Fresh delicious seafood without having to travel to the coast
Blue Crab (49 Quoc Huong, D2) is coming up to its two year anniversary and has had consistently good reviews since it first opened in January 2012. Its mission is high quality at low cost and it is an unwavering commitment to this philosophy that has earned it a loyal following. Blue Crab is not your usual Thao Dien eatery. Located on Quoc Huong, at the distinctly more Vietnamese end of An Phu, it has a local homespun feel. Diners are there for the food, not for luxury furnishings. The menu, designed by owners Alex and Van, is also a homegrown mix of local Vietnamese dishes and European classics.
Alex grew up in Paris and Los Angeles (US) before moving back to Vietnam, and his wife Van spent time in Canada before romance persuaded her to ditch everything and join Alex in Vietnam. Blue Crab is their first restaurant together, and is very much an expression of their personalities. Van heads up the kitchen (Van was a champion cookery competition winner as a kid) while Alex meets and greets out front, and it’s a combo that seems to be working.
The surf and turf choices are endless – there’s everything from lobster to langoustines, BBQ duck tongue and green lipped mussels, to crab wontons and bacon-wrapped scallops. There’s also a freestyle menu which Alex calls the “chicken McNugget philosophy” – you choose the fish and then pick any sauce you want (salt and pepper, garlic butter, or tamarind) and Van will whip up a feast just as you like it. But the real show stopper, the chef’s special, is the seafood mariniere (VND195,000). Based on the French classic moules mariniere (also available for VND175,000), but with the addition of fish, langoustines and giant prawns, it is a steaming bowl of garlicky Gallic goodness – as good as any you’d get in France. Served with chunks of warm French baguette to mop up the juices, this holy trinity of French food – garlic, shallots and white wine – is hard to beat.
For a more Vietnamese seafood feast, we also tried the banh canh, an udon soup with juicy pieces of crab meat, prawns and pork in an aromatic broth (VND70,000). And the seafood mien (noodle) with lobster, langoustines, crab and scallops was as delicious as it was indulgent – bok choy, bean sprouts and peanuts tangled up in a mound of stir-fried elastic strands of glass noodles and topped with mountains of fresh seafood (VND110,000). For carnivores there are plenty of delicious grilled and BBQ meats, including goat breast which was excellent (VND45,000/100g) and for the more adventurous the local classic, duck tongue (VND50,000/100g). The crown, however, goes to the triple honey-dipped short ribs that were marinated, basted and glazed in honey making for a sticky, finger-licking mouthful (VND30,000/piece). All the seafood is sourced from the same venues that supply the city’s top hotels and restaurants, but served up at half the price.
So how do they do it? “That’s a closely-guarded secret,” says Alex. He later reveals that they cut costs elsewhere. They moved out of their house down the road to live above the restaurant to ensure they could keep the prices down. To further demonstrate this, Thursdays they have oyster night where you can scoop up a dozen for VND120,000 – only VND10,000 a piece. With so much on offer it is little wonder they are beginning to outgrow the premises and are looking to move to somewhere bigger next year. But for the time being, they will be where they always have been, serving up their take on French-Vietnamese seafood classics, at prices that could make a regular out of anyone.
Images by Loc Nguyen