If you’re hoping to eat at Alaska Pho Restaurant — maybe you noticed its large, attractive sign on the side of Mountain View Drive — keep driving, because the restaurant closed earlier this summer.
If you’re feeling adventurous, stop at the place just down the road.
Mekong Restaurant doesn’t have a colorful new sign. Its orange storefront is tucked into a strip mall on the north side of Mountain View Drive, and you might want to find parking on a side street nearby because the lot out front doesn’t leave much wiggle room. And when you go inside, be prepared for a different selection than you might expect.
There’s an extensive menu posted on the wall, but most of those dishes are unavailable. For now, Mekong Restaurant serves only Polynesian food.
Eating there is a bit like a do-it-yourself plate sale, just with more meat and fewer sides. Friday’s menu included steaming pans filled with chicken, turkey tails, lamb chops, ginger lamb and several other varieties. On top of the counter are mini loaves of banana bread and baskets of flatbread and plastic-wrapped trays of pani popo. The coconut rolls aren’t sold individually, so plan on buying at least three (the smallest batch available).
Your food is piled into a foam takeout container. For $10, you can buy two enormous chicken thighs and a three-bun pan of pani popo. There are plastic forks and paper napkins by the cash register, and a fridge stocked with cans of soda.
The restaurant has several tables and booths, and you can sit and watch CNN on a large TV behind the counter while you eat your chicken and coconut rolls.
The meat is delicious; juicy inside, crispy on the outside, spicy and flavorful and a little sweet. The pani popo is chewy and slightly soggy, drenched in coconut milk. It was still warm from the oven just after 11 a.m.
The cooking has a loyal following — the restaurant saw a steady trickle of customers from the first hour it was open Friday. Everyone seemed to know each other. Some people stayed to eat, others took their food to go.
If you’re ever passing through the neighborhood, you should try it, too.
Mekong Restaurant is located at 4101 Mountain View Dr. and open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.