The Fish Tale restaurant, at 11A Thi Sach Street in District 1, is a couple of steps up the road from the daytime street goat curry stall. It bills itself (rather oddly) as a Taiwanese Vietnamese Restaurant and dishes out a range of 65 different seafood and vegetable dishes. It’s a reasonably new joint and the staff are still eager to please. Out front there’s a small outdoor dining section along with a crate of fish and shellfish on ice. The selection’s not great; a couple of filleted sole, a lonely looking Red Grouper, some prawns, squid, de-shelled scallops and the pouting poisson pictured above. Not all that impressive a show for a fish restaurant, but we’re hungry, we’re here and we want seafood.
Inside there’s seating for around 50 or 60 folk. The waitresses are decked out in that tacky micro-skirt/tight t-shirt combo you find in every other Vietnamese managed restaurant in Saigon. Still, it’s better than having to wear ao dai in the heat of the megalopolis. Although, it’s goosebumpmungus in an air-conditioned diner. I asked the (basic) English-speaking waiter, "What’s fresh today?" And after much deliberation and thumbing through the photographically illustrated menu, which is also described in Chinese, Vietnamese and English, he told me "The Grouper is fresh." Perhaps I looked a bit quizzical as he followed this up helpfully with, "Everything is fresh." We opted for the ‘Salt & Pepper Prawns’ (100,000VD), Stir-fried Scallops (60,000VD), Deep-fried Bean Curd (30,000VD) and Stir-fried Chinese Cabbage (30,000VD)
The prawns looked scofftastic and smelled like to it too. Unfortunately, they weren’t fresh enough. They were a little too tough, too chewy and had that telltale mushy neck which, to my mind at least, means they’ve been knocking around the icebox a bit longer than you would expect in a seafood restaurant. Somewhere in the kitchen they’d also become firm friends with thick slivers of chili and ginger. Too thick. This was way over spiced. However, I plead complete ignorance about Taiwanese cuisine. Maybe this is the way Formosans feast? I’ve no idea. Things didn’t improve any with the veggies (not pictured here). Unlike the Japanese style fried tofu I’m used to, which is tasty and soft-centred, the tofu at Fish Tale was hard, served with a cheap Ketchup and lacked any sophistication bar the chiselled vegetable that decorated the plate. It was majorly lacklustre. However, the Chinese cabbage was greasy, but good.
The scallops were another disappointment. Overcooked and chewy to the point of downing chopsticks and giving up. The swamp of basil, ginger, chili and MSG didn’t mask the whole teeth grindingly unhappy encounter. During this sitting, two male customers upped and left after complaining about the food and you don’t see that every day in Saigon. That said, I might give the place another shot, but I’ll give them a few months more to get their shit together before any return encounter. Dinner for two, with drinks came to 268,000VD. View the business card.