Eat Me: DaLat’s Chili

dalatby Steven Doyle

Plenty can be written about Khanh Nguyen at DaLat. He is definitely the king of the late night menu, serving pho and plenty of other interesting Vietnamese items on into the night.  Arrive at 1:59 and you will be welcome to order, whereas any other establishment would be sweeping and shaking you off to find bad waffles for your 2am fix. Many of the late night patrons are waiters, bartenders and chefs. Others arrive directly from the bars that surround the neighborhood. All are welcomed with a steaming bowl of pho, or one of the many other items that will definitely sooth your soul.

And damn those delicious little DaLat shooters which are Vietnamese meatballs seared and sunk into a spicy broth of sake, coconut and cream. Toss your head back for a moment of bliss.   

Last night we checked in for a bowl of pho to shake off the drizzly weather and visit with Khanh. He suggested I try something different, an item on the menu that had eluded me all this time. His Vietnamese take on chili. The menu says that it is award winning, and that is actually true. Khanh recounted the story of a chili cook-off he entered at his daughter’s school in the Lakewood area of Dallas. Khanh told me: “My daughter asked me to enter. No one would even try it for like twenty minutes. Finally one guy did, and he says holy shit it’s good. Then tells everyone, and we sell out and end up winning the competition.” It was a great daddy-daughter moment, and qualifies as award winning in any book.

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The chili is made with ground pork, Vietnamese pork meatballs, and served over rice. There are chunks of onion and peppers to wade through for added flavor. I was as skeptical as the school crowd was until I had my first bite. The flavor tastes as good as any bowl of red I have had, with the added Vietnamese bonus touches. Very rich and meaty. Traditional, no. Delicious, yes. But that is Khanh for you. Always the unexpected.

Speaking of DaLat, the new ZaLat pizza joint is located across the street and it’s open even later. There are actually locations everywhere now so you shouldn’t have a difficult time tasting the signature Crave pizza featured on the menu.

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