Thought we'd try out a more 'upmarket' looking Saigon restaurant; a place with several smiling, solicitous uniformed wait staff in red monogrammed shirts and black pants. A bigger place, with polished wooden tables and chairs, it looked reasonably appealing after our morning 'shit walk'.
(Today's 'shit walk' featured a middle aged man on a motor bike, riding through the park. Yelling something unintelligible, while riding his motor bike, he corralled a younger man who'd irritated him in some unknown way, and beat him with a piece of bamboo.)
But back to New Pearl restaurant. We ordered our 'Lip-ton tea, fresh milk', and snack of choice, deep fried bean curd and Hong Kong spring rolls. The tea came quickly.
A considerable time later, so long that we were going to cancel the order, out came some squishy fish-fingery looking things and a plate of dog biscuits. Except the dog biscuits were harder than dog biscuits. I know, having tried a doggy treat back in my childhood. (Al was surprised at this. I thought everyone had eaten at least one dog biscuit.)
Al tried to bite into a dog biscuit. He barely made an indent, just a few little teeth marks, which we surveyed with amusement. He then tackled it with a knife, slicing motion and full bicep press. No luck.
Decided to return the dog biscuits posing as deep fried bean curd. A waiter removed the dish. Half a minute later, his male supervisor and an authoritative woman in very tight aqua jeans and black high heels returned with our dog biscuits and told us to eat them.
We can't, we said. Too hard.
Bemused they looked at each other, at the dog biscuits, at us and seemed reluctant to accept our verdict.
So Al picked up his knife and demonstrated that indeed the little brown squares were impenetrable. But they still wouldn't have it and pushed the plate towards us.
Look, we don't want them; too hard. I demonstrated the consistency of the biscuits by rapping several times on the wooden table. Seeing Madam Aqua Pants' still incredulous look, I leaned forward and mimed taking a bite out of the corner of the table. Also picked up a chopstick and demonstrated that I couldn't bite into that either.
Finally, the plate was removed. But when we tried to get our bill, the waiter indicated that we must stay and eat some more dog biscuits that would be ready in five minutes.
No, we don't want them, just the bill, said Al, miming the bill using the universal signal of scribbling with an imaginary pen on the palm of his hand.
You must eat them. Five minutes.
No, just the bill.
The only way we were getting out of there was by paying for them. Not much, of course. It's Saigon. But enough for a waiter, or chef perhaps, to 'lose face' and maybe his job.