Portland has good, cheap ethnic food, and we have well-designed restaurants, but it's rare that the two come in the same package. Enter Mekong Grill. This Sellwood eatery combines clean lines and casual elegance with food (and prices) fit for a Sandy Boulevard pho joint. Mekong's menu plays to the strengths of Vietnamese cuisine, emphasizing vibrant flavors and freshness: Charcoaled skewers of honey-lemongrass pork perch on a nest of vermicelli ($7.25) studded with cucumber, daikon, bean sprouts, peanuts and mint. Pour on a healthy dose of nuoc cham—the spicy-sweet fish sauce-based dressing ubiquitous to Vietnamese cuisine—and you find simple perfection in a bowl. Sesame short ribs, served with jasmine rice ($7.75), make you work for your meat, but it's worth it; crispy egg rolls ($3.50) are solid; and syrupy, espresso-strong iced coffee ($2.50) caps off a meal nicely. (ES)
By Ethan Smith
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