Just like the Mekong river, which flows from the Tibetan Plateau and moves through Burma, Lao, Thailand and Cambodia before ending in South Vietnam, this two-storey restaurant covers the cuisines of the river’s north upstairs and Southern Vietnamese food downstairs.

Mekong, the upstairs venue, is the newest venture from Tiw Rakarin (ex-Alphabet Street, Mama’s Buoi), who opened Lower Mekong (the Vietnamese street-food-inspired downstairs restaurant) in March. “Upstairs is very different. It's Indochinese cuisine, Cambodian, Burmese, Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai. Each country has individual flavours,” says Rakarin.

Unlike downstairs, where the cuisine has been tweaked and modernised, upstairs is mostly traditional, aside from one aspect. “I kept all the ingredients and the method of cooking the same, but I changed the presentation,” says Rakarin. A Cambodian egg-and-prawn curry is steamed in a whole coconut and placed on a bed of salt and two scorched, smoking cinnamon sticks. Burmese-style shredded chicken is served in a delicate chickpea and tofu wafer. Two Thai-style squid-ink dumplings sit in striking contrast to the white bowl they are served in and the orange flower petals that decorate them.

A few dishes (mainly from the entrée and snack menu), such as the dumplings served with a kettle of chicken phở, mix cuisines together. The mains are more classic, such as Cambodia’s national dish, amok, an orange curry with fried seafood. And Hanoi-style pipies with chilli oil, basil and garlic. “I've tried to bring the best things from each of my restaurants to create my own style," says Rakarin.

The restaurant’s design is by Chris Wilks and Ed Kenney (Giant Design), who created upstairs the same riverside forest style as they did for the downstairs venue. Bamboo trunks reach up from the bottom floor and the back wall is plastered with green patterns that give the impression of a tropical jade estuary. Kensington Street’s creative director Nicky Ginsberg has carried the restaurant’s South East Asian theme through to the menu design with minimalist watercolours and poetry exploring the Mekong’s geography, history and culture.

Mekong
14 Kensington Street, Chippendale

Hours:
Mon to Wed 6pm–10pm
Thu to Sun 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10pm

kensingtonstreet.com.au