The Spot: At number 39, it's a stone's throw from 'best pho ga by far so far' on Ton Duc Thanh, one of the main thoroughfares out of town, a noisy, nasty, dusty grind all the way. Curtains and bed linen are sold to the left, teeth drilled and pulled to the right.
Space and Atmosphere: Retro-post-war-functional and communist, not one personal touch or object of family detritus to be seen in this large concrete noodle hall. Fluoro-lit and lined with long stainless steel topped wooden tables and benches, I can imagine this place pre-Doi Moi, customers in government issue attire, trading their food ration coupons for a bowl of pho. The white bathroom tiles adorning the walls have blue letters and numbers adhered to them both denoting customer bench position and advertising the fact that tea and cigarettes are also available. The elderly dame who operates the show still wears the standard issue white blouse and black trousers in addition to a crabby face that would frighten away a Hanoi gutter rat. Her raspy barking has the staff jumping to attention. Patrons, too!
Shopfront Style: A yellow awning is the only splash of colour in this dull acid rain stained grey 'pho-scape.' A course grass-green mat covers the floor at the entrance - not sure if I should be wiping my feet on the way in or on the way out!
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Well-stocked and topped up. Large stainless steel pails are jammed with a couple of thousand bamboo chopsticks, the red sauce and chili vinegar vessels are brimming and colourful in colourless surroundings.
Serving Station: Left of the entrance with big barn windows swinging onto the street, the serving station has a huge rangehood haloing number one son and country cousin, who two-hand the operation, juggling bowls, hot noodles, ladles and knives. During my breakfast, country cousin was hooking big hunks of cow from a simmering pot with an old sharp ended coat-hanger, from a position atop a rickety stool on the footpath outside - a kind of culinary circus act!
Meat Generosity: The portioning is far from stingy. Spring onions are piled on the piles of meat, the orange tinged beef in the photo at top being a stewed preparation known as sot vang which is also commonly eaten mopped up with bread.
Service to Delivery Gap: Pho-Nana's barking ensures that everything occurs swiftly here.
Stock Factor: Well-balanced with an extra hint of ginger which I'm rather fond of in my noodle soup.
Cost: Nana's vertically challenged friend scribbled a sum on a napkin in a shaky hand. It added up to 26,000VND (USD$1.60, AUD$1.90).
Rank: Much like picking numbers out of a hat at this stage I'm afraid. I still have to spend a slab of time updating the rankings. This is in the top ten. A list of the top twenty is not far away. This is Hanoi Pho Swoop post number 18!