Mui Ne is conveniently located along a single two-lane road that straddles the shamelessly eroding coastline. For the directionally capable, it is lined with kilometer markers (only recently were actual street numbers added, although rarely used by the locals). Around Km 14.5 there is a stretch of outdoor seafood eateries situated along the sea wall. On our second night in town, Gavin and I ventured to one of them for dinner, only to find ourselves quickly becoming converts. Ngan Sao Restaurant (Thousand Stars) is just before Km 15, one of the last dining spots if you're percolating northward. Abiding to coastal Vietnamese custom, you choose your live/comatose/dying/recently deceased meal from their temporary habitat - dreary tanks and buckets. They are prepared to your liking using various sauces and a simple grill. The pragmatic outdoor kitchen also offers a few sides like fried rice or grilled vegetables to accompany your protein-rich meal.
After callously tossing away your scruples, securing death sentences for some of the resident inmates, and ordering cold beers, abashedly shuffle your way to the water-front seating and eagerly await your meal under the milky way.
Since we stopped by for dinner several times, we were able to diversify our orders and sample a good amount of the offerings. Our first night, we opted for a kilo of succulent barbecued shrimp, two massive black tiger prawns (the filet mignon of the sea), and a rock lobster.
By night three, we found new victims and set our sights on local shellfish - buttered scallops, sauteed lemongrass clams, and raw oysters drenched in fresh lime and wasabi.
Gluttons we are, stuffed and satisfied each night.
Through our pilgrimages, Gavin and I got to know the owners, a young Vietnamese couple. Viet is a chef at one of the local resorts during the day. He and his wife, Linh, started Ngan Sao a few years back as a modest investment for the future, something they could build together. For roughly $100 a month they rent the sidewalk lot from a local hotelier. With a steady influx of customers and practically no overhead costs, Viet appeared to be quite happy with his blossoming enterprise. While most of the seafood comes from the local Mui Ne/Phan Tiet fisherman, Viet travels as far as Nha Trang for some of his specialty items like 2.5 kilo (5.5lb) gargantuan rock lobsters.
Fresh seafood, roadside comfort, a bit of post-ordering guilt, and great people.