Ace Eat Serve executive chef Thach Tran is reaching deep into his personal history for new summer menu items and specials at the Uptown eatery. "I grew up in Saigon near the Cholon district, where there's tons of great Chinese food," he explains.
So new Chinese dishes feature big on the summer roster. A scallion pancake that Tran says is a cross between a traditional Chinese version and Indian roti comes out large and rectangular, with flaky, buttery layers and a pair of dippings sauces. Wok-blistered green beans get a boost of flavor from garlic confit and soy sambal, while XOXO baby bok choy gets hugs and kisses from a rich, housemade XO sauce.
Tran taps into his Vietnamese roots, too, with the beef Pho-Natic, loaded with tender brisket and shaved ribeye, and the Hanoi Market bun cha, a bed of rice noodles topped with grilled lemongrass pork belly, house sausage and a nest of fresh greens. For dessert, fluffy bao doughnuts come with a coating of five-spice sugar and a side of lime-leaf anglaise for dipping.
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You'll want to make sure you have a Thursday night free sometime soon to indulge in the Peking duck special. Tran says he only make about six ducks each Thursday, since the process requires days of advance preparation. To make the dish, the chef uses an air compressor to blow up the skin, separating it from the meat. The whole duck then air-dries overnight before it's basted in a liquid loaded with spices. Finally, the duck is roasted until the skin is glossy and deep brown.
Order in advance for the tableside Peking duck service, and Tran will roll out the cart and carve your duck himself. At $42, the platter comes with wraps, marinated veggies and dipping sauces, with enough duck meat — and that wonderfully crispy skin — to serve as dinner for two or appetizers for a small group.
Ace Eat Serve is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 303-800-7705 or visit Ace's website for reservations or details.