I don’t care much for Dallas as a city but having lived there I accumulated a few very good friends and I do like them despite their location. A support and distraction trip to Dallas for one friend dealing with some unsavory aspects of life produced an appealing culinary side effect – good Vietnamese food.
Mot Hai Ba is the reincarnation of York St Restaurant, still the same NYC shotgun space although now the feeling is more pan-Asian with long narrow tables, button stools and a propensity for black and red. Despite its small size and odd location at the end of a residential street in East Dallas, it is fantastically busy; low-key and quiet conversation but the waiting list for lunch on Saturday queued up after 1p.
I’ve frequented many Vietnamese venues in Houston, which oddly has one of the largest Vietnamese ex-pat communities in the US, however I had never tried Green Papaya Salad. This time I did. I couldn’t differentiate the flavour of the green papaya however the overall experience was good; the fish sauce, lime and garlic dressing overwhelmed all other flavors – good thing I like those flavours. The crisp texture of the papaya played nicely with the toothy morsels of beef.
I only have two litmus tests for Vietnamese – Pho and Banh Mi. Mot Hai Ba had both so I went with Banh Mi, the BBQ chicken rendition. The bun was crispy and light. The chicken had been sriracha and honey basted. Requisite cucumber and carrot slices were thin, fresh and sparsely applied which allowed the cilantro and purple basil flavours to shine. I located the most important condiment on the table – chili paste – applied liberally and enjoyed. As Banh Mi goes, these were above average.
I read the wine and beer menu until I noticed Hitachino Nest, which is the very interesting brewery from Japan I noticed when in Ireland. So far I’ve enjoyed several of their beers, post-Ireland, which I can only categorize as quirky. This variety, Dai Dai, is distinct in its dominant flavour of orange zest. A very appealing pairing with basil or cilantro spiked food.
No complaints; the servers were knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. Our meals came out at different times, which is always problematic in a large group but this is likely a consequence of a small kitchen.
Reasonable. Small Papaya Salad $6, Banh Mi $7, however I can get comparable Banh Mi in Houston for $2. This could be artifact of Houston having a larger and more demanding Vietnamese community.
A few Dallasites recommended trying Mot Hai Ba for dinner rather than lunch since some items, like the Banana Flower Salad with Chicken and Crispy Whole Fish with Celery and Peppers are not available at lunch. I’ll likely try those options on my next Dallas visit since I haven’t seen those items on Houston menus.
Lunch: June 2014
Mot Hai Ba | 6047 Lewis | DTX 75206