We stopped by Pho 2000 in Fields Corner (Dorchester) on Friday for a modest repast of Pho Dac Biet, tofu salad, and shrimp bun; all quite good. While munching away contentedly we noticed diners at two tables with absolutely spectacular-looking giant golden whole fish; head-to-tail at least 1 and 2/3 chopstick lengths (18 inches?), eyes forward, back-side elevated, resting on huge platters, lightly sprinkled with crushed peanut and chopped scallion. We were literally blown away by the visual presentation. We asked the waitress what the diners were eating. She said it was special catfish, not on the (English) menu, but they usually had it. So, of course, we came back the next evening.
Saturday we ordered jelly fish salad, hand-made limeade, and the special catfish. The salad was jelly fish and shrimp atop shredded cabbage, etc., a bit spicy and fishy; a perfect balance of tart, hot, sweet, crunchy, and pungent, so far our favorite version of Vietnamese cabbage based salad. The salad was so large that we eat about half and packed the rest to go to save room for some fish. The catfish was as we saw the night before. It is served with a pile of round rice paper sheets for roll your own; a bowl of hot water; a platter of vermicelli, a larger platter of fresh mint, Viet basil, mung bean sprouts; thin-sliced cucumber, green apples and carrots; and bowls of thin clear pungent balanced dipping sauce. The fish was expertly deep-fired with no batter so that the dish was delivered greaseless, the skin crunchy, and interior extremely moist. The end result was sort of like a Vietnamese version of Peking Duck, highly recommended. In fact, it was so good, Im somewhat ashamed to admit that the two of us managed to eat the whole thing.