Chef David Gilbert knows good Asian cooking. He has circumnavigated the globe, cooking at five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. In recent years, Gilbert has spent most of his time in Asia, where he served as Executive Chef representing the United States at the World Expo in Shanghai, China. Gilbert’s gastronomic travels have taken him throughout Asia, working side-by-side with one of continent’s most celebrated chefs, Chef McDang.
Dallas has some really good Asian restaurants. But to find them, you may have to leave your comfort zone. The best spots are hidden—they’re often tucked behind a building, around a corner, or down a fish-sauce scented corridor. Here are five of the best.
1.Vietnamese- My first trip to Pho Tay Do brought back all the smells of the long, narrow, and fragranted eastern land mass of Vietnam. I was fortunate to have visited Pho Tay Do for the first time with a Vietnamese national who insisted we ordered the raw beef pho. Its mysterious broth brews in a cauldron (of sorts) all day, which produces an incredible, velvety smooth liquid that is then ladled over thin threads of vermicelli. The bowl of pho (offered two sizes) comes with a standard side plate of thinly sliced beef, bean sprouts, chiles and aromatic South East Asian Herbs. Pho Tay Do’s bowl of delectable goodness could rival any in the streets of Hà Nội.
2. Chinese BBQ- There is much controversy of what constitutes is “real” Chinese bbq. I can tell you this: beyond the borders of China, the best in Dallas is made in the last food stall on the right inside the Hong Kong Market “mall.” My favorite is the cha siu pork, but the market sells a wide range of freshly made specialties, from Peking duck to offal. The market is Cash Only (all orders are packed to-go). Don’t miss their almond milk tea with pearls!
3. Chinese Food- There are a few spots serving up the Real Deal—authentic regional Chinese dishes. My favorite is Mr. Wok, a non-descript family run restaurant that occupies an old Pizza Hut building. This is where you go for the best Peking duck in town, which you’ll have to pre-order at least a day in advance. Each duck is delivered to your table then artfully deconstructed with theatrical flair. Mr. Wok is BYOB and has a “second menu” for in-the-know adventurers. (Ask for Jack. He is the second-generation owner. He will happily guide you through the menu and assist with selections.) Don’t be scared! Try the jellyfish, which is an excellent warm-up for the duck!
4. Thai- I have tried nearly every Thai restaurant in the Dallas area, and when I discover that a restaurant substitutes jalapenos for Thai bird chilies, salt for fish sauce, or ginger for galangal (!), I just want to throw my hands up. Where can you find Thai done right? Silk Road in McKinney is probably the all-around best. This restaurant’s staff is predominantly from Isan (North East Thailand). Order the fried river catfish with Penang curry, a glass of Thai tea (barely sweet) and ”jungle curry” with pork. But here’s the key: no matter where you go for Thai food in Dallas, you MUST always explain that you want REAL Thai food, not the manipulated American version. What else makes a huge difference? Greet the server in Thai by saying, “saw-wat-dee krup/kah” (male/female speaker) when you first walk in!
5. Korean (South of the 38th parallel)- Like most other Asian cuisines, Korean food has a lot of regional variation. I enjoy wondering into Korea town (I-35 and Royal Ln.) for traditional BBQ at Namoo Restaurant. This is a perfect place if you go with an open mind—there will likely be a few “hic-ups.” Their kim chi and fermented dishes are as good as any in Korea. Stick with the beef short ribs for the BBQ then why not stray off and order some other random dishes you have never tried.