Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam, 1001 S Main St, Ste 151, FW. 682-385-9353. 11am-9pm Tue-Thu, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The weather was crisp and desolate the Tuesday night my friends and I arrived at Four Sisters – A Taste of Vietnam. It was a perfect evening for steaming, piquant Southeast Asian fare. I had high hopes. Rumblings about Tuan Pham’s new restaurant had saturated the local culinary scene long before the eatery’s location had even been established. And since (much to my dismay) traditional Vietnamese dishes have been supplanted by the skyrocketing fame of pho, I was looking forward to enjoying what was being billed as classic Vietnamese soul food.
Fort Worth native Pham – a former Shinjuku Station and Tokyo Café cuisinier and consultant who once coaxed struggling restaurants from the red back to black – conceived his new restaurant (its grand opening was just this November) in honor of his mother, titular sisters, and the homemade Vietnamese cooking of his childhood.
Like most hip new eateries in the South Main Street area, Four Sisters offers unique craft cocktails, so my guests started the evening with the house-invented cocktail Vyvy –– a rich, delicate libation of rum, fraises des bois jackfruit puree, lemon sour, and egg white. The drink was a hit. I couldn’t resist a taste and was happy I succumbed.
The appetizer of lemongrass pork arrived first. The small, succulent sausages presented on skewers of lemongrass released a torrent of salt, suet, and sweet focused by the lingering influence of the herb. It was just this harnessing effect for which the Thai-influenced Vietnamese cooks of centuries ago originally used lemongrass. The starter of beef wraps – ground meat cloaked in betel leaves and brushed with honey – was equally simple and satisfying. The peppery freshness of the leaves restrained the richness of the beef and honey and revealed again Pham’s sophisticated understanding of traditional Vietnamese flavor balancing.
The entree of fried-rice crab landed on the table as I inhaled the last of the beef wraps. My chopsticks automatically lifted a hefty pinch of the steaming aromatic dish and dropped it on my tongue, as I decided to forgo oxygen in favor of indulgence. The flavor was effortless and uncomplicated. The crab was the clear protagonist – the Jasmine rice and deep-fried, thin-sliced garlic perfectly cast as supporting players – and every bite was permeated with the refreshing sapidity of the sea. The mouthfeel was even better. A slight socarrat in the rice elevated by contrast the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the crab.
Although the grilled pork noodle went mostly unnoticed in the shadow of the superlative apps and crab entrée, it’s worth noting that all of the noodles are made by Pham from scratch. While this sounds wonderful, the inconsistency of the noodles between and within dishes was a problem. Some were overcooked, some undercooked, some simply disintegrating in their brothy bowls. One friend lamented, “The noodles were such a disjointed experience that the pho failed to elicit any reaction – psychological or gastronomic. The broth was equisite though!”
When food stirs our minds and our souls – when a dish reminds us, transports us, uplifts us – it is exceptional. In the case of Four Sisters, creativity bows to entrenched technique, and we remember that divine eating is as likely to be found at a three Michelin-star restaurant as it is at a food truck … or an imperfect but inspired Vietnamese joint on the Near Southside of Fort Worth.
Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam
Vyvy (cocktail) $12
Lemongrass pork $6
Beef wraps $9
Grilled pork noodle $8.50
Fried-rice crab $12.50
Vietnamese coffee $4