Mekong River Thai Cuisine (Burnsville, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune South
February 14, 2007

We have no fear of spicy food; we go for the endorphin rush every time. And we each have our own remedies for the burn of too-hot food: Karen likes a beer, while Bruce will bite a lime or lemon. But that doesn't mean that we down habanero peppers like a handful of jelly beans. Spicy for the sake of the heat alone is a macho game we don't play; we're there for the flavor.

Some restaurants serve food that's just too hot to enjoy. This is a problem more often with Thai food than with any other cuisine we can think of. And so we were utterly delighted to find Mekong River, a Thai place where the kitchen is happy to cook anywhere from "Minnesota Mild" to authentically dangerous.

And what food it is! We had several extraordinary dishes here, and liked everything we tried. The appetizer list offers perfectly good spring rolls, but the coconut shrimp truly delighted us. Too often, shrimp are over-cooked and rubbery, but these are just perfect: deep-fried in crispy batter laced with coconut.

We also liked the unusual and tasty Rung Noke: fried egg noodles wrapped around ground pork and chicken. The noodles are crispy outside, and soft where they wrap around the meat filling, which is nicely flavored with Chinese five-spice powder.

The skewered meatballs were a finely ground, UFO-shaped concoction we didn't really like, but recognized as authentically good. The Thai beef jerky, thick slices of red, dried beef fried and served over lettuce, is a sort of barbequed preparation; it's quite nice.

The Mekong River excels at several things. Their curries are fabulous. We practically licked the plate of catfish coconut curry. Good Thai has a careful balance among sour, sweet, salty and creamy, and this dish does everything right. The Pad Prik Khing, a spicy green bean dish accented with your choice of protein, is richly flavored, and is the dish we ordered at spice level three out of five, which we found nearly too spicy to enjoy. Our other choices were ordered at spice levels of zero, one or two, and all were excellent.

Raard Na is an egg noodle dish with your choice of protein, sauteed with Chinese broccoli, and fantastic black bean sauce. We loved this with tender squid.

Mekong River really knows how to cook seafood. The Seafood Kee Mao, with its huge fresh green mussels, complemented with crab claws, squid and shrimp, was ideally cooked and served in slightly sweet, buttery sherry and basil sauce. Delicious.

We'd like to see a few ice cream items added to the dessert menu. At present they only offer a couple of classic Thai desserts: fruit (either mango or durian) served over sticky rice and drizzled with sweetened coconut milk. Our guests had never tried durian, so of course we ordered that. The smell is legendary and the fruit tastes nothing like it. We'd give you details, but we don't want to spoil the experience for you. Leave it said that if you aren't feeling adventurous, have the mango instead.

Mekong River Thai Cuisine

Where: 19176 Hwy. 13, Burnsville
Contact: 952-808-8159
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11 a.m. -9:30 p.m. Fri and Sat: 11 a.m.- 10:00 p.m.
Atmosphere: Pleasant
Service: Gracious and charming
Sound level: Not too noisy
Recommended dishes: Catfish coconut curry, Seafood Kee Mao
Prices: Entrees $7–$15. Weekday lunch buffet $6.95
Children: No special children's menu

earlier review: Highland Grill (St. Paul, MN)
later review: Willie's Wine Bar & Cuisine (Minneapolis, MN)
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