The proof is in the pot at Mekong East. Superior broths anchor the soups, a strength of this newish Vietnamese restaurant in Bayside, Queens. Beef pho is “better, more deeply flavored, than most in these parts. No hot or fish sauce is needed,” Polecat finds. Chicken-crab soup also boasts a killer broth, says kenito799, and it comes loaded with crab and asparagus. Another winner is hot and sour soup, which delivers heat, tartness, and lots of chunks of tilapia with pineapple and tomato.
Besides soup, kenito recommends grilled pork chops; spring rolls (with an earthy note from wood-ear fungus); fried squid, with a buttery richness cut by a lemon-pepper dip; and the mixed-meat banh mi (“I have had better in Philly and many worse in NYC”). Mekong East, part of a recent flowering of Asian food around Bayside, offers an unusually focused menu that’s maybe a fifth as long as those at most Vietnamese restaurants around town—”which I find encouraging,” Polecat says.
He might be downright disconsolate at Mama Su’s, with a menu that mashes up Chinese dumplings, French toast, and German sausage, among many other things. At least one or two of those things deserves attention. Soup-dumpling hunter frankie5angels says Mama Su’s are Flushing-caliber, which would make them some of the city’s best; they’re full of flavor and wrapped in delicate skins, Robotron reports. Scallion pancakes and coconut bubble tea are also worth sampling, hounds say. But for now, at least, the must-tries here are outnumbered by the don’t-bothers—chicken wings, ginger beef, spare ribs, and sweet-sour pork chops among them—so order carefully.
Another Bayside newcomer, Asian 88 Express Café, isn’t nearly as ambitious, but what it does is quite good. Polecat ranks its baked roast-pork bao the best in Queens: “Nice and chewy, a generous amount of moist filling, plus the sweetness doesn’t totally cancel out the porkiness.”
Mekong East [Bayside]
43-13 Bell Boulevard (between 43rd Avenue and Northern Boulevard), Bayside, Queens
Mama Su’s [Bayside]
212-22 48th Avenue (between 212th and 213th streets), Bayside, Queens
Asian 88 Express Café [Bayside]
213-12 48th Avenue (between 213th Street and Bell Boulevard), Bayside, Queens