Sunday, 21/08/2022 08:28

Seafood that's out of this world

Be sure you look up Quán Cây Bàng if visiting Nha Trang. Photos courtesy of the restaurant.

Paul Kennedy

It’s difficult to comprehend that the second Men in Black movie is 20 years old. Two whole decades since Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones teamed up for a second time to monitor extra-terrestrials among us.

There’s a famous line in the flick when Agent J neuralyzes a couple to wipe their memories of any alien activity.

As he does so, the MIB agent played by Smith tells the man: “Take her to Cambodia, get her a lobster dinner, pay more than a dollar.”

The point of this was that moments earlier in the movie, the man had been bragging about how cheap lobster was in Asia, in this instance, Cambodia.

Now granted, I’m not in Cambodia, and the cost of food all over the world has certainly increased over the past two decades, but during a recent visit to Nha Trang, I discovered a restaurant offering amazing food at rock-bottom prices.

It was one of those unplanned, by-chance, visits that do have a tendency to be a bit of a gamble. Thankfully on this occasion, my bet well and truly paid off.

Having just visited the spectacular Ba Hồ Waterfalls, around 25km outside of Nha Trang, I felt a little peckish so pulled over on the side of the highway to check out what was on offer nearby.

A quick google search on my cell phone informed me I was a stone’s throw from a seafood barbeque restaurant called Quán Cây Bàng.

PERFECT PRICE: A tray of oysters will set you back just VNĐ100,000. 

Of course, I’m a fan of lobster, who isn’t? But it’s a meal I rarely choose for two reasons. One, it can be messy as hell to eat, and two, good lobster doesn’t come cheap.

Considering I was dressed in a scruffy T-shirt and shorts, I didn’t have any problems on the messy eating front, and let’s face facts here, I’m on a back road in the middle of nowhere in Việt Nam so whatever I choose to eat isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg.  

Before I had even turned off the ignition on my motorbike, I was greeted by the beaming owner who seemed genuinely delighted at my presence, and quickly ushered me inside his restaurant.

Now let’s get one thing straight here. This isn’t one of the high-end seafood restaurants that you’ll find not too far away in the heart of Nha Trang. This one is as local as it gets.

But I wasn’t there for the décor or views, I was there purely for the seafood.

After taking my seat, the place really wasn’t busy, I was immediately invited to join a group of men sitting at a table nearby, knocking back Heineken like it was going out of fashion.

A quick beer to be polite then it was menu time.

Again, as this was an off-the-beaten-track eatery, don’t expect any of the staff to speak English. Google translate is the best dining companion you can have.

Originally I wanted a large lobster, but was told they had sold out. It was, after all, late afternoon. So instead I opted for two smaller ones (VNĐ200,000 each), and a tray of 10 oysters (VNĐ100,000).

The lobsters were messy, for sure, but once I’d managed to crack through the red shell, the bright white meat simply melted in my mouth. A side sauce was provided and although I had no idea what it was, it certainly took my main course to another level.

As for the oysters, simply perfect. Garnished with finely chopped spring onions and herbs, they tasted like they’d been picked from the ocean moments before my arrival.

Then for the best part… The bill.

For all of the above, washed down with a couple of cold cans of Saigon beer, the total price was VNĐ520,000.

Now granted, this is more than the amount quoted in Men in Black II, but come on… two amazing lobsters, 10 perfectly cooked oysters, and a couple of cold ones for just US$22?

That’s out of this world.

EX-SHELL-ENT: Make sure you're dressed appropriately for this messy feast.

Quán Cây Bàng

Address: 86J5+R6C, Phạm Văn Đồng, Vĩnh Lương, Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa

Opening hours: 24 hour opening

Comments: You would struggle to find a better local dining experience in the area

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