Diners chat happily in a quiet nook at the new Mekong restaurant.
photo: Ján Svrček
Tel.: 07- 5443-1111
Credit cards: Yes
I thought my friend was going to have to have her eyes surgically closed when her main course arrived at Mekong, Bratislava's new and only Thai restaurant. Used to the large portions at Chinese restaurants, and not quite getting that Thai was a separate kind of cuisine, she had assumed that one dish would be big enough for two people to share.
She was thus shocked when her steaming duck in coconut milk and curry arrived on something she described as "a salad plate."
"What?" she exclaimed, her mouth hanging open. "219 crowns for that?"
Moments before, her uninitiated taste buds had reacted negatively to the generous amount of curry put into the tangy chicken soup. By the end of the course, she had been gasping and asking only half-jokingly for a glass of milk. In a third traumatic moment late in the meal, a fatty piece of duck had ended up in a half chewed form on the side of her plate.
After so much drama, I expected my friend to pronounce her first Thai dining experience a bust. But I underestimated how much she would enjoy the simple experience of eating and tasting something truly different. By the end of the meal, she instead surprisingly exclaimed that things overall had been "great." "If I could eat this every day, I would," she said.
A dining experience at Mekong won't be without hitches. For some, the food is too spicy, for others, too mild. The main meat courses are on the small side. The dishes, while good, seem to lack some of that special Thai clarity and twang that comes from fresh, high-quality limes, lemon grass, curry, and other spices which are likely hard to get in Slovakia. On my first visit to the restaurant, the chicken used in my satay appetiser was stringy and skimpy.
Then again, most people seem to really enjoy their experience at Mekong. All the dishes I've tried are tasty, and are a welcome addition to the Bratislava Asian cuisine offerings. For about 400 crowns per person (for appetiser, main course, desert and drink) you can now try authentic Thai food in Bratislava, which before you had to travel to Vienna, Prague, or Budapest to experience.
Mekong is a spacious, well-decorated restaurant located on a hard-to-find street behind the National Theater near the Bratislava Old Town. Located on the second floor, its large awning-covered balcony looks down on the quiet street below. Inside, the setting is pleasant, the tables and chairs comfortable. Cloth napkins are a treat.
The large menu features a wide range of Thai specialities described in Slovak, German, and English. Appetisers include spring rolls and fried pork with Thai spices. There are a variety of spicy Thai salads, and about 10 different kinds of soup. Main courses start at about 179 crowns for pork, chicken, and beef dishes; there are also more expensive seafood and duck offerings.
Our recent meal started with Thai soups; my friend trying the chicken soup with coconut milk and Thai spices (69 crowns) while I had the prawn soup (79 crowns). Both were good, offered a pleasing contrast between cool coconut milk and spicy curry. We also shared an order of spring rolls (89 crowns). They contained ground pork which was a bit greasy, but overall they were still very tasty.
When we found the duck not filling enough, we ordered a plate of Pad Thai (149 crowns), the famous Thai noodle dish which, luckily, came quickly and on a larger plate. We both really enjoyed the rice noodles covered with peanuts, chicken, shrimp, and a few vegetables, agreeing it was the best part of the meal. I also savoured the rice that came with our meals, which is a bit different than Chinese rice and slightly sweet.
One extra bonus at month-old Mekong is the extremely nice owner who makes a habit of walking around and greeting the diners at every table. She is willing to explain what spices go into the food and, like the wait staff, speaks English. You can't but help hope for her success.