I met some friends for dinner at Mot Hai Ba last night. We were seated next to a lively group at a communal table toward the back of the restaurant. One of the women graciously schooched her Burberry coat to the side as I squeezed in next to her, and we chatted for a couple of minutes as I waited on my companions to arrive. This is one of my favorite things about the intimate Vietnamese restaurant; space is limited, so you’re forced to cozy up to the people around you. Sometimes that’s your friends, occasionally it’s strangers slurping pho with chopsticks, and other times it’s chatty, middle-aged women with exceptional taste in outerwear.
My friends and I ordered a wide range of dishes. Plates heaping with fresh basil and cilantro landed on the table. Our fingers danced around one another’s as we plucked the greens from their stalks and wrapped them over deep-fried shrimp and pork imperial rolls. This is another thing I love about Mot Hai Ba: the share plates require interaction. It’s mandatory to play with your food here. Take that, mom.
Halfway through the meal, the main event arrived. The no-frills dish, a side of garlic noodles, was an afterthought after our server suggested it. We had no idea what we were in for. We took turns digging our chopsticks into the small, ceramic bowl to pull out strands of pillowy wonton noodles.
“Oh my God,” my friend gasped. I tried to concur, but what was supposed to be “I know, right?” ended up being a muffled and inaudible noise due to the fact that my mouth was full. We passed the bowl around until nothing was left except an inch of soy, garlic, and butter sauce. I lapped it up with a spoon.
The $8 side is a must for anybody who doesn’t mind reeking of garlic for 24 hours. (I brushed my teeth three times since last night and can still taste the dish. I’m not complaining, though.)
Mot Hai Ba chef and owner, Peja Krstic, sources the noodles from a Vietnamese market in Garland but has plans to make them in-house. “[I’m] getting some new toys and equipment,” he says. As for their place at the restaurant: “They won’t go anywhere,” says Krstic. “I think I would have riots if they were to disappear from the menu.”