The city has been in a buzz since last week. Last Thursday, Donny Sirisavath’s Khao Noodle, the funky East Dallas counter-order spot serving up soulful Laotian food, and Misti Norris’ Petra and the Beast were among the restaurants on Bon Appetit’s national best new restaurant short-list. In the same breath, the magazine named our fair city the Restaurant City of the Year. And all of a sudden, places like Ceviche were scrambling to find extra floor staff to manage the flow of slightly delirious diners. Now, it’s been announced: this morning, Bon Appetit revealed its list of 10 Best New Restaurants, and Khao Noodle is second. Nationally. Take that, Austin. Houston. Chicago. Anyone who doubted us.
Our own Laotian gem figures on a list topped by a Japanese sandwich shop in L.A. with a single counter and an egg sandwich worth jumping on a plane for. The list—which includes a bakery and the cult-following-inducing, hole-in-the-wall Malaysian spot Kopitiam that made everyone I know believe there was only one place to be in New York, for butterfly-pea-dyed rice, obviously—is a revelation of the new paradigm, one of Laotian boat noodles and pandan-leaf caramel toast, made often by second-generation immigrant chefs showing us how to eat.
The new America wants food that is real, served in places that seem to have a purpose beyond Instagramming, made by chefs who are pulling out all the stops of fermentation, responsible sourcing, and aesthetics. It’s hungry for the old and the new, woven into harmony.
Donny Sirisavath is of that ilk. At Khao, with its 28 seats, counting the stools tucked under the counter, he’s been doing something extraordinary. Last week, there were lines out the door Friday and Saturday. Sunday, thank goodness, there was a Cowboys game. The cured pork sausage and painstaking tapioca sakoo balls and infinitely layered broths take a minute to make. It’s just a little noodle shop in East Dallas.
Don’t all go at once.