One thing you need to do in Vietnam is to đi nhậu, or ‘go drinking’ in its basic translation. However, it’s more than that. It’s the act of getting together with friends and celebrating their company for hours on end. Beer and food is always involved along with the loud banter and occasional singing. Sure, it may sound familiar, like your izakaya or tapas or even happy hour for some of you. But no, this tradition, or even obligation I dare say, is usually done street side on those small uncomfortable red chairs and flimsy tables that one of your friends will hold still for the night. And of course, it would be worth it when the place is bringing out plate after delicious plate of ốc, or for those who haven’t guessed it, snails. This was the case at Quán Ốc A Sồi.
Surprisingly, this amazing place isn’t located on Đường Vĩnh Khánh, where shops of this type seem to congregate (see the post about oysters prepared 24 different ways). No, this place is located in District 3 and has three storefronts all monopolizing one section of Nguyễn Thượng Hiền street. Even more impressive was the setup, solid chairs and tables with all your necessary utensils and condiments. Right on!
We happen to come here right before the rush and found a table right at the entrance. Full view of the scooters, cars, and people traveling through the street. We even observed the bicycle acupuncturist who rode by calling out his presence to those living above the shops. Neat. If I had an allergic reaction I know who to call for to help stop any inflammation so I could continue eating. That’s how it works right? Anyways, we ordered almost every type of mollusk on the menu. I was in nhậu heaven, especially with the bottles of ice cold beers at hand.
So the thing with drinking beer and eating snails (and other seafoods) is that you go at a slow pace. You’re not scarfing down snails and leaving in 15 minutes. You’re carefully prying open, twisting out morsels of goodness, and tasting the various sauces, all while enjoying a cold brew. And these places carry a variety of these sea delicacies along with several ways of preparing them. You’ll be wondering if you should circle back to that one you loved or continue on trying out new dishes. Preferably you’d do the latter, but if you have a big enough group, you’ll be ordering your favorites all night. For tonight though, we were only a party of two.
Service was almost family like. Our server helped us order, made sure the drinks kept coming, and even helped us open the cockles. That was a godsend since I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. Glad our waiter showed me before I took a hammer to it. Well, even after dinner he helped our Uber driver find the correct street to pick us up. Now that’s friendliness you don’t encounter too often. After a tasty meal, this was icing on the cake.
I’ll be back with reinforcements next time I’m in town.
237 Nguyễn Thượng Hiền
Phường 4, Quận 3
Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Verdict: If you want a less crowded area without sacrificing good seafood, this is your place.