Four years ago, a British-Brazilian couple opened their restaurant in one of Brazil’s most popular food centers to serve Vietnamese dishes such as pho, goi cuon (fresh spring rolls), ca kho to (fish braised in a clay pot), and muc rang muoi (squid).
Mary Byker, a British man who once sang vocals for the 90s rock band Apollo 440, along with his Brazilian wife Ana Vance, decided to open the restaurant aiming to introduce Vietnamese dishes to residents of Rio de Janeiro.
The East-Asian-themed Mekong restaurant, located at 188 General Urquiza Street in Leblon, a very cosmopolitan neighborhood of the city, is the region’s only restaurant that serves pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup).
“When we [Byker and his wife] were in London, we often ate at Vietnamese restaurants and both of us really liked the dishes. Seven years ago, after coming to Brazil to live with my wife, we decided to open a restaurant which mainly serves Asian food,” Byker said.
“Local residents often know about Japanese and Thai food while Vietnamese dishes are rarely seen here,” Byker added.
The restaurant, which opened in 2010, serves such Vietnamese dishes as pho, goi cuon, ca kho to, and muc rang muoi. The menu is printed in English, Portuguese, and Vietnamese.
Byker said the eatery was named after the Mekong Delta because he and his wife loved the look of the meandering Mekong River on their map of Southeast Asia and “wanted to pay homage to it.”
In the beginning, the couple had to learn to cook all the dishes themselves by asking their friends for help and searching for recipes on the Internet.
A bowl of pho costs from VND248,000 (US$11.69) to VND314,000 ($14.80) and is a very delicious dish, thanks to fresh ingredients and the skill of the restaurant’s chefs.
Mekong has become popular among locals since it was recommended by many local newspapers.
In 2013, it was voted by readers of travel website TripAdvisor as one of the best restaurants in Rio de Janeiro.