El Celler de Can Roca Does Dallas
World’s No. 2 restaurant owners dine at East Dallas favorite
Quiz: You and your brothers are the team behind the No. 2 restaurant in the world, and you have the opportunity to eat one meal in Dallas. Where do you go?
The answer is Vietnamese restaurant Mot Hai Ba, which became the lunchtime destination of the three brothers behind El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, Spain, ranked No. 2 in the world by Restaurant magazine.
Chef Joan Roca, sommelier Josep and pastry chef Jordi are in Texas this week with their entire 30-person staff on a four-country, six-city Roca World Tour sponsored by financial firm BBVA Compass.
The six cities included Dallas and Houston, where the brothers erected an invitation-only pop-up restaurant. In Dallas, the dinners took place on Friday and Saturday nights at the Rachofsky House, where the team prepared a multi-course dinner for a group of VIP guests.
"One thing I noticed was that they meticulously ate every single herb on their plate," says Mot Hai Ba chef/co-owner Jeana Johnson.
But first, they needed sustenance. Mot Hai Ba co-owner Jeana Johnson says that she got a call on Saturday with a reservation for a table of eight. The group included a journalist traveling with the Roca brothers, who recommended MHB after reading about the motorcycle journey that Johnson and co-owner Colleen O'Hare took through Vietnam, submersing themselves in the culture.
The Rocas cut through a wide swath of dishes on MHB's menu, ordering the crispy pancake dish known as bun xeo, papaya salad, imperial rolls, pork belly, pork meatballs, a steak and a pork banh mi, and beef pho.
"One thing I noticed was that they meticulously ate every single herb on their plate," Johnson says. "The stems, everything. I've never seen a guest eat every single bite of food on their plate. We put a lot of fresh herbs on the plate, and we've had customers say there's 'too much greenery.' But they ate every single herb on the plate, right down to the stems."
Other customers on Saturday included another table of eight occupied by a group from Central Market, whom Johnson says sent the chefs a bottle of sparkling rose.
"The lady who bought them the bottle was fluent in Spanish, so they were all talking in Spanish," she says.
The El Celler group ended with blueberry and lemon sorbet, an order of doughnuts and a round of Vietnamese iced coffee.