“Another week, another meal” Yask grimly proclaimed as we walked through the doors of yet another non-descript Vietnamese restaurant. On tonight’s agenda was a quick feed at ‘Thanh Thanh’ then off to see Argo, the next installment in Ben Affleck’s roller coaster Hollywood career.
After a run of recent deep-fried disappointments we opted to forgo our traditional spring roll starters in favour of the more exotic prawn stuffed crabbed claw. Despite sharing more resemblance with a deep fried baseball than a crab’s claw, the entree was a winner. After dividing the giant nugget of minced prawn and dipping it into the subtle sweet chilli sauce we all agreed that it was a bit like the older, more uncouth but still endearing older brother of Prawn Toast. Three molten hot wonton soups followed shortly after, while it might have been from the combined tongue and roof of the mouth burns that were subsequently endured by the three of us, the soups seemed a bit bland and ultimately uninspiring. Usually a real favourite, the soups are starting to become a bit of a won-hit wonder and may well suffer the same fate as the Spring Rolls with an extended spell on the sidelines. However, our final starter, chilli squid legs soon had us forgetting about everything that had come before it. More lightly fried and significantly more tentacle-ly than the salt and pepper squid that is a staple across the street, these legs came perfectly seasoned and with a generous scattering of chilli and fried shallots. The accompanying lemon juice with white pepper was not as universally enjoyed, but for those who did dip it provided the perfect acidic foil to the squid.
Buoyed by the success of the crab claw and squid legs we decided to continue the marine theme and go with a chilli seafood hotpot and a serve of Szechuan prawns as well as some pepper beef to round off the meal. Sadly the ensuing dishes sunk rather than made the splash we had hoped for. While well balanced and packing the requisite punch the Szechuan sauce wasn’t strong enough to drown out the flavour of the decidedly unfresh prawns. The hot pot too was a source of disappointment; while there was an abundance of seafood the same overly fishy taste dominated the dish. The pepper beef went some way towards salvaging the evening but by the time it had arrived in all its sizzling glory the damage was done.
Unbeknown to us at this stage, the meal we had just consumed effectively reflected the film career of Ben Affleck. The same head-spinning heights that were achieved after he was thrust into significance with Good Will Hunting were shared by us as we devoured the chilli squid legs. But sadly like his career the meal wasn’t all Oscars and crab claws. Just like Gigli, his ill-fated collaboration with Jenny from the Block we too experienced soul-destroying failure via our seafood hotpot and Szechuan prawns. So, as we vacated the restaurant somewhat dejected the only question that remained was whether Argo would be squid legs or hot pot… it was squid legs!
Value 1/5 ($119