The Spot: this one, at 49 Bat Dan Street, is a joint that Hanoians spruik up as one of the places to slurp one's noodles. When conversations turn to pho, this famous but seemingly nameless soup restaurant is bound to issue forth from someone's lips. Interesting that, in the old days, the artisans' guild in this street busied themselves making bowls, no doubt most of which ended up with pho in them. Bat Dan 2006 has some new bia hoi action, a good steakhouse, more noodles, tailors, cafes and an antique fan restorer on its corner with Hang Dieu.
Shopfront Style: Hard to get a clear view, with motorbikes jammed on the footpath and clusters (Vietnamese don't queue!) of patrons around the serving station and loitering in front. Recent restorations about 12 months ago have amounted to no extra space in the cave, but nice new doors, new sign and a lick of paint.
Space and Atmosphere: Seats about 30 with overflow onto blue plastic amongst the bikes. Botheration is the presiding emotion here, on the faces of all patrons because, get this, one must not only line up but also stand waiting for one's bowl and then, endorphins and pain threshold at odds, deliver one's own scorching bowl to oneself, across slippery floors, through an obstacle course of scraping chairs, elbows and frosty observation. I needed a shot of rice wine by the time I sat down!
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Sticks like poor relations, only the wonky, warped and wall-flowers remained. Hard to find a match. Lacking in lime wedges, like this other famous pho house, the condiments are in general disarray.
Serving Station: Once I got there, it was all meat on hooks, meat in chunks, careful portioning and slicing with very sharp knives. The lady surgeon never looked up, understandably. Her off-sider, a gruff bloke doing the dunking and ladling, gave me 'the once over' before accepting my order.
Meat Generosity: Cautious, without the scales, but far from stingy. The chin, hoisted on hooks (above), is the star here, thinly sliced and tasting not unlike grandma's best corned beef.
Order to Delivery Gap: A sore point, with all the queuing and self-service. Bigger than the gap between rich and poor, haves and have nots! I do subscribe to 'slow food' and all that but a 30 minute wait for noodle soup in Vietnam is not on.
Stock Factor: Brewing in the dark alley alongside, the ladling arm comes out of the doorway for a scoop with robotic monotony. It's robust, beefy. I could feel it doing me good.
Cost: 15,000VND (USD95c, AUD$1.20)
Rank: Two of