We here in Bergen County are lucky enough to now have an authentic but more upscale option to the regular Vietnamese restaurants in Chinatown and throughout NYC/NJ. Best of all it’s very reasonable and BYOB.
In the lovely town of Ridgewood, we now welcome the Mekong Grill and Chef Tai Nham. He is from the same family who has owned and operated the unassuming but very popular ‘Vietnam Restaurant’ in Spring Valley , NY. Aficionado’s such as myself and many others we know, often went there for great food and also to the now closed ‘Little Saigon’ in Montclair. This place in Ridgewood is a dream come true for lovers of Vietnamese food! Chef Nai and his family are wonderful, gracious people and their restaurant is new and inviting, the service is friendly and knowledgeable and reservations are suggested on Friday and Saturday nights. Chef Nai graduated top of his class from the Culinary Institute. His authentic family recipes definitely have benefited from his education and experience, as you will see in the creativity and flair of every dish.
About the food…the flavors are light and balanced. Many of the dishes are presented beautifully with leaf lettuces, fresh herbs, lots of mint, thai basil and cilantro, lime and fragrant sauces. The seafood is very fresh, the veggies are cooked perfectly, along with noodle dishes, and soups like none other.
The starters are interesting and wonderful. They have quite a few choice of appetizers and they are all excellent. We love the beef satay, beef on a stick, marinated in turmeric, five spice, lemongrass and served with the perfect peanut sauce.
The chicken wings tempura with french garlic butter is amazing but deep fried. The papaya salad is everyones favorite and a lot healthier with julienned green papaya, carrot, vietnamese herbs, chili lime dressing with a choice of chicken, shrimp or just with crisp anchovies (you wont’ believe how good they are) .
The soups are served in large steaming bowls. Try the Pho which is a traditional beef broth prepared over the course of several hours with numerous spices served with rice noodles and fresh herbs and veggies.
For the non beef eaters try their Hu Tieu..chicken soup with different types of noodles and combinations. We love their wonton soup with the lightest most flavorful wontons we have ever had, different than any Chinese restaurant with a broth full of fragrance that is hard to describe.
The rolls…..kind of like sushi, but quite different and more delicious than any you’ve ever had. No raw fish, just rare combinations of crunch, flavor and spice. The Mekong Roll is a favorite. Grilled marinated 5 spice pork with noodle, lettuce, herbs, crisp shrimp wrapped in rice paper with a vietnamese special vinagrette. Also the soft shelled crab roll with cucumber and avocado is a must try (but deep fried).
Had enough of broccoli dishes? Try Chinese broccoli as in Hu Tieu ap chao…Flat noodles pan fried or steamed with the crunchy chinese brocolli and choice of shrimp , beef, seafood or chicken.
Another great choice for those of you not that familiar with Vietnamese food is Bun – Vermicelli served at room temperature topped with warm meat, chicken or seafood on a bed of crunchy bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, basil and mint, drizzled with peanuts and a Vietnamese vinagrette, and little Vietnamese yummy eggrolls.
Banh Hoi are Lettuce wraps with intricate vermicelli bundles, chopped scallions, fried shallot and peanuts with your choice of many grilled items, such as sliced marinated pork, beef, lemongrass steak, honey braised chicken or shrimp, or steamed and grilled sugarcane.
The Vietnamese crepe is yellow but has no egg in it. The color comes from the turmeric which is a healthy spice we should all eat more of. This crepe is served with leaf lettuce, mint, thai basil and stuffed with shirmp or chicken and sprouts. You cut it up and wrap it in a lettuce leaf with the mint and basil and eat with a drizzle of the sauce. Incredible!
The most expensive item on the menu but something to treat yourself to if you love Chilean Sea Bass, is theirs. Try it steamed or pan fried with choice of mushroom black bean sauce or my fave…ginger, scallion , sesame soy sauce. Served beautifully on top of tofu.
To end your meal you must try their magnificent desserts. The banana crepe with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce is a must try or their one of a kind cheesecake made from ube (purple yam) with caramel sauce topped with coconut cream.
24 Chestnut Street
Ridgewood , N.J. 07450 Open 6 days a week. Closed Mondays.
LauriLee has been passionate about food her whole life. She spent many years in the travel business and always enjoyed dining out at many ethnic restaurants here and abroad. She is a self motivated foodie who has been cooking for over 30 years. Her recipes are based on fruits, vegetables, herbs, vinegars, various healthy oils, citrus , seafood and organic chicken and turkey. LauriLee also cooks for her daughter who is a Vegan, so we can look forward to some healthy vegan/vegetarian dishes from her kitchen. To learn more about LauriLee’s cooking classes and personal chef service, visit her website at LauriLeesHealthyCooking.net and Like her page on Facebook for great recipes and cooking tips.