In its early years, Haltom City was the first official town of Tarrant County, operating as its administrative center. Despite its history, it never had the makings of a thriving dining metropolis. These days, let's face it: It's more apt to be the town you drive through on your way to the airport.
One place still continues to draw crowds, though. My Lan Restaurant, just west of the city center, has been doing so for almost 15 years. It looks and feels like a chain, but its dishes are more than just recycled recipes. It's widely regarded as the best of a number of restaurants in the city that offer up authentic Asian cuisine. (There's also an excellent Asian grocery, Nguyen Loi Oriental Supermarket, just a stone's throw away.)
My Lan specializes in both Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, but one glance at the menu and you'll see that it's mostly just Vietnamese recipes: pho, rice noodle and vermicelli soup, and porridge. On the Chinese side, there's chow fun ($5.50-$6.95), chow mein ($5.50-$6.95) and fried rice ($5.75-$6.50).
Just one portion of anything at My Lan is enough to feed two, assuming you're willing to share. The rare and well-cooked beef rice noodle pho ($5.50) was actually enough to feed almost three.
While the meat wasn't as tender as I would've hoped, the warm cilantro-flavored and semisweet broth was more than enough to redeem the dish and then some.
The vermicelli soup -- far richer -- was way more enticing. And although the meat in the ground shrimp vermicelli soup ($5.95) is definitely an acquired taste, the soup's broth is also what makes the dish. It's a full-flavored stock that hits all the right notes, creating that ideal connection between mouth and brain that induces memories of home cooking. Even if, like me, your home is nowhere near Asia.
You can supplement any soup with egg rolls ($5), spring rolls ($3) or grilled beef rolls ($3.50). All are stuffed with fresh ingredients.
Curiously for a Chinese-Vietnamese place, the Korean barbecue rib on rice (beef, $7.50) is the bestselling dish. The ribs were tender, coated in a sweet sauce, but they don't compare to the rich flavor of either soup dish.
The grilled pork and egg rolls on rice ($5.50) was a cheaper variation using a similar sauce (the barbecue is slightly sweeter). Of the two, the grilled pork is the better option -- it's sweet and salty, served with chives that complement the meat.
Eclipsing everything on the table was the chicken sauteed with chile and lemon grass ($6.75), suggested by the staff as another customer favorite. The meat was tender, and the bell pepper, onion and spicy chile combination was enough to tease my taste buds without becoming a nuisance.
If the pho was adequate and the vermicelli was incredible, the sauteed chicken was beyond stellar. It's the one dish you won't want to share.