April 23, 2009 at 1:00 am

Molly Abraham: Restaurant Review

Da Nang's authentic cuisine adds elegant option to Clawson roster

Spring rolls with shrimp, steamed pork, vermicelli and vegetables. )

Suddenly, there seems to be a lot of action around the intersection of 14 Mile and Main Street in Clawson.

With Black Lotus, Royal Kubo and Noble Fish just a few doors apart on 14 Mile, Frittata and Due Venti around the corner on South Main Street, and now, an inviting new place, Da Nang Restaurant, on the southeast corner, Clawson is well on its way to establishing a true restaurant row.

Da Nang, named for the home town of co-proprietors Lan Dao and her sister, Kim Dao-Waldis, opened in March in the handsomely renovated 1924 building on the corner, offering a serene setting for authentic Vietnamese cuisine prepared by Lan.

Its two high-ceilinged dining rooms, done up stylishly with deep-red walls, mirrors framed in wrought-iron, soft lighting from lantern-style fixtures and just a touch of decorative woodwork, have an understated, Frank Lloyd Wright feeling.

The one touch of Vietnam comes in travelogue-style photos projected on a flat-screen TV in the front dining room, showing glimpses of the country's beauty.

While Vietnam may not show up in the sophisticated decor, it certainly does on the menu, a cross-section of the light, often delicate fare of that country.

Lan's touch is subtle and understated, like the look of the room. Her all-day menu is wisely pared down to a reasonable selection, but there are still plenty of choices, including, of course, pho, brimming bowls of the rice noodle and beef soup. Pho (pronounced fuh) comes in several variations, including one with meatballs as well as sliced beef round, and all with a plate of bean sprouts and fresh herbs to be added by each diner to personalize the dish.

Combined with, say, an appetizer of crispy shrimp wrapped in wontons or rice paper-wrapped spring rolls filled with ground shrimp, pork and vermicelli, pho is a full meal.

Two notable and delicious appetizers are the plate of six tiny pork meatballs sparked with lemongrass and prettily served atop lettuce, and steamed chicken salad, a light and refreshing dish that combines shredded chicken and cabbage with fresh herbs.

There are two especially interesting entrees: crepes filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts, and a savory curry chicken stew, more of a soup than a stew, with small chunks of tender chicken in its resonant herb- and carrot-dotted broth. It is served with a baguette that comes to the table warm and fresh, a little reminder of the French influence on Vietnam.

The list of entrees is fleshed out with grilled boneless beef short ribs and grilled boneless pork. Beverages include green tea served in big square cups, as well as Vietnamese iced coffee.

Service is polite and caring by Lan's sons, John and Duy Tran, and also by Kim Dao-Waldis, who manages the front of the house.

With its carefully chosen table appointments, high-quality flatware, china and linens, this is not an amateur production, but rather a professionally put together restaurant that shows thought and planning in every detail.

abraham67@comcast.net">abraham67@comcast.net (313) 222-1475

Da Nang Restaurant co-owners Kim Dao-Waldis, left, and Lan Dao opened ... (John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News)
A salad with Thai basil, bean sprouts, lime and jalapenos.
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