Simple and great
45 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, Hoi An
T: (84) 5103925545
Tucked away by the river’s edge a 50-metre stroll over to the “other side” of the Japanese Bridge is Ca Mai — also known as Mai Fish — with an unashamedly small menu featuring humble, old school central and southern Vietnamese dishes at good prices.
Mai Fish, run by the owner of Mango Mango on An Hoi Islet and Mango Rooms in the centre of town, opened in 2012 and is housed in a tastefully renovated old townhouse packed with antique furniture and curios, which spill out onto the riverside alfresco dining area to the rear.
We can practically vouch for every item on the menu — we’ve ploughed through the cleverly thought out set menus, starters, mains and specials, falling down only when it came to dessert — there’s only so much you can eat in two sittings.
The pork bahn mi was a winner even when compared with Hoi An’s most famous street stall — there has been much debate, but location, ambiance and the lack of gelatinous MSG sauces make the ones served at Mai Fish incomparable. The papaya salad and pork and shrimp spring rolls are by far the best we have tasted but the dish we’d go back for was the seafood hotpot, which at just over $10 was enough to both feed and entertain four; there’s nothing like cooking at the table even if that table is occupied by four competitive amateur cooks.
Every dish we ordered came with a full explanation and a smile, the hotpot came with our very own chef to explain and oversee our ridiculous attempts at chopstick table cooking.
The bill for four uncomfortably stuffed diners (without booze — hey, we take our reviewing seriously) came to $30. Had we hit the wine menu, per bottle prices started at about $12, which is what we call great value. For similar food quality in town you’d be hard pushed to match these prices; Green Mango on Nguyen Thai Hoc is a far pricier option with a similar ambiance but larger menu, while Morning Glory on the same street knocks out a similar menu but you lose the intimacy and river views.
Mai Fish is fine-dining for flashpackers, a good lunch or set menu option for backpackers wanting to try the old Hoi An favourites done well and the perfect evening venue for midrangers who have tried and failed to get a booking at chef Duc’s other two restaurants in town.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 24th July, 2014.