La Phan at work in the open kitchen of the Mekong River Restaurant in Parksville.

Parksville’s Mekong restaurant ready to serve what you want

After 30 years in the business, Parksville restaurateurs have perfected their menu, but still customize

Parksville’s Mekong River Restaurant has a full menu, but a growing number of their regulars take advantage of their allergy and specialty diet options.

“Anything you want, just tell us and we’ll customize it, no problem,” said Lee Phan, co-owner and cook with his wife La.

He said about 99 per cent of their customers are repeat business, and about 30 per cent have some kind of special request, with gluten-free being the most popular option, “by far.”

Along with the normally healthy selection of healthy, MSG free Vietnamese food, with other Asian influences, they are happy to work with any allergy including wheat, seafood and nuts, which Phan said brings people back time after time.

Phan said their menu is a reflection of their 30 years experience in the business, learning what people want.

Over that time special requests and dietary restrictions have increased steadily, and they still notice those requests going up month after month.

Phan and his wife moved to Canada from Vietnam at the same time in 1980, but met in Canada and have spent most of the time since in the restaurant business.

They started in Vancouver and then owned and operated Saigon Kitchen in Nanaimo for 17 years.

About five years ago, Phan said, they sold the restaurant and planned to stay home and take time for themselves, but quickly found they wanted to get back to work and found their current Parksville location — then a restaurant called Spinakers — for sale.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Today they are joined in the family business by their son Thien, along with several other loyal employees.

Phan said aside from the special requests, their customers love the friendly service and the open kitchen where they can see their food being made.

Among their customer’s favourites are the spring rolls, won ton soup, curries and chow mien.

“The short ribs are really good, all their food is good,” said a regular customer passing by.

Located across from Husky on Highway 19a, they are open every day 4-9 for dinner and 11:30-2:30 every day except Sunday and holidays for lunch. Visit www.mekongriverparksville.com.

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