Beef Wellington? It’s a taco now. Tuna sushi? Put that in a taco. Thit kho, the comforting Cambodian pork stew? Sure, it can be a taco.
Chetra Chau’s mind is like a transformation device. Put any food in, and it will come out as a taco. This uncanny skill is on display at his restaurant, The Dream Tacos, which recently moved from Bedford to a new home in Plano.
“I have so many experiences of different cuisines, I can make any fine dining entrée and take that into a taco formation,” Chau says. This is a trick he learned as a private chef, cooking a variety of cuisines for demanding clients. Taking their backgrounds, desires, and ingredients as his starting points, he used his private chef days to experiment with all sorts of flavor combinations. He calls those clients’ homes his “test kitchen.”
“I cooked 6 days a week,” he reflects now. “Every day was different houses, different companies, law firms, CEOs of companies. But when the pandemic hit, all of my contracts were put on hold. We stopped everything, and I told myself, ‘this is the perfect time to start your own restaurant.’” The Dream Tacos was open for about a year in Bedford before making the move to Plano late last year.
Judging from the results, those tests were a huge success. The Dream’s tuna sushi taco layers the fish with pickled daikon, herbs, wasabi, and a bit of guacamole. Thit kho is pure comfort food in a tortilla, with the pork slow-braised until ultra-tender and garnished with a generous handful of herbs. Its Southeast Asian flavors make a squeeze of lime the perfect finishing touch.
The specialty dishes are expensive for a taco—$7 to $9—but they’re also almost comically generous. In addition to ample portions of the basic ingredients, you’ll also get a flurry of garnishes. Plating and visuals are very important to Chau, so the garnishes will always add a splash of color. One of The Dream’s signature moves is to top its tacos with fried cellophane noodles for a little bit of extra crunch. When I visited, I enjoyed my two tacos, but if you’re only a little bit hungry, you should consider ordering just one, along with a side.
When I talked to Chau afterwards, I asked him a simple question: why tacos? He is a Cambodian American (which is why thit kho tacos are a specialty), and he has extensive experience with every cuisine his private-chef clients asked for. When he first opened his restaurant, he experimented with a bistro format.
His passion for tacos had two sides. First, it’s easier to train new kitchen workers on a series of taco recipes. Second, a taco lets you pack a big flavor punch in a small package.
“You can have a fine dining experience just from a taco,” Chau says. “We’re not a Velvet Taco, we’re not a Torchy’s Tacos. And I don’t want people to perceive me as a Mexican restaurant. I want people to see it as a global fine fusion, a journey around the world.”
This story originally appeared in the January issue of D Magazine with the headline “His Gift, Wrapped.” Write to email@example.com.