Mot Hai Ba's grilled duck hearts with green papaya salad

Restaurant Review: Mot Hai Ba

Vietnamese food worth seeking out.

This tiny East Dallas restaurant is worth any trouble you might have finding it. The interior, snug as a ship’s hold, has low-hanging lanterns and narrow, communal tables where you can really talk. And the food sets you adrift. Its slightly elevated take on Vietnamese street fare is vibrant and imaginative, with vigor injected by new chef Peja Krstic. From the beginning, I’ve loved the banh xeo, a lacy-edged pancake studded with shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and perfectly grilled tofu (the seafood version is equally delicious), meant to be swaddled in a fistful of fresh herbs and doused in pungent nuoc mam pha sauce. Krstic’s new items also impress. A grilled duck-heart salad was perfect, the hearts presented on skewers over a green papaya salad whose sauce was poised among salty, sour, and sweet. Tender barramundi came with jasmine rice fragrant from fresh ginger and speckled with black sesame. An ingenious twist on the northern Vietnamese tradition of stuffed bamboo, crab-filled leeks bathed in a fumet whose smokiness, mingled with fried shallot, conjured unexpected impressions of French onion soup, like colonial-era ghosts. I wish they’d retire heavy, star anise-dusted doughnut holes and grainy condensed-milk ice cream. Opt instead for house-made sorbets in flavors like dragon fruit. 

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