Adventures in dining
If you walk up the stretch of no-man's land that separates my apartment building from the rest of District 7, you reach what is probably my favorite hole in the wall restaurant so far. To be honest, I don't even know the name of it. From the outside it looks like a big, dilapidated, palm-roofed beer garden, complete with the requisite "beer girls" which every beer joint in Saigon has; a bunch of tiny, cute girls wearing the tightest and shortest little matching outfits. Their job is to get people to drink more, and it works. Because District 7 is home to a lot of Japanese expats, this particular restaurant is full of off-duty Japanese businessmen who want plenty of attention and are willing to pay for it. The people watching here is pretty fascinating to say the least.
The speciality here is crab. I know this because though I don't know the name of the place, it has an enormous neon crab brightly lighting up the dingy entrance. When you're seated, you're handed a menu as thick as a Cheesecake Factory menu, and some of the stuff on there is pretty fascinating. Iguana, all types of fish, pig's brain soup, deer, badger, and an assortment of snails, cockles, clams, oysters, and of course, crab.
I'm used to Maryland blue crabs, having lived in Baltimore for a bit way back when, but these suckers are huge, 3 kilos each (well over 6 pounds apiece). You can get them steamed a variety of ways, in beer or coconut juice, and with several different sauces. I tried the black pepper sauce, which was good - but the chile sauce is the best. If you're getting other food, you really only need one crab a person, maybe two. We thought we had ordered a Szechuan peppercorn oyster dish, when what came out were raw clams in a spicy sauce heaped with cilantro, which turned out to be a really nice mistake; the clams meaty with a tinge of an iron-like flavor, like liver.
The crabs come out with a spicy green sauce which I can't get enough of. And bowls of lemongrassy herbed water to clean your fingers with, because you will get messy. The shells on the crab claws are so thick I friggin broke my cracker. Our beer girl didn't seem to mind.
There are about two or three similar crab joints on this block, since I don't know the address I'll just post a picture of the map and street corners.