Renowned chef Duc Tran’s authentic knowhow marks Mai Fish a standout for traditional Vietnamese cuisine in Hoi An. Just a stone’s throw from the centrally located Japanese Bridge, it’s a celebration of home cooking in a verdant courtyard. The menu features well-known Vietnamese standards that are solidly mid-priced but well worth it.
At Mai Fish the midday sun is effectively filtered by sturdy, flowering climbers – home to buzzing bees (I kid you not) – in and around a rustic Hoi An heritage house. The feel is more Provence farmhouse than urban Vietnam. There are open spaces of river reeds reaching to the river immediately ahead, the music is natural birdsong and the bustle of the town is nowhere to be seen or heard.
The simple selection features standards such as Pho Bo (Beef Pho), Muc Nuong (Grilled Squid). Lured by the authentic, family vibe we opted for Cau Lau, Hoi An’s signature dish, which was accompanied by a complementary serving of crunchy, rice pancake.
It’s fashionable to choose cheaper street sellers’ Cau Lau over that of restaurants but Mai Fish is a big step-up in quality and quite reasonable at 95,000 VND (4.15 USD). The pork was choice filet, set against beautifully fresh sweet cocktail onions, shallots, mint, lettuce and bean sprouts. A soy and chili mix and limes and green chilies were at the ready for those who needed them but without fuss the dish stood alone, a masterpiece of complementary, yet very different, flavours and textures in almost no broth at all. What a surprise that was.
‘The best Cau Lau I’ve ever had’, declared my companion unequivocally. By the way, the mango and passionfruit juice was perhaps the best she’d ever had also. A perfect lunch.
Updated February 2019