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Khanh’s Vietnamese Restaurant

6901 McCart Av, Ste 200, FW. 817-720-3200.11am-9pm Sun,10am-9pm, Mon–Thu, 10am-10pm Fri–Sat. All credit cards accepted.

Khanh’s Vietnamese Restaurant is nestled in the center of a rather unremarkable strip mall on McCart Avenue, which puts it one of two categories: hidden gem or just another place to eat. Opened by Chef Khanh Dang just a few months ago, his namesake restaurant didn’t outwardly telegraph any particularly exceptional qualities beyond its relative newness. The mall’s other occupants –– a burrito truck, insurance office, and donut shop –– didn’t inspire the same kind of confidence as, say, a few other Asian restaurants sharing the space might have. The transitive law of Asian strip mall eateries suggests that clusters are better, and just one is usually a harbinger of bad news.

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Inside, Khanh’s defied expectation immediately with its interesting hodgepodge of design styles. Modern gray painted accent walls, folksy woodcarvings, and a Rockwellian Christmas tree made for a cluttered yet cozy dining room. This flair for the eclectic was further reflected in the kitchen’s diverse and extensive menu.

In addition to staples like egg rolls and stir-fry, Khanh’s serves a variety of more authentic fare, ranging from shrimp porridge and buttered fried frog legs to lotus rootlets and mung bean shakes. Scouring more than 100 dishes spread across four pages felt like starting a Dostoevsky novel. However, the waitstaff was friendly and patient, so it’s worth taking your time to fully absorb the wide range of possibilities.

My guest and I started with an order of the spring rolls, which, while generously portioned, were mildly disappointing in their meat-to-veggie ratio. A sea of bean sprouts competed with a mound of cellophane noodles to drown out the flavors of a thin slice of pork and two large shrimp. On the plus side, the accompanying bowl of peanut sauce struck a delectably harmonious balance between sweet and salty, and the light appetizer was just the right size to tide us over before the main course.

 The combination of seafood, vegetables, and noodles was much more balanced on the lo mein plate. Shrimp, crab, and a medley of vegetables topped a tangled heap of deliciously greasy noodles. Though Khanh’s markets itself as “healthy and delicious Vietnamese food,” this glistening platter should come with a defibrillator. Still, it was sumptuous. The carrots and celery were especially tasty, retaining a juicy snap that contrasted nicely with the tender chunks of crab.

The standout of the meal was the bánh canh tôm cua, shrimp and crab soup. The giant bowl, already overflowing with ingredients, arrived with a plate of jalapeños, bean sprouts, and lime wedges on the side. The broth was salty but not overpowering and infused the thick, chewy rice noodles with savory flavor that complemented heaps of buttery shrimp and sweet morsels of crab. Finally, a dusting of cilantro and onion polished off a dynamic combination of tastes and textures that made slurping down the entire bowl totally worth the ensuing food coma. Diners who prefer their protein more ambulatory can also try the chicken or meatball soups.

We finished off the meal by sharing a carrot milkshake. Though the fluffy orange concoction can be served with tapioca pearls, we decided to let the veggie dessert stand alone to better taste it. The drink looked like a liquefied creamsicle, and its vanilla ice cream base was actually the strongest flavor. Tiny shreds of frozen carrot added an icy crunch and distinctive aftertaste that, thankfully, tasted less bizarre than it sounds.

Khanh’s may not be located in a hip new development or be part of a trendy chain, but, despite its being a lone soldier in an otherwise bland locale, the place was definitely a gem.

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