The City of Ate Interview: DaLat Owner Khanh Nguyen on the Power and Problems of Pho

Categories: Interviews

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Khanh Nguyen had a successful career as a local attorney when he decided to take a little time off, a sabbatical of sorts, between projects. During that time, he immersed himself in traditional Vietnamese cooking, spending months trying to perfect various recipes, mainly concentrating on pho, which is highly relevant considering that when he was just 8 years old, a bowl of pho saved his life.

The months off with time spent cooking turned into a year and, eventually, Nguyen confessed to his wife that what he wanted open a restaurant. She reminded him that on their first date many years ago he told her his life-long dream was to open a restaurant. With that marital nod for the go-ahead, Nguyen opened DaLat at 2357 Fitzhugh in East Dallas. But Nguyen didn't want just any pho spot -- he wanted to serve late-night pho for those seeking better nourishment than a sourdough bacon burger at a greasy drive thru.

For the past month DaLat has kept the lights on and the stove hot for Dallasites until as late as 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Nguyen recently expanded his hours to include lunchtime.

How are the hours working out for you?
It's not too bad. I've learned that my career as an attorney prepared me well for long hours. It's certainly not something I want to continue for a long time, but I'm accustomed to the massive hours.

I just hired a GM and we're trying to find a balance with the hours we're keeping. Having her here allows me to concentrate on other basic things, like a new sign and new patio furniture.

On nice nights I hear the windows over the bar are open...
Yeah, both windows over the bar completely open up.

What's been the biggest adjustment so far?
The only hard part is that it's seven days a week. And when my wife pulls a nightshift in the ER at Medical City (she's a physicians assistant) and then the baby sitter has issues, it can be a challenge.

Have you gotten your fill of cooking yet?
I'm not doing that much cooking anymore. I created the recipes and have trained the staff, and I'm still chief accountability officer for everything. But, right now I'm mostly just doing the more complicated stuff, like the pho broth. It's very very hard to teach that. It's not just a recipe. I have to baby the pho broth all the time.

Location Info

Dalat

2537 N. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant


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10 comments
Toni & Sonya
Toni & Sonya

My friend and I went to this place yesterday. Its about a mile or two from my house. Khanh came out and had a seat and talked with us for a while. Great dude, great food, great service.  I look forward to seeing his future plans for the place realized.

Kristin
Kristin

Love your Pho, Khan!! Best I've had in Dallas for sure. Keep it up!!

wawa
wawa

Love Kahnh! Thanks for being so welcoming! :) I am an omnivore, but I've been telling vegetarian friend how you have great vegetarian items, including a Phô with veggie broth. Hard to find! Can posts be revised for typos? "Loosing" should be "losing", and "Communist" in one part should be "Communists". Sorry they stuck-out at me...

KN
KN

Thank goodness the Observer editorial staff made the right call in placing the article in the City of Ate section as a human interest story and not in the News section.  Surely they labored over the decision.  Love my peeps! 

KN
KN

Love it.  The best real Pho restaurant name has to be Pho Kim Long in Vegas.  Awesome because Kim Long is a legit Vietnamese name.  I was going to call the place Pho Mi, but the boss(wife) ixnayed that one.  We do have a cool restaurant slogan though:     Eat. Drink. Pho.  

KN
KN

Very kind of you sir.  If you are still eating vegetarian, we have added many more items to the menu.  I have a vegetarian vermicelli dish that rocks.  Vermicelli noodles with lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, pickled carrots, crushed peanuts and wok seared tofu.  It's all tied together with a new soy sauce based nuoc cham (dipping sauce that's typically fish sauce based) that is equal in taste to the original sauce.  I've been working on tweaking this sauce for months.  I'm finally very happy with it.  If your gout is finally better however, let's get you cranking on the rest of the menu! 

Emmaline
Emmaline

funny thing is.. this isn't news.. most Vietnamese-Americans today all have refugee stories. Most if not all Pho Restaurants "baby their broth" aka using multiple pot systems to make sure the broth does not evaporate or gets too salty. Pho is a delicate soup, it's good to know Khanh is attempting to do it right.. however it's what is expected. 

Brooks Anderson
Brooks Anderson

I had the pho several days ago. I thought the broth was beautifully fragrant and quite flavorful. I really enjoyed it and will absolutely be back. I must say, however, that I sure would love some 'gan' and 'sach'. I hope the spot does well and I look forward to supporting it.

jamal
jamal

All that TLC does not go unnoticed- the broth is flawless.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I'm still mad at Khanh for not taking my idea of a self-serve place called Go Pho Yourself.

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