It’s as if a bunch of rich folk all woke up one morning and asked themselves, "Where can you cadge decent seafood in Saigon?" And they all reached the same stark answer, "Nowhere." Unless all three new joints in town have familial ties or sommit, I can’t fathom out what’s caused the recent seafood splurge. We checked out the disappointing Fish Tale restaurant and I made mention of the rather good Oceania in the comments, although I’ve yet to blog it. Seamoon at 212 Vo Thi Sau Street in District 3 is the third of the new seafood shacks. It’s going for that garish, neon look that seems to have been ‘in’ for the past decade in Vietnam. It’s the latest sprat on the block having opened only three weeks ago. At the entrance we have the usual two smiling Ao Dai clad zombies.
Inside it’s all wicker-chic, water effects, pastel drapes, naff mock Greek plinths and dim lighting. There’s an odd piano/violin combo pumping out bar room hits such as ‘Roll out the Barrels’ at high volume. The occasional pissed up customer joins in on the microphone. A nervous bevvy of waiters descend in force upon entry. The service is scatterbrain and overattentive. It’s a kind of unwritten rule that a restaurant serving some eight fish, thirteen prawn and eight oyster, mussel and scallop dishes should expect their customers to take more than thirty seconds to sit down, peruse the menu before placing the evening’s order. But, thirty seconds is all we get before the pestering commences. A request for five minutes breathing space is reluctantly granted, but we have to deal with ‘annoying waiter-hover’, which blights this city like a bad smell, lest we take too long sussing out our order. But, we’ll excuse them. The staff clearly need a month or two to relax their collective sphincter.
We hit the crab section first and order two Cua rang me (Dry-fried crab with tamarind) for 22,000VD per 100g. All twelve crab dishes are the same price. It arrives quickly and looks like a winner. Although I do like my crabs ‘pre-cracked’ a wee bit and these aren’t. I generally order my crabs ‘salted’ and skip the sauce options, but failing that this is usually the second best option on the card. It’s fresh and well cooked and there’s none of those overpowering palate scrapers to battle with (ginger, basil, garlic – or tamarind) that we found at the Fish Tale.
Next up is this – Ca Tai Tuong Chien Canh Tu (Fried Carp fish in "swallow wing") for 88,000VD. Apologies for the shoddy snaps, but the lighting really is dim… This is an intriguing looker when it arrives. I’m told it’s based on the way fish is often served in the Delta. Although I doubt you’ll find that intricate carrot latticework in your common or garden Mekong diner or this twisty turny fish fryin’ thing they’ve got goin’ on at Seamoon. The fish itself is crisp and the firm flesh falls easily to the tug of chopsticks. I’ve long been hooked on eating the whole of the frazzled tail on these kinda dishes, since I was told it puts a bit more ooomph in your tank… if you catch my drift. Can’t report any added ooomph, but Seamoon serve a tasty crunchy carp tail. It’s a smashing dish and I would return here for another serving of this alone. We also ordered plain rice and Cai ro hap dau hao (Steamed Chinese cabbage with oyster sauce) for 28,000VD which arrived cold and didn’t do much for either of us, but it was fresh.
The bar zone above is an attractive enough chilled seating area with four sofas. I’d recommend you start here with a menu in one hand, a G&T in the other and let the restaurant’s waiters twitch while you debate your scoff-choices. The restaurant has secluded spots for couples and there’s a large covered outdoor section at the front. I’m not sure if Seamoon really knows what it wants to be at the moment, it feels somewhat muddled. It’s at some halfway house on the road from naff to full-on tacky… or something. I’m equally as confused. What I can state for certain is that the food is leagues better than Fish Tale, although it’s not up to the more expensive and classy District 3 neighbour, Oceania at 167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street. Dinner for two with drinks at Seamoon came to 405,000VD. Aesthetics and annoyance aside, I’ll be back for the seafood. View the business card.