The Spot: A 100-metre dash up from the eastern shore of Truc Bach Lake on Nguyen Truong To Street, diagonally across from a ritzy apartment building called 'The Manhattan', car air-conditioner components are sold next door to the left and the pho joint crowd overflows into the cafe on the right. There's a kindergarten a few doors up where another pho mob operates evening slurping.
Space and Atmosphere: I feel like I'm being watched over by a librarian here. The pho Ma peers over the top of a seriously stern pair of specs and I wouldn't want to be her if the wind suddenly changes direction, that facial expression stuck there for eternity. Sans specs, her daughter is clearly her mother's daughter. From the footpath table, I can observe the entire crowd, fifteen or so in the actual pho house and that again in the coffee house beside. I sit next to an octogenarian couple in their pyjamas. An air of efficiency and obedience presides.
Shopfront Style: Dull pink and white quartz tiles frame this place, a royal blue awning protects it from the elements and lots of steel and aluminium out front reflects the mid-morning light right in my face.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: This pho Ma ensures that all of the Hanoi standards are rigidly adhered to: floral bowls, tick; bamboo sticks, tick; red sauce in plastic cups, tick; lime wedges, tick; refuse underfoot, tick!
Serving Station: Boxed in and surveying the scene from on high, pho Ma runs a pretty spotless serving area, not a hint of the coated-on dust and grime evident on surfaces elsewhere in Hanoi. All apparatus - sieves, plastic colanders, pots and ladles - appear brand new. Ma is attired in plastic sleeve protectors and clear plastic gloves. A huge industrial exhaust fan hangs quite low over her and her proceedings and I don't even want to think of the carnage that would occur if a stray hand got inserted in it! Call the workplace safety inspector!
Meat Generosity: It's good quality cow and plenty of it, no grisly fatty bits to speak of. Extra points for onion abundance, brown and spring.
Service to Delivery Gap: Spot on the industry average.
Stock Factor: One of the best I've encountered, I could almost feel it doing me good inside. Not salty, nicely gingery and clearly beefy. Really good!
Cost: 12,000VND (USD73c, AUD89c)
Rank: 'Stickyrice Top Twenty Pho Rankings' coming soon!