Fresh and delicious seafood at rock-bottom prices make this casual District 2 restaurant a must. Photos by Fred Wissink.
On a busy stretch of road in a very local section of Thao Dien, the restaurant Blue Crab has a comfortable but very unassuming feel about it. What it does have inside the ground floor establishment, with wooden tables covered in sheets of brown paper, is a menu packed with some of the best quality and, frankly, most absurdly good value seafood you will find anywhere in Saigon.
Opened on the auspicious date of 29 February this year, Blue Crab is run by the husband and wife team of Alex and Van Huynh. The idea behind the restaurant is to serve up high-quality food but keep it at a price that is accessible to both the expatriate and local market.
The menu is divided into four sections to provide plenty of options for everyone. The ‘home cart’ has traditional-style noodles with a few variations in a crab, shrimp and pork broth. The ‘kitchen specialties’ include glass noodles with veggies, shrimp, scallop and lobster (VND 95,000), while the barbeque selection features Alex’s signature pork ribs (VND 25,000 per piece). Finally the ‘specialties from the sea’ allow you to have your favourite crustacean prepared with a selection of condiments including tamarind sauce, salt and chilli, garlic butter, steamed natural, with beer and also in coconut juice.
The eponymous blue crab is only VND 40,000 per 100 grams, as is the Norway lobster and black tiger prawns. Slipper lobster is a snip at VND 42,000 for 100 grams and scallops are just VND 46,000. Given that Blue Crab acquires its seafood from the same source as a number of five-star hotels and high-end restaurant in town, it really is astonishing value.
On our visit we started with the tiger prawns in garlic butter. The secret to this dish is the garlic is toasted in the wok before being added to the butter so the end result has a lovely smoky flavour. Next up were two impressively-sized whole blue crabs in tamarind sauce. Unlike many restaurants, here they dilute the tamarind so it is not overpowering and serves to complement the delicate sweetness of the crab meat. Finally, we try the magnificent banh canh ghe from the home cart, complete with whole crab, pork and shrimp. With silky, almost udon-thick noodles and a wonderfully complex broth, it is the unexpected highlight of the meal.
Everything at Blue Crab is superbly fresh, perfectly executed and the equal to anything you will find in the finest restaurants but at only a fraction of the cost. If you don’t live in District 2, it is well worth the trip.