The Spot: A dark place in the middle of what is a bustling, heaving market by day. Just down from a popular drinking hole, this is night noodles in the Hang Be market. Funny how temporary wet markets actually are. At night the stalls are completely devoid of produce, and chairs and odd bits of broken timber are leaned up all over the place.
Space and Atmosphere: This is a crowded evening noodle slurp shop. Night noodles is a more relaxed food experience. People have more time and they drink beer and dwell longer than they would over a breakfast bowl. This is a family arrangement and the whole clan is on deck, pho ma at the helm. The space is a recently renovated pale green family room converted into an eatery for six o'clock opening. Photocopied A4 signs are sticky-taped to the newly painted walls, advertising sup ga, mien ga, bun ga and xoi ga, the four dishes on offer. A kitchen is tucked up in the back corner through which the family bathroom can be found and in it, a hot pink bra is hanging from the shower head.
Shopfront Style: An open house between closed houses, the shop sheds bright light across the dilapidated market stalls. Bikes are parked all round. An awning overhead protects the serving station from the stormy downpour that fell during our visit.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: The move away from Chinese gilt-edged floral bowls is evident here, too, with classic but modern white ones holding the product. Sticks are standard bamboo and all of the usual additive jars are topped up, their lips wiped, nothing dripping down the sides. It's relatively early and the system is still running smoothly.
Serving Station: Not your average smorgasboard of half a dozen ingredients thrown together in an instant. This is a bird part museum and the artifacts include recognizable breast, leg and wing alongside claw, comb and organ. Another delicacy is chicken skin stuffed with some kind of mushroom and meat mix which is cut into slices and laid atop the pho if you so choose. I've never seen this before - a pleasant little surprise for a pho veteran!
Meat Generosity: There's plenty going in to each bowl here, birdwise and otherwise. The pins of lime leaves pinched in at the last moment is a touch that I'm keen on - combined with chicken, it's a fantastic flavour combination.
Service to Delivery Gap: A trio of electricity company workers in orange overalls lobbed just before we did but, before long, a fine bowl of pho hit the table.
Stock Factor: My eating companion complained of saltiness. I kept slurping.
Cost: 12,000VND (USD74c, AUD87c) a bowl.
Rank: The rankings are totally hieroglyphic - head nor tail can be made of 'em. This ranks high. High for the fun factor, too, as I had a film crew pursuing me on this one. More on that later!