They got me at the grouper. A platter of the fish, milky white and very fresh tasting, bathed in a ginger-soy broth, garnished with a chiffonade of scallion and falling into pale petals at the nudge of a chopstick. That plate drove home two things: the technique-driven simplicity and delicacy of Cantonese steamed fish — a dish I can never get right at home — and that the Mekong, which is has been run by Dennis and Ruby Luc for some 33 years, still has the chops.
And its fuchsia walls. The ones festooned with neat rows of white plates, signed by appreciative diners.
The fear I typically have of Chinese restaurants is somewhat lessened here — in particular those menus that seem endless, creating a sense of paranoia where, no matter how much I read and think and plot I will always, invariably, order badly —the best dishes passing by my table en route to a table that knows better.
Mekong’s menu isn’t pages and pages long. While its menu has shrank over the years, making it slightly less scary, its wine and beer list has grown — and a beer is what you’ll want with the salt and pepper squid. It arrives fresh from the fryer, the brown crinkles specked with black, served on a bed of chopped lettuce and topped with a deluge of fried onion and garlic. It is a thoroughly yummy treat.
There were other dishes ordered: a platter of steamed veg, wok fried to crisp, glistening with oil and garlic, a few dim sum baskets (pork siu mai, char gow — crystal skin shrimp dumplings — not quite bundles of joy, but not bad) and a pretty pedestrian General Tao’s chicken, but with some pleasing chile heat. I focused on the fish, scooping it off the platter and into the bowl, the ginger sauce sinking down to darken the rice.
Service could not have been more charming.
Mekong, 637 Somerset Street West., 613-237-7717
Main dishes, $11-$20. Open daily