By Tony Maiella, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It’s not every day that you meet a restaurateur that has been in more than one successful touring rock band with hit songs. During the eighties and nineties, Mary Byker led the life of an English lead singer taking chances and touring with the bands Apollo 440, and Pigface. It’s really no surprise then, that Byker and his Carioca wife, Ana Vance (a restaurant professional), decided to launch the southeastern Asian inspired bar, Mekong.
Since its opening in August of 2010, Mekong has been a welcome addition to the Leblon restaurant and bar scene. Now the bar is taking the concept even further by hosting Wednesday night events that showcase international DJs, unique cocktails and wine specials.
Co-owner Byker says, “The idea has always been to have a bar that offers southeast Asian food and drink more reasonably priced and more fun than some of the other Asian restaurants in Rio. Foreigners are generally more familiar with this type of thing, but Cariocas are picking up on it now.”
Since Mekong is located in the neighborhood of Leblon, it enjoys an eclectic crowd on Wednesdays when it hosts international DJs spinning a mix of MPB, lounge, and International mash-ups.
The party starts at 7PM, usually with DJ Doug Gray (DJ Karl Rodgers), DJ Tee Cardaci, or DJ Mike Frugaletti, who are all a part of the Botafogo Social Club Collective, or even DJ Mary Byker cranking out his own musical creations. It is not uncommon to see a combination of locals and foreigners flooding the streets on the corner of Gal. Urquiza and Dias Ferreira.
Through a partnership with Ruby Wines, an international wine importer, Mekong has also been able to offer much needed wine promotions.
On the first Wednesday of every month, when you order a bottle of wine at Mekong you will receive another bottle delivered to your home for free.
For any other bottle that you buy, you’ll also get a rewards cards that entitles you to a free bottle for every ten, and there’s even a chance to win a trip for two to Paris. Good wine is hard to come by for a good price in Rio, so this is a gem.
The most original offerings on the drinks menu all put to use an infused liquor called Mekong, a well-balanced concoction of sake, dark rum, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and lemongrass. The Sabai Sabai (R$16) is such an example made with the special Mekong infusion, lemon juice, club soda and basil.
Additionally, a new drink on the menu is the Lichia Spice (R$17) that contains lychees, vodka, lemon juice, lemongrass and hot Thai chilies to pack a punch.
Once you whet your appetite it is easy to satisfy your stomach rumblings at Mekong. The “finger food” section of the menu is effective because it offers tasty appetizers for around R$15, from spring rolls to samosas and satays that will complement your beer or cocktail.
And if you are really hungry you can order Pad Thai (R$28.70), Rogan Josh (R$31.30) or even a healthier meal like the Ga Nuong Banh Mi (R$18.60), a Vietnamese grilled chicken sandwich with the Ya Ma-Muang (R$16), a spicy Thai mango salad.
“It’s really a taste of all the Asian food that I was missing back home in London where the options are endless. But where else in Rio can you eat a Vietnamese sandwich while listening to a top notch DJ on a Wednesday night? We are the only place!”
The bar and restaurant are not only for Wednesday nights of course, it is open six days a week, closed on Monday. For those looking to get an early start, there is also the daily happy hour from 6-8PM, with buy 3 get 1 free Bohemia beers, as well as Caipirinha and Caipikong (made with the infusion) for R$9.50.
Wednesdays at 7PM
Rua Gal. Urquiza, 188 a, Leblon 22431-040 RJ
Tel. (21) 2529-212
* This article is a paid advertorial for Mekong.