The Spot: 27c Van Mieu, right opposite the splendour of the Temple of Literature, next to another little pagoda on the corner of Nguyen Kuyen Street. This is a definitive little pinch me moment of "bloody hell, I live in Vietnam!"
Shopfront Style: Single frontage grot, dust, rust and mildew under a yellow canopy, shade abounding from nearby trees, pot plants on the roof, three bottles of potent rice wine on the step up into the restaurant. Fairly standard 'pho-scape'.
Space and Atmosphere: The temple looms large over the road and, seated on the pavement, I have a fine view. The interior of this narrow cave has three or four plastic tables surrounded by the clutter and detritus of this pho family's existence, all of which has been pushed to the walls and shoved up high in any possible nook or cranny. The teenage boy relatives fetch the iced tea, pho pa ladles soup, chats up the customers and proffers photo opportunities while pho ma rips cow tails in half with her bare hands and gritted teeth. All done with a smile.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: The chopsticks are jammed tight into their holders, chilli sauce full to the brim, fresh chilli snipped not long ago, garlic vinegar in need of vinegar. Lime wedges called for and duly delivered. Plastic crockery with the ubiquitous purple floral design. What is it about this design? Is there an obscure government pho crockery by-law requiring it?
Serving Station: A right angle arrangement, pho ma wedged in the angle and barely visible through the hanging arse-ends of cow hooked on a wooden frame facing the street. There's something disquieting about the sight of tails bereft of their owners.
Meat Generosity: With all the flesh being merchandised out front, there's bound to be a fair amount of it in the bowl. A pile of pale and practically shaved chin is portioned, on top of which is a decent mound of tai, beef cooked rare under the ladle pour. And what about those tails? They're nicely whacked out in a bowl with half a bush of mint and some spring onions and chili. A bit chewy for my liking and the fat gag activator was on alert.
Order to Delivery Gap: A flash.
Stock Factor: I liked this broth. The herby subtlety, the ginger and beef marriage and just the right amount of salt.
Cost: This is below average. A bowl of tai-chin is a meagre 8000VND (USD50c, AUD65c).