and nuoc mam to dip.

Banh Mi - the mixed meat/pate was quite nicely done. I have had better in Philly and many worse in NYC. There were several options for other meats.

Papaya salad - fresh and delcious, with bits of grilled steak added. Needs to be much spicier and it will be perfect.

Chicken-crab soup - killer broth as with all the soups here, this had lots of crab and thinly sliced asparagus. I haven't had this soup before and I loved it.

Beef pho - again the broth here is awesome and this is certainly the best pho east of Flushing--flavorwise I would have to do some head to head comparisons to determine which is best, this was really good broth. A bit unusual in that they garnish it for you rather than giving you a plate of fresh veg on the side. Not sure if there was any thai basil in there. Just brisket I think for the meat...there was also a chicken pho. So not as many chicoes as you usually see for your pho, would be nice to have tendon, tripe, etc.

Grilled pork chop - perfect yummy version, huge portion, with lettuce and pickled veg on the side.

Items I will return for (and I would repeat any of the items we tried): beef cubes (the classic dish); sour tamarind-based soup; summer rolls; chicken pho; various tilapia dishes

Mekong East
43-13 Bell Blvd, Queens, NY 11361

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  1. Yum.

    I was hoping it was related to the Pho Mekong in the H Mart shopping center on 156th and Northern here in North Flushing...Our "go to" place whenever we need a quick,cheap, healthy meal. Alas...sounds god though...

    1. This place is not far from work, so I stopped over for a quick Pho Bo lunch with an iced coffee chaser.

      I agree that the broth here is better, more deeply flavored, than most in these parts. No hot or fish sauce is needed. Everything else was basically standard, with the noodles a satisfying texture and the beef being the least exciting element. These guys do a very good Vietnamese iced coffee, for those who care. Not overly sweet, with just the right thickness and bitterness for my tastes.

      When I entered, everyone was having the Pho, but I caught a glance at the fried shrimp roll, which looked worth a return. That, and the papaya salad, for the summer months.

      One thing these guys have working for them is the modest, small menu. It has about one fifth the items of most Vietnamese NYC restaurants, which I find encouraging. I'm also curious about that crab chicken soup.

      I talked to the proprietor. Turns out both he and the chef, his brother, are from Nha Trang, a haven for seafood. Glad to see this so close to work, and am interested in returning.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Polecat

        I've been waiting for this place to open for several months. Apparently it took longer than anticipated for the owners to complete the renovation of the space.

        We stopped for lunch today and were not disappointed. The menu is limited, but does cover the basic Vietnamese offerings. We all had the Pho, which was perfectly flavored and much better some other local Vietnamese places in and around Little Neck and Bayside. Unlike a previous reviewers experience the garnishes did come on the side. In addition to the Pho, we shared the papaya salad, which was well executed, and the summer rolls.

        Glad to have this place so close to home and we'll definitely be back to further explore the other menu items.

        1. re: mikeyb

          We went back, and yes, this time the garnish came on the side with our pho (Thai basil, bean sprouts and a lemon wedge). The chicken pho broth had good flavor with lots of clove/star anise spice. The beef cubes were fine (have had better), but the hot and sour soup was quite good, with lots of heat and sourness. Mine had big chunks of tilapia, pineapple and tomato, with beans prouts and fried crispy onion bits on top.

        1. re: budcar

          you can get the chicken broth pho with "mixed seafood", $8

        2. Nice to know you can get good Vietnamese food in a place other than Flushing

          4 Replies
          1. re: foodie1017

            Actually, in Queens, you have your choices in Elmhurst, but in recent years Bayside has made some inroads. In addition to Mekong East, there's Saigon (on Springfield - so-so but the Pho Dac Biet I had a few weeks back fell right into the NYC curve - no worse) and the Pho 32 Shabu Shabu location on Bell (my one visit failed to impress).

            As Bayside's Asian population has increased, so has the influx of Asian eateries in general. Asian 88 Express Cafe (formerly Aces Asian -right off Bell on 48th Ave) has what I think is the best baked char siu bao in the borough.


            Pho 32 & Shabu
            45-34 Bell Blvd, Queens, NY 11361

            61-42 Springfield Blvd, Queens, NY 11364

            Mekong East
            43-13 Bell Blvd, Queens, NY 11361

            Asian 88 Express Cafe
            213-12 48th Ave, Queens, NY 11364

            1. re: Polecat

              >Asian 88 Express Cafe has what I think is the best baked char siu bao in the borough.

              Intriguing! What's good about it?

              1. re: squid kun

                Nice and chewy, a generous amount of moist filling, plus the sweetness doesn't totally cancel out the porkiness.

                That, plus, in a pinch, it doubles as an I-Phone.

                Let's see Mei Li Wah top that.

              2. re: Polecat

                Pho 32 has very bland broth in the pho...but good meats: brisket, tendon, tripe. SInce the place is Korean, I like to go to the condiment bar and get spicy sesame-hot pepper sauce and dip the meat into that then gradually add it to the soup as I eat. The result is spicy Korean hybrid pho. The condiment bar also has chopped thai peppers (I wish they had them instead of sliced fresh jalapenos at Mekong East). Pho 32 has decent pork chops and good fresh veg in the vermicelli bowls. It's also nice to snack on kimchi while waiting for your meal--great with your OB beer.

                But if real pho is what you want the aromatic broth at Mekong East down the street is much better.

                Mekong East
                43-13 Bell Blvd, Queens, NY 11361

            2. Just back from excellent lunch there. spring roll, chicken pho,lemongrass curry with seafood. Fantastic....clean flavors, perfectly cooked, and very inexpensive. Service was very attentive and chef was very friendly and helpful. They havent seen the last of me. Fellow Baysiders, let 's support this place.

              Mekong East
              43-13 Bell Blvd, Queens, NY 11361

              1 Reply
              1. re: derkoch

                This place is awesome.

                My favorite is the hot sour soup- tamarind broth with sprouts and vinegar, pineapples (though not sweet, I swear!) and shrimp. So filling, so light, so delicious, like 6 bucks.

                The papaya salad is great too- lots of mint, peanuts, tiny bit of heat, a TAD TAD too sweet but addictive nonetheless.

                My husband is gaga over the porkchops, and we both like the lemongrass rice with either shrimp, chicken or beef.

                The coffee is the best thing about this place though- brewed in tiny french presses on the table, with surprise coconut milk. Awesome with or without coconut milk.

                And super nice staff to boot!