How to Pronounce Mot Hai Ba, the New Vietnamese Restaurant Opening on Tuesday, April 23 in Lakewood

Chargrilled pork belly (photo by Kevin Hamilton)
Chargrilled pork belly (photo by Kevin Hamilton)

It’s official: Tuesday, April 23 is when Mot Hai Ba (“123” in Vietnamese) is opening, starting at 11 a.m. (lunch) and 5 p.m. (dinner).

So far, so good. This Vietnamese street food restaurant sounds promising, especially since Dallas needs more Asian food. It’s a cool thing the ladies of Good 2 Go Taco are rising to the challenge.

But as long as we’re on this subject, I’m just going to come out and say it. No one else on the food blogosphere has, but I’m jet lagged and groggy from 20-something hours of travelling back from Taiwan (Btw, thanks for your system failure yesterday, American Airlines. Loved being stuck in Vancouver.), so I’m okay with being the bad guy.

Any restaurant name that needs a pronunciation guide in the press release is guaranteed bad news. Nancy said it right here when she found out Sēr (pronounced “sear”) was replacing Nana. Sēr may have been terrible, but Mot Hai Ba tops the cake of really, really bad names. I’m adding it to our growing list of worst names for restaurants, ever. Even WITH the pronunciation guide, mo’oht high bah, I doubt 99% of Lakewood residents are going to be able to say “123” in Vietnamese correctly. Did you know that the Vietnamese language has six tones? (Chinese has five tones, and even I struggle with that.)

I know Jeana Johnson explained to Teresa on CultureMap that people say “mot hai ba, yo!” before they drink in Vietnam, but when I forwarded the press release to a Vietnamese friend, she didn’t make that connection upon reading the headline. She was confused about the name. So am I. Why not pick a name with more meaning? What about something non-Vietnamese clientele can actually pronounce? As for me, I’m going to go with Liz’s suggestion and call it “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” for now.

[Update 4/23/13 – Chinese has four tones, not five. Let’s hope my old Chinese school teachers never stumble on this blog.]


  • joeat

    This makes absolutely no sense. I like these hard working, talented gals but they are not even trying to make this place a success. How many people in this county can ever pronounce, remember, tell a friend about this place. It will be known as “that place where York Street was”. What a losing beginning.

  • runDMC

    Or, really, it might be “that place next to the lube shop” or “that place next to doggie doo central”. The real estate is as prime as the name.

  • Dallaslaw

    It’s a Vietnamese restaurant so why should they dumb down the name to make it easier for others? Should anyone with an ethnic name change it too?

  • critic

    Get over the name. If it is good food and reasonably priced, the place will be packed ! Maybe the name will scare a few away so I can get seated too. These ladies rock when it comes to cooking.
    Just maybe someday Dallas will be that International city.

  • Carol Shih

    People and restaurants are two different things. People’s names are usually meaningful, so I wouldn’t want anyone with an ethnic name to change theirs. (I have one, too, but I don’t go by it because I don’t particularly enjoy hearing people butcher the name my late grandfather gave me, even if they can’t help it.) It makes sense for La Me in Richardson to be called La Me, because it means tamarind leaves. Cool. But what American restaurant would name itself “One Two Three”?

  • JtB

    I have no problem with the name. If one cannot count to three in a few languages then one is probably the type that only eats out at Whataburger or on a crazy night, ventures to Del Taco. Dallas is becoming more diverse and perhaps it’s time to add “mot, hai, bot” in the local lexicon along with “uno, dos, tres,” and “une, deux, trois” .

  • Carol Shih

    Positive thinking. I like it.

  • UniDosTresQuatro

    What a silly name! Now, had they named it “một hai ba bốn” then I would get it.

  • Carol Shih

    Positive thinking. I like it.

  • JSSS

    Wow, generalize much? If you are the type of customer that Mot Hai Ba attracts, I will stick to the other “diverse” restaurants that I frequent.

  • Camille Cain

    This review is lame. The ladies of G2GT…MHB, deserve a bit more respect. The citizens of a world-class city like Dallas deserve a bit more credit! We’re not a bunch of backwater hicks that “cain’t git on with them foreign names”. Show a touch of sophistication, D Magazine.

  • Dubious Brother

    No problem with the name but if it were me, I would drop the Northern from the Northern Vietnam description of the food. Some of us older folks don’t associate North Vietnam with a pleasant dining experience.

  • DallasVegan

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare this in a bad-name conversation to Sēr – that is just a horribly punny name that deserves ridicule.

