The Spot: 65b-67 Lan Ong Street, this rambling kerbside affair is an evening only slurp in a dark section of the Old Quarter, renowned in the day as Chinese medicine street. A waft of herb is still on the air at night. Come back on the morrow for a small brown paper envelope of herbal remedy for whatever may be ailing you.
Shopfront Style: This operation is a footpath blocker. There's no getting around it unless you step off the kerb onto the road. To guard against the stormy skies of the rainy season in Hanoi, there's a convoluted web of makeshift tarps, twine and electrical wire going every which way, bare bright light bulbs swinging freely. Careful you don't garotte yourself.
Space and Atmosphere: Organized chaos aplenty with all the little helpers knowing exactly what they have to do. Dishes are being done in a system of three buckets, complicated orders for whole families are remembered by heart, trays with towers of empty bowls and chopsticks at 'pick-up-stix' angles are being cleared off vacated tables. There are two dining areas, as demand has necessitated expansion indoors into a torture hall of stark fluoro lit white walls lined with soft drink advertising. What probably started as a five seater around the serving station is now able to cater for about 60 at a time.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Coca-Cola have kicked in with the branded chopstick, serviette and toothpick stands, consummating an odd marriage between global multi-national and 'ma and pa' street food. Well-stocked lime wedges and chilis, pepper shakers full and unclogged.
Serving Station: It's a ten foot long stainless steel bench, customers lining one side, chiefs of staff on the other. Between them lay the spoils for the making of not only pho ga, but also bun thang, xoi ga and mien ga.
Meat Generosity: What is unusual here is that I'm portioned with skin and chewy bits which are normally reserved for and preferred by the locals. If a local received a solely white meat portion, they would complain. Most pho ga purveyors automatically assume that foreigners would rather the breast meat. Not here. An added touch is the garnishing of thin strips of lime leaf, a perfect accompaniment to chicken.
Order to Delivery Gap: A slick three minutes.
Stock Factor: In Chinese medicine street, this soup seems to have stronger restorative properties than most. Or is that just an old wives' tale?
Cost: A broth and a brew (Bia Hanoi) - 20,000VND (USD$1.25, AUD$1.65). This is a steal!
ThreeFourFiveSix of fivesixseveneightnineten
By the way, I'm still looking for input here. Any pho tip offs?