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Monday, March 7, 2011

Mekong River Restaurant, Austin, TX

I love 70 degree weather with sunny skies, and even though the winter in Iowa has been remarkably benign, I still enjoyed being in a warm sunny place and walking outside. Austin is primarily a music city--you can figure that our in the airport, because the bar in the terminal that I landed in had live music. But the food was quite good as well.
My favorite food to eat when I travel is ethnic food that is hard or impossible to get where I live, so off I went to the Vietnamese restaurant closest to my hotel. I stopped at the ever-helpful concierge desk to get a map, and the first thing they told me was that there was no such restaurant--possible, because you never know when something will close, but there were reviews as recent as last week, so I was willing to risk it. Then they looked it up, and declared that I indeed was correct and they were wrong--oh, and could I report back to them on what I thought. Happy to do some restaurant reviewing for future Hilton guests--I certainly have benefited from the kindness of strangers. I knew it would be okay when a woman saw me looking at the menu outside, and stopped to give me her recommendations. It is that kind of place. People feel compelled to pull you in.
The Mekong River had mixed ratings on Yelp, but there were several reviews that resonated with me--one guy in particular who waxed eloquently about menu option B6--a grilled pork vermicelli dish with eggrolls. Sounded perfect--and it was. There are several elements of Vietnamese food that I love. The first is that restaurants have a bottle of hoison sauce and a bottle of Sriracha on the table--those are condiments that I can work with. But best of all is the volume of fresh vegetables and herbs that are served alongside of hot food. I love the complexity of the flavors--the marinade for the pork was complex and delicious--but when taken with a mouthful of lettuce and mint, it was exquisite. The whole meal was $7.00 and I took half of it back to the hotel with me. Highly recommended.

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