  • Trace

    I was told once — urban legend maybe — that many vietnamese restaurants have numbers for names, or have numbers in their names.

  • Sandy

    Why does everyone try so hard to be cool. Good 2 Go Vietnam I would get in a nanosecond.

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  • Bryan Dunn

    Everyone seems to be overlooking the tantalizing Bun Cha in the photo.

  • Senor

    1. It’s not a review.
    2. Dallas is not a world-class city.

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  • Hubert

    At least it’s somewhat phonetic with single syllable words. Too bad I didn’t get the connection with the “mot hai ba, yo!” though. I must be too Americanized. -_-

  • Glenn Campbell

    Is this really a blog post about a Vietnamese name for a Vietnamese restaurant? And Carol doesn’t like the name so she writes 300 words about it?

    This does not constitute insight, intuition, or critique. It’s just nebulous (and unoriginal) criticism for criticism sake. And delivered on the eve of this small local businesses’ opening. Shih like this makes me sick.

    A microcosm of the complete disingenuous trash we have all come to expect from Carol Shih, who again demonstrates a lack of journalistic integrity and worth, and further reinforces our expectation that she will deliver what you what have come to expect from her big bag of nothing.

    Carol, you are the one with the misappropriate name, they put an ‘h’ where they shout have put a ‘t’

    Please bring back the girl that thanks Tristan, at least she was a good writer…

    • mateoshelley

      Glenn, thanks for joining in on the conversation. Your inflated and misdirected hostility towards Carol is as alarming as your commentary is shallow. For a man who criticizes Carol for not being insightful, intuitive, or offering valuable critique, your comeback is to seriously offer a grade-school, bully remaking of her name with a “t” replacing the “h”? Very clever, and profound in fact.

      This post does constitute insight insofar as it considers the relationship of a restaurant’s name to the customer’s it hopes to provide service to and how that might adversely or positively effect its perception. Instead of making the effort to correctly pronounce the name, some people might simply be turned away, as is the all too often fickle attitude of humans in dining.

      The intuitive part of Carol’s post is that she presupposes the difficulty of the name as it communicates the business to the people. People fear what they do not know.

      The critique part is so painfully obvious, it pains me even to have to mention it. This couldn’t be a more overtly stated criticism of the restaurant’s name choice while also offering a question to reader’s about how that positively or negatively affects the business itself.

      And how in the eff is this nebulous? Do you know what that means? It’s rather straightforward. Lastly, it’s hardly disingenuous. Carol makes an introduction to her respect and appreciation of the wonderful people behind the new restaurant and also mentions her excitement about them offering more Asian food in Dallas. She even consulted with a native Vietnamese friend who is very in tune with her own culture and its presence in Dallas.

      Again, thanks for your completely ill-founded masquerade of intellectualism. You’re snappy wit and petulant repartee are just what we need here. Also, misappropriate is a verb, though that doesn’t excuse your ignorant ranting and insensitive racism towards Carol’s name and family.

  • Zac Crain

    Fist bump.

  • Glenn Campbell

    Im suprised you are defending this trash. If there is anything that is insensitive and racist, its Carol’s attitude towards this yet to be opened restaurant. She calls it “guaranteed bad news” because she doesnt like the name? So misguided, so negative, and so petty. If there is something that should not be tolerated, its negative pettiness in the face of people who are trying to do something positive, genuine, and heartfelt. I dont go for that garbage.

    You can do what you can to protect Carol, including calling me a racist, but I stand by what I said, this post is junk. Perhaps its only bested by a post I read where she blamed the configuration of a parking lot for a drunk driver killing a bicyclist. Put down your pitchfork and go find that one.

  • NePasChinois

    Uh… I’m no Chinese speaker, but even I know that it has four, NOT five tones…

    • Carol Shih

      Yep, you’re right. I’ll fix that.

  • primi timpano

    So I guess all restaurants in Dallas should have easily pronounced English names? The article is stupid at best and xenophobic or racist at worst. I don’t like piling on, but this is about par for the course for Carol, whose past Farmers Market posts were likewise uninformative.

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  • no I am not vietnamese

    are you serious? who needs a pronunciation guide for “mot hai ba”… you pronounce it just the way it is spelled. and just in case you don’t know, “mot, hai, ba, yo!” is what vietnamese people say when they raise their glass. if you don’t wanna familiarize yourself with vietnamese culture and language, why even bother to go to a restaurant…. some people are just ridiculously ignorant. Americans.