The Spot: Not far from the bottom end of Hanoi's heart, Hoan Kiem Lake, this slurp station is in Nha Chung Street, wedged between another branch of winter favourite, Nhat Ly Goat Restaurant and a street-side tea shop. Across the road, multi-lingualism is on sale at a private language centre.
Space and Atmosphere: The dining space is three dimensional. Directly behind the serving station is the main eating room, with seating for about thirty, packed around five or six tables. I was elbowed out of a berth here by someone obviously more ravenous. A small odd-shaped annex next door holds a single table of six. It's full. Third option is a bench running along the wall in the alley up which motos are parked. Peeling walls are printed with the telephone numbers of the local concrete cutters. In London or Melbourne, this decor would be chic. In Hanoi, it's normal.
Shopfront Style: Red coca-cola-subsidised signage and awning shelter a queue of local slurpers, in line to pay before one thread of noodle gets sucked between their lips. This practise is not common in Hanoi and, even though I don't like it, it usually indicates the pho is more than decent.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Nothing out of the ordinary in this respect, though it was somewhat of a struggle to procure some fresh chili, which I prefer to the standard red sauce.
Serving Station: This one is labour-intensive as the assembly line has the added complications of ordering and paying. Three white-coated pho maids head up this operation, a short one stood up on a footstool in front scattering herbs and onions from a huge pile prepped earlier. This is a major pho stop, evidenced not only by the queue (and it's very orderly for Hanoi, I must say), but also a kitchen of sorts at the rear where large parts of cow are being taken to with knives and pots of stock taller than me are simmering away for slurping on the morrow.
Meat Generosity: Not much chewing required here. The quality of the beef, in both its forms, is A1, the pride of the butcher, melt in the mouth tenderness. It ranks up with Hanoi's best.
Service to Delivery Gap: Once through the lining up, ordering and paying palaver, and the jostling for a seat, the noodles are set down not long after.
Stock Factor: Dark, clear and beefy. Slight assistance from Ajinomoto but, remember, the addition of this enhancement can be subverted at order with a curt "khong mi chinh" (No MSG).
Cost: 12,000VND (USD75c, AUD95c) per bowl. This is the median price in town these days.
Rank: Four of thirteen
I'm off to the south of Vietnam tomorrow for Tet holiday. Chuc Mung Nam Moi - Happy New Year!