Dalat's Pho Goes Late Night

A new Vietnamese restaurant enters the after-hours game.

There are many options if you're hungry for a bowl of pho in Dallas. Out in the suburbs, countless restaurants offer cheap bowls of noodle-laden soup to Vietnamese immigrants and local diners in the know. Closer to downtown, more refined and Americanized bowls of pho cater to timid diners who fear offal. Lemongrass and Malai offer great bowls of hand-crafted soup, spiced heavily with cinnamon and star anise. The bowls boast beautiful, clean-tasting broths that are nearly works of art, but their lack of gelatinous tendon and thin strips of tripe limits their authenticity.

Pho after midnight, however, has been harder to come by — impossible in and around downtown Dallas. Late-night dining options for tacos and bar food abound, but if your alcohol-laden leanings leave you craving a warm bowl of bliss, you were out of luck until Dalat, a restaurant offering a creative take on Vietnamese cooking, opened this April on Fitzhugh Avenue. Now you can order bowls of pho till 2 a.m.

The large strip-mall space used to hold RedFork, the rudderless farm-to-table-meets-sports-bar concept that closed less than a year after opening. Owner Khanh Nguyen, a lawyer and a newcomer to the restaurant business, leased the space a few months later, and now only the pink composite bar remains in the reinvented dining room. The soft rose juts from a cool, plain-white interior that's softly tinted like a hazy summer sky by the reflection of a massive dark blue dragon painted on one wall and booths covered in deep-sapphire cloth. Quirky French music fills the space with jazzy pop from a lost era, pointing to the colonialism that left Vietnam with baguettes, pâté and other culinary influences.

Beef pho was afflicted with pallid beef.
Lori Bandi
Beef pho was afflicted with pallid beef.
The Vietnamese Dafé Latte and Tiger Blood shots added plenty of color.
Lori Bandi
The Vietnamese Dafé Latte and Tiger Blood shots added plenty of color.

Location Info

Map

Dalat

2537 N. Fitzhugh Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Details

Dalat

2537 North Fitzhugh Ave., 214-827-3200, dalatdallas.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. $$

Italian Khanwich - $5.50

Tuna Khanwhich - $5.50

Dalat Rolls - $4.50

Pho - $8

Dalat Shooters - $6

Beef Vermicelli - $8

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It's an awkward backdrop for pho that is sometimes delicious, other times aggravating and never the same across my several visits. Early bowls boasted soft, broken noodles that were impossible to snare with chopsticks. Subsequent bowls produced better results, but the pasta was still soft — a result of the fresh pasta Nguyen employs in his soups. The broths are shifty too.

It's easy one night to love the chicken version, loaded with big chunks of tender white meat. The broth was a rich, complex base for a soup that would cause anyone with a cold, a hangover or a loving grandmother to swoon. On another visit it was seriously salty, reminiscent of the buzzy, MSG-laden bowls served all over Dallas. Beef broth was always deep and full of character, but it suffered from the same salt inconsistency.

The menu describes wok-seared beef as a component of many dishes, but the meat, while well-seasoned, had no color or char, a consequence of an overcrowded or damp pan. The pale beef isn't as bothersome in the spring rolls paired with a peanut sauce, which offer an addictive counterpoint to the bland, lifeless versions stuffed with shrimp and crunchy vegetables at most Vietnamese restaurants. Vermicelli bowls, however, showcase the flaw. Model versions of this dish lean heavily on well-grilled meats propped up with flavorful marinades and liberated by a generous pour of sweetened fish sauce. The sauce mingles with the meat to leach complex flavors that bathe plain noodles in the essence of carnal cravings. With Dalat's pallid beef, the fish sauce has nothing to borrow, and the whole dish is bland and boring.

The Dalat rolls wrap a fried egg roll in lettuce, other vegetables and then finally a soft rice-paper wrapper. It's a great idea for a play on textures, but the egg roll inside needs more fat and flavor, or less time in the frier. They're bland and dry for now. (Nguyen told me Tuesday he's updated the cooking process for the beef, but I was unable to return to check it out.)

Still, there are reasons to practice patience as Dalat continues to refine its unique take on Vietnamese cuisine. Dalat shooters offer odd little sake glasses filled with a smooth, orange-colored soup reminiscent of curry, and a small pork meatball or two — a fine way to kick off your meal. And while banh mi purists will take issue with missing pâté and grilled pork, the Khahnwiches, named after the owner himself, are good across the board.

An Italian sandwich makes use of salami and turkey, while the tuna version employs a salad marked with big chunks of fish lightly dressed in mayonnaise. Each boasts an aggressively applied blend of pickled carrots and daikon (something all banh mi makers should indulge with greater enthusiasm), cilantro, jalapeño slices and a light, crusty blistered roll. There's a tofu version for vegetarians and a SPAM version that, according to the menu, makes use of cold pressed ham from a can. The menu states the "meat" is not fried because that's the way Nguyen likes it, which was not the way I wanted to eat it, so I didn't order it at all.

Nguyen cites the same reason for neglecting tripe and tendon from his pho. It's not there because he didn't grow up on it and simply doesn't like it — an odd approach in a business that typically caters to its customers. But a quick scan of the dining room suggests that most of the people here probably didn't grow up eating offal either. Even if Nguyen did enjoy the slippery qualities of well-cooked tendon and the leathery texture of tripe, he's still bound by the palates, tastes and habits of his customers, just as Lemongrass and Malai are. This is not authentic Vietnamese cooking, but then it was never supposed to be.

 
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13 comments
wrynogrl
wrynogrl

Bamboo Pho and Springroll in Arlington has some of the best pho around! They are in a strip center off Mayfield and Matlock. Great authentic food , nice atmosphere and an awesome bar!

Mr. Khanh
Mr. Khanh

LOL. Sorry, it's not my legal experience (I was a corporate lawyer, not a litigator), I just have adult ADHD. I get bored easily and responding to hater-mail just calls to me. Thanks though for noting that we are "the best pho you can have at 2am!" Hopefully we can beat Jack in the Crack in that time slot too.

disappointed
disappointed

Geez, Mr. Khanh. Micromanage much? Seriously, every post on here, and every bad Yelp review has a rebuttal by you. Lawyering or restauranteering, pick one, but don't mix the two. As for Dalat, I went there, and it was average all around. Probably the best pho you can have at 2am, but that's about it.

Razjou
Razjou

I first happened upon Dalat when a friend of mine mentioned it to me about a week or so after it opened. Simply stated, I had one of the best Pho's that I've ever had. I think Scott's review is a very fair review of Dalat's but its important to remember that it covered a period that Khanh openly stated was his soft opening. By soft opening, Khanh explained that he was still defining his restaurant menu, experience and staff. Think of going to "dress rehearsal night of an show - you know its going to be great, but you also know that its the cast's chance to perfect it before the opening night. So, yes, I experienced a varied consistency in the pho at the beginning. But two things kept me coming back. First, the incredible flavor I experienced my first time and during other visits, and second, Khanh's caring attention and sincere desire to make the best meals that he could. The result? I find that the consistently issue mentioned in Scott's article is solved. For at least the last 4 or so weeks, I've been there at least twice a week and the food has been and is excellent. Every time I leave, my wife and I are amazed at the quality of the meal we just had for the incredible price. Without arguing which is better, the pho here rivals those of the most expensive (and cheaper) establishments in town. Based on my personal experience, my advice to anyone curious enough to read these comments is this: Go, try it yourself. It may or may not be "authentic" Vietnamese ( How would I know, I'm a pure white boy), but its a great, healthy meal. And, if Khanh is there, take a moment to meet and talk to him (chances are he'll come over and introduce himself)...I've found that a conversation with Khanh is as good as the food. Final word: Its simply great to have this restaurant in Dallas. I'm sure it'll become a mainstay for years to come. PS - Whenever we go, we take our 5 and 7 yr old boys...its very kid friendly (at the right times of the day of course) and the boys love the chicken pho. Enjoy.

Katierex9
Katierex9

Can you explain the deconstructed pho?

Khanh
Khanh

Thanks so much Sven. So very kind of you. We much appreciate it!! Thanks for the free publicity Dallas Observer.... Hey Dallas, here are some quick points about us: - We are open with the full menu from 11am - 2am every single day! - Scott Reitz of the Dallas Observer says that our broth is "rich, complex" and "deep and full of character" (among some other things :). Scott liked our KHANHwiches and DaLat shooters. - We have a full bar and a great patio. You must try our house shots (if you are over 21): the Tiger Blood shot and our Cafe Sua Da shot (Vietnamese Iced Coffee and vodka). Our LoganTini and RockTinis are awesome also. - We have authentic Pho (No, we do not offer tripe or tendon, but the majority of Vietnamese people DO NOT eat tripe or tendon... it's an option like getting anchovies on your pizza... pizza can be authentically American without having anchovies on it). - We also have many items on the menu that are not authentic. Our banh mi is different. And we have original creations like our Vietnamese Chili, and our new VietMEX menu. My cooks have been creating Mexican food for themselves off of our Vietnamese ingredients and I'm starting to offer some of the items to our customers. VietMEX beef tacos anyone?? - Lastly, we are trying to do something very different with our Happy Hours. - MONDAY is VAPOR ROOM day. High end liquors like Macallan and Woodford Reserve and Patron for $5.5 from 6p-11p. We are trying to bring back the smoking rooms of old... without the real smoking. Bring your eCigarettes or buy one from us at the bar for $12. Smoke clouds and Glenlivet on the rocks anyone? - TUESDAY is ANIME dress up day. Bring out your inner nerd and join us for a dress up party every Tuesday from 6p-11p. We have DJ Carlton Dixon spinning for the entire Happy Hour. Warning to our regular dinners. Please be warned that the place is rockin from 6p-11p on Tuesdays. We are happy to offer you take out if you do not prefer the loud music. It's only on Tuesday nights. We hope that you'll give the Anime thing a try though.... wouldn't this be a super cool thing for Dallas to have as an option every Tuesday?? - Our entire menu can be ordered for Take Out. Just call us at 214-827-3200 before 2am. - For those who have not been, we only have a very small temporary sign on the window. We are at the corner of Manett and Fitzhugh. 0.5 mile East of 75 on the South side of the street. We are before you get to Strangeways (you should go if you have not been to Eric's fabulous bar), and we are attached to Super Save Liquor (fabulous folks over there too). - For the folks who live at the Belmont Apts, The View or Fitzhugh Urban Flats, we are walking (staggering) distance from you. Please come out and give us a try! Did I mention that we are open with the full kitchen til 2am every day? -Khanh Eat. Drink. Pho!

Sven
Sven

All I have to say is Khanh has the passion and intuition of a mad scientist...always yearning to better his product and meet the needs of his customer. That is almost impossible to find in the restaurant business and even in the kitchen. The guy wants to produce the best tasting food possible...give him some time. Like the saying goes "Rome was not built overnight". I had the pleasure of speaking to Khanh for 5-10 minutes a week ago and was amazed to hear the complex process he goes through to try and better his food! He wants to hear his customers opinions and wants to try and please everyone. Which is next to impossible but is so refreshing to see! I was first exposed to pho in the Bay Area (where many people say the best pho resides in the US) and I can tell you that the pho at Dalat would knock the socks off what you would typically find out there. I would bet you by the fall you are going to see a line out the door to get lunch, dinner, or late night at Dalat...especially when you can get one of the best tasting banh mi (Khanhwhiches) I have ever had! (Get the beef Khanhwhich peasant style...its delicious!) Keep doing what you are doing Khanh! And I will make sure to tell everyone about Dalat!

Starletta
Starletta

I've been there 3 times, always ordering the beef pho, and always receiving excellence, I now need to branch out and try some new menu items!

Khanh
Khanh

Thanks, Scott. Very glad you liked our sandwiches and shooters. Sorry about the inconsistent pho during your soft opening visits. I think we've worked out most of our kinks with the noodles and broth at this point. Please give our pho another try when you get a chance. Thanks for the comment on Dallas practicing patience as we continue to work on our unique vision. We're in our infancy (we haven't hoisted up a sign yet), and know that we have much more work ahead of us with respect to improving our food and service. We do have a strong (but definitely quirky) vision of where we want to be when we grow up though. -Khanh Eat. Drink. Pho!

quahog_convo
quahog_convo

Vastly more objective and detailed than any of the "OMG GR8EST PHO EVAR" reviews on Yelp.

Dris25
Dris25

Good review. But Dalat doesnt appeal if the taste keeps wavering every other night. Pho needs consistency.

thomassu03
thomassu03

@wrynogrl Totally agree with you on this, Bamboo Pho & Springroll is the most authentic Vietnamese & their Asian fusion is as good.

Abc
Abc

dude agreed! how much practice do you need to have as a restaurant. you either open know what you're doing or not.

 
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