“We want to make people feel at home,” says Albert Van Der Westhuizen, the general manager of The Deck Group, which Mekong Merchant belongs to, and it’s surely what they have achieved. Divided into different ambiences — inside with aircon, or outside — the whole concept gives the feel of a countryside oasis typical of the Mekong Delta, designed in a simple yet charming style. It is easily one of the best spots in District 2 to chill and escape from the mayhem of the city.
A Western-influenced menu characterizes the restaurant, without forgetting that the main ingredients come from Vietnam. And it has recently introduced a new dinner menu; new courses have been added to the list, including fabulous desserts. All of them offer healthy portions at reasonable prices.
The Good Stuff
There is a wide range of juices and smoothies with which to start — my choices were banana, raspberry and orange (VND95,000) and peaches, yogurt and honey (VND75,000). They were all equally delicious.
This Thao Dien landmark brings to the table a Mediterranean experience with their tapas selection. The tapas platter (VND230,000) is perfect to share with Parma ham, Parmesan chunks and some olive tapenade, hummus and sun-dried tomatoes with homemade wholemeal and flat bread. This can be followed by the highly recommendable clams with beans, chickpeas and chorizo — an unusual but excellent combination for refined palates (VND190,000).
The tapas were followed by a set of duck wraps (VND150,000) with hints of ginger and hoisin sauce, which did not captivate me as I felt it was missing out on some flavour. The main courses made up for it, though, especially the sizzling Australian beef fillet (VND600,000) with pepper sauce and mouth-watering mashed potato — its buttery and smooth texture was terrific. Complementing this dish with its beautiful presentation, the grain salad side dish fills an important role.
The chicken (VND280,000) — which was offered as a complementary option — didn’t quite strike us the right way. The idea was fine, but perhaps the charcoal grill had played a mean trick on it the day we visited. However, the homemade pesto which accompanied it helped out considerably. The delightful presentation of all these plates was remarkable from beginning to end, as was the impeccably friendly service.
Room for Dessert?
One tip is to avoid getting all stuffed with starters and main courses, and leave some room for dessert as there is a wide selection of tempting treats. Try the original apple crumble with vanilla ice cream and water-lily stems (VND125,000) or the layered chocolate peanut brownie (VND135,000), both heavenly dishes. For the adventurous sweet tooth there is a new delicacy to sample; salted caramel with pistachio flakes (VND145,000).
For those who are looking for something new every day, the restaurant’s specials might be your thing, and are available for both lunch and dinner.
Another good call is their Monday to Friday happy hour, when you can avail yourself of Tiger Draught and Saigon Red for VND20,000, as well as a 50 percent discount on a selection of wines.
Who needs any more reasons to include Mekong Merchant on their to-do list?
Mekong Merchant is at 23 Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC