Fortunately the restaurant is attractive and interesting enough to distract one’s attention; a number of bubbling tanks containing odd-looking gilled creatures from the deep gives way to a semi covered patio garden draped in fairy lights wrapped around tree branches.
The menu contains your typical seafood dishes at around a third the price of most inner city counterparts; esoteric options including swimming silver pomfret, sinnamon sturgeon, spiny Gobi and hemibagrus sold at seasonal prices; and some more unusual ‘specialities’ (lobster and cockles “roasted in microwave”, anyone?).
We start off with the hao nuong pho mai (oysters covered in cheese). The four oysters aren’t the biggest we’ve seen in Saigon and the melted cheese possesses an alarmingly bright, almost luminous, yellow hue akin to Kraft processed slices. The presentation is slapdash with none of the advertised, tenderly prepared herb and veg-based garnishes included, though the taste is still wonderfully salty and tangy and washes down nicely with a bottle of Saigon do.
A plate of muc nuong muoi ot (grilled squid with salt and chilli) follows and it’s excellent. The large, fleshy white chunks are supple in texture, plentiful in supply and spicy enough to tickle the tongue and enliven the taste buds. An accompanying bowl of nuoc cham muoi ot xanh (green chilli and salt sauce) adds an almost wasabi kick, albeit with a sweeter edge. It’s delicious and a must-try. Just make sure to request it specifically as it’s not normally included.
The waitress reveals our tom su rang me (tiger prawns roasted in tamarind) have been forgotten, which is disappointing seeing as the service had hitherto been very good. When the prawns eventually arrive they’re almost too hot to de-shell by hand. All eight are massive and meaty, and come smothered in a thick sweet and sour tamarind sauce with slithers of onion and crushed peanuts. It’s a mucky treat, but a finger licking good one that tastes extremely fresh.
As far as seafood restaurants go, Saigon Moi is a solid option if not a standout. It does the basics competently, though its awkward location may put non-District 7 dwellers off from making the journey. However, the more exotic fishy fare on offer should still attract more adventurous customers, regardless of distance. Just not on a Monday.
Oysters with cheese VND140,000
Grilled squid VND95,000
Roasted tiger prawns VND95,000
Food, decor and service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15:
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals