Like other cuisines that just a short time ago were difficult to find, the fare of Vietnam has become more familiar and more available throughout the area.
And certainly one of the most interesting — and authentic — versions is found at the restaurant proprietor Kim Dao Waldis named after her home city on the shores of the South China Sea.
She and her sister Lan Dao opened their attractive spot in spring 2009 in a meticulously renovated building on the corner of Main and 14 Mile in Clawson. The two-room setting is stylishly understated, with deep red walls, soft lighting and no extraneous frou-frou. There’s also an interesting focal point: a travelogue of photos of the beautiful country of Vietnam projected on a screen in the main dining room.
Like the décor, the menu is not diluted with extraneous dishes. It is pure Vietnamese from the spring rolls filled with shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles and herbs wrapped in rice paper right down to the rich iced or hot coffee, made one cup at a time through a filter called a phin.
In the years since Da Nang opened, it has built up a following of diners who have learned to love the colorful dishes — and who now even know how to say correctly the name of one of the most popular, pho (pronounced fuh). The proprietor, though, says she doesn’t care how people pronounce it.
The rice noodle soup, meanwhile, especially the version that includes thin slices of beef round, is notable. With it comes bean sprouts and fresh basil, and a condiment tray that includes the spicy oil called sate, hoisin sauce, fish sauce and siracha, to be added for individual taste — and in the case of sate, discretion. The sate is fiery and should be used sparingly. Fish sauce is table salt in Vietnam, she notes.
Pho is also available with chicken, and there is a version that in addition to the beef round, includes beef flanks, meatballs and tripe.
Among the other notable dishes is the mango/papaya salad with plump shrimp, vegetables and herbs, a light and delicious special frequently made with noticeably fresh ingredients. (Freshness is a hallmark of the style here.) Another appealing dish is spicy chicken curry, served with baguette slices, one of the French touches that characterize the cuisine of Vietnam.
Vegetarians are well taken care of with such dishes as crispy fried garlic tofu, sweet and sour tofu with peppers, onion, pineapple and rice, and a completely meat-free version of pho, among 10 choices.
Some dishes include suggested wine pairings, a nice touch. Da Nang offers a full complement of beer, wine and liquor, but there is no bar seating. The row of seats along the front windows, however, make a comfortable perch for those wanting to make a quick stop for a snack and a drink.
1 S. Main at 14 Mile, Clawson
Call: (248) 577-5130
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Closed Sun.-Mon.
Prices: Appetizers $4-$12, soups $10-$14, entrees $8-$16, desserts $5-$6
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar but there is no bar seating
Noise level: Low
Parking: Municipal lots in rear and street
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding