mekong river

I posted on Facebook that I was heading to Mekong River for the first time last month and someone told me not to look at the carpet. I must admit, I’ve never been told this before and it made me chuckle. So of course the first thing I did upon walking inside was look straight down and inspect every open inch available to me.

If you have been there before, you probably know why this person shared this warning of sorts. If you have never been  before and saw what I saw, you may have spun around and walked out. I know I might have if I wasn’t tipped off by some trusted sources to look beyond the decor and focus on the food. Which is what I will share with you today. Mekong River in Cleveland Heights boasts a wonderful menu (for the most part). The decor, unfortunately, is clearly not a priority. The carpet is all tattered and torn and stained, dust outlines paintings and a fresh coat of paint was needed several times over – decades ago. It’s not even one of those quirky, borderline charming in a forgotten kinda way spaces that one could overlook. It’s just plain bad. And if you’re like me, the overall atmosphere of a place is almost just as important as the food. Now I don’t mean I need Lola-quality decor every time I dine. Quite the opposite. I’m all for dives. But Mekong River is in its own category and that’s why if I go back, it will be for takeout.

Enough decor chatter, let’s focus on the food. For the most part, I really enjoyed my meal. The flavors, aromas and Thai and Cambodian combinations were tempting from the moment I stepped inside. The appetizers were a hit, especially the Thai curry puffs (you need to try these!). I also enjoyed the wonderfully fragrant samlaw machu kreoung – a true one-bowl wonder of layers of great flavor. I can’t say Mekong is my favorite for Thai, but I can certainly see why it’s so well-liked and has a fair amount of devotees.

Like always, here’s part of the review or you can read the full post here:

If you’re in the mood for Thai, head to Cleveland Heights, which seems to boast a Thai restaurant in just about every main section of the city. One in particular, Mekong River, is often referred to as the best in the area as well as a favorite take-out stop for several area chefs.

Food: Thai and Cambodian are the focus of Mekong River, named after one of the world’s longest rivers. There’s no shortage of choices here, with several tempting pages ranging from starters, soups, curry, Thai and Cambodian entrées, noodles and fried rice specialties and a lengthy offering of vegetarian choices.

On our visit, we started with an order of the crab Rangoon ($4.99), wontons filled with cream cheese, crab meat and seasoning and Thai curry puffs ($5.99), ground chicken, sweet potatoes, onions and cilantro wrapped in a puff pastry served with a thick peanut sauce. Entrées included seafood samlaw machu kreoung, a sour pungent Cambodian stew with ground lemon grass, celery, eggplant, jalapeño, garlic, galanga, tumeric and tamarind sauce served with white rice ($13.99), and pad Thai, perhaps the most often ordered Thai dish with noodles, bean sprouts, scallion, eggs, bay scallops and shrimp ($13.99).

The star of this outing was definitely the appetizers, particularly the Thai curry puffs. These thick, small pie-like starters were savory and beyond satisfying. A trip back just for this is in our future.

Dinners were not as favorable. We’ve sampled pad Thai at just about every Thai restaurant around and this version was not among our favorites (though if you like your pad Thai a little less sweet and light on the peanuts, you might want to try this). The samlaw machu kreoung was much more memorable. This heavily fragrant dish is a one bowl wonder with many layers of flavor, including tangy, sweet and spicy. It’s an impressive dish, especially how it all seems to work so well together.

Bottom line: While the Heights has no shortage of ethnic eats, we’re not yet ready to crown Mekong as our favorite for Thai. It does, however, offer wonderful options and is worth checking out—for takeout.

6 Comments

  1. Mack
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Mekong River isn’t as good as it once was, but still passable. I’d prefer My Thai in Chesterland, but Mekong will do in a pinch.

  2. Posted July 20, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Those curry puffs sound amazing! Maybe a trip is in our future- for take out of course. :)

  3. Michelle
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I get takeout from Mekong frequently and have eaten in the restaurant a number of times. The Cambodian food is wonderful, particularly the stew-like dishes like the one you mentioned.

    I’ve never been tempted to order Thai food there, and I’ve never tried the Pad Thai, because there are so many dishes on the menu that you don’t see other places. I would definitely recommend the soups and any of the Cambodian specialties.

    The condition and decor of the restaurant have never bothered me, but I have a soft spot for somewhat tattered, hole-in-the-wall-ish restaurants. Especially ones with good food and very reasonable prices.

  4. Posted July 20, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I am a big fan of Mekong River. The Cambodian Curry is amazing.

  5. M
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I used to love Mekong until one day I found a spider (deceased) in my (take-out) Panang curry. I had eaten their take-out probably a dozen times before that with no incident, but this one was enough to ruin it for me. I really did enjoy their food previously, but I now can’t go back. Sorry if this grosses anyone out, but I feel like if I was reading a review of an unfamiliar restaurant, I would want to know about this before going.

  6. Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely LOVE Mekong! Of course, it’s not the prettiest place but the Cambodian food can’t be beat. Also, they have the best red tom kha kai soup I’ve ever eaten. If appearances are important to you – get takeout – but definitely try it.