Marina Ngoc Suong is a great sprawling ocean liner of a restaurant on Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Swathes of space are carved into cosy corners with décor that is tasteful with a subtle nautical theme — think teak decking bars rather than fishnets on the wall. Even on a mid-week night, the place is full of families, friends and corporate groups all there to graze on the fruits of the sea and, no doubt to see and be seen.

 

I was recommended to dine on the Riva floor but hadn’t booked. The inside dining area is fully occupied so I am shown to a table on the spacious balcony. It’s a gorgeous evening and I am more than happy to eschew the air conditioning for the slightly more casual feel of al fresco seating. 

Unsurprisingly, the menu is heavily weighted towards creatures from the briny deep, although a few classic Vietnamese dishes featuring two and four-footed favourites are also available. Still, one does not come here to review the chicken or pork, so it is the seafood I stick to.

 

I am a sucker for soft-shell crab so these succulent crustaceans are an easy first choice. Ngoc Suong’s version comes coated in well-seasoned breadcrumbs, fried to golden crispness and, I think, slightly pressed. Either that or they have somehow sourced the most slender crabs I’ve yet to see. Crisp, salty and tasting sweetly of the sea, they are a great accompaniment to the fragrant pinot gris we have selected.

 

The skewers of fat prawns grilled with chilli and salt, which follow the crab, are a serviceable version of this dish but to my mind, a little over cooked. They are stuck to the skewer and lacking the juiciness that lifts a simple dish such as this from ho-hum to food of the gods.

 

The mixed sushi platter is, well, mixed. The trio of oysters are plump, fresh and delicious but the fish is a little watery and bland. Luckily, just when things are starting to look a little grim a giant platter of muc mot nang — squid dried in the sun for a single day, which is then grilled and served with a chilli dipping sauce — arrives. The squid is thick and tender with that wonderful chewiness that comes from its day in the sun. The charring accents the sweetness of the flesh while the chilli adds a little zing to the proceedings. Delicious.

 

Service is of the amicably bumbling variety. Certainly not polished, but our waitress is so nice that it’s hard to feel irritated even when she starts to clear wine glasses that are clearly still a third full. At least we catch her before she manages to discard it all. With the cheapest bottle on the list starting at nearly VND1 million, more frugal diners (myself included) may be slightly miffed to lose a quarter of their bottle.

 

We had a pleasant evening in comfortable surrounds and if we were just a little disappointed by a couple of our selections, looking at the tables around us, I would say that we were definitely in the minority. 

Prices

Muc mot nang - VND169,000

Grilled prawns with chilli & salt - VND61,000/100g

Soft shell crab - VND280,000

Mixed sushi platter- VND375,000

 

Rating

Food: 8

Décor : 9.5

Service: 6

 

Rating System

Food, decor and service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15

 

13 – 15 = extraordinary to perfection

10 – 12.5 = very good to excellent

8 – 9.5 = good to very good

5 – 7.5 = fair to good

0 – 4.5 = poor to fair

 

The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals

The Word

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