Deceptive Appearances

The Cuisine: Vietnamese
The Place: Truc

Deceptive AppearancesThe parking lot for Asian Corners Mall, at the corner of North Tryon Street and Sugar Creek Road, looks half abandoned, but don't let a few weeds and giant potholes discourage you. A visit to Truc (rhymes with "shook") is worth the adventure in getting there.
Inside, the ambience is sophisticated and contemporary, with wooden slats covering the duct work on the ceiling. Slide into a comfortable booth and sip a mango bubble tea or a soursop smoothie (it tastes like pear or caramelized apple) while considering the menu choices in front of you.

Even if you don't care to try sea snails or frog legs, many intriguing options are available. Vietnamese food requires fresh ingredients and subtle preparation, and Truc excels in both departments. Lotus root, shrimp, mint, and lime juice combine to create a beautifully presented salad. Summer rolls with fresh mint, shrimp, bean sprouts, and vermicelli are superb in their simplicity. Roast ground rice in the bi cuon (garden delight) gives them a nuttier taste and drier texture -- less successful overall.

There is a strong do-it-yourself element to Vietnamese food -- part of the fun comes from stirring together ingredients and adding sauce to taste. Luckily, it's hard to mess this up. For entrées, the bun thit nuong (charbroiled pork with rice vermicelli) is an ideal place to start. Hu tieu xao chay -- a tofu noodle pancake -- is substantial and filling fare for vegetarians.

Truc serves a broad array of Vietnamese dishes, but what impressed us most was the service. The wait staff was knowledgeable and helpful, recommending certain menu items but always leaving the final decision up to us. Trying an unfamiliar cuisine for the first time can be intimidating and even frustrating, but the staff at Truc made the experience as smooth as the drive outside was bumpy. 

4520 N. Tryon St., No. 17
$, L, D, BW.
Closed Tue.