Thursday, August 02, 2012

Dinner c/o Mekong River

Leaving the country is always a sad state of affairs, and this departure was especially so because I only had the one full day to enjoy it. It felt rushed, like I had just gotten relaxed and accustomed to the birds and the trees and the pretty and then suddenly I was packing up again and moving on out. So it was kind of nice that about 30 minutes outside of Philly I received a text from Mr. Ass that seemed to be suggesting that we have dinner later on in the day. In other words, the text asked me what I was doing for dinner. This is a fair question for anyone to ask of me regardless of whether they are planning on joining me, but I had a feeling Mr. Ass was actually thinking about combining the power of our dinner plans. I actually had no dinner plans and neither did he, so I gave him a list of a few different spots I wanted to try and it was decided that we'd check out Mekong River. I had passed this newly opened Vietnamese spot on my way back from one Federal Donuts excursion or another, and I think I read at least one positive review so it seemed like a good choice. The inside is spacious and clean, kind of shiny still but not really all that unique or special. We decided to order two appetizers, the first were ground beef wrapped in grape leaves. These were nice and hot and the first one was the best. Each subsequent taste lost its heat and made the lack of any real special spices or quality meat come more into the forefront.
Next up we split grilled pork rolls, which were certainly the highlight of the meal. The pork was well flavored and cooked. Though honestly I think the pork at Pho Ha or Ha Pho or whatever that place I go to on Oregon is called (Ha Saigon) is slightly more special and perhaps the rolls even have a bit more of it. So this was a highlight, but not the best grilled pork roll that I've had in Philadelphia. 
Ultimately we chose to split two dishes, one was a sort of beef green curry kind of dish, which just disappointed me from the start. It had no spice or subtlety, the meat had that strange mushiness and lack of any character that always makes me a little queasy...which wasn't helped by Mr. Ass telling me about some restaurants' overuse of tenderizing chemicals. I just. Meh.We ended up taking the leftovers, but they just sat in my fridge until I threw them out because there wasn't a single moment when I thought taking a second pass at this would improve my mindset or make me feel good about my eating choices.
We also ordered a noodle dish with some mention of lemongrass and chicken. It, too, lacked in any strong identity as far as flavors melding and molding together to make something special. The waiter who dropped it off at our table referred to it as 'lo mein,' which both of us kind of raised our eyebrows about. While I wish I could say something more positive, this was another rather lackluster and bland dish.
Perhaps we simply ordered the wrong things. The menu is quite substantial, running the gamut from whole fish to pho and everything (rice, beef, lamb etc) in between. But nothing about the meal was good enough for me to feel that it warranted a second visit. Which once again brings us to the key difference between me and real reviewers: they often have the budgets to try a good number of dishes from a restaurant before determining how they feel about the overall place while I have the one shot and if it isn't a good one, I don't usually go back. Unfortunately Mekong River and I may never meet again.

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