The Spot: North-west of the Old Quarter, within spitting distance of Truc Bach Lake and just up from the Chau Long market, this fine exponent of bird soup is directly opposite the Hanoi Cooking Centre (which incidentally had its official launch late last week). One of my favourite coffee hangouts is nearby...in fact so near I wheel my motorbike there afterwards. Nothing quite like good pho followed immediately after by an hour on the caffeine drip!
Space and Atmosphere: A jolly owner directs patrons to appropriate parking spots and collects the dong on the way out. He attempted a conversation in English with me, and despite his abstract pronunciation, I manage to gain full comprehension. Amazing what seven years in a classroom with Vietnamese students can do! The pho chain gang are ready at the serving station of this narrow space, which has walls papered with fantastic metallic floral contact. I think my textbooks were covered with the stuff in the 70's. Dusty plastic flower arrangements feature prominently and every unopened soft drink, beer and Hanoi vodka bottle is shelved against the floral walls, giving off some kind of trippy psychedelic vibe. The business altar above the back door is flashing with fairy lights.
Shopfront Style: Mixed messages are being conveyed here. Up high, there is pepsi sponsored signage promoting pho ga at a completely different address while below, the shop's yellow canopy advertises che, which they apparently flog at night. The latter has the correct address. Ignore the signs and look for the chickens!
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: The chopsticks are shorter and with a more defined eating end than the industry standard sticks found in most pho joints. Old jam jars do nicely for the red sauce and garlic infused vinegar while the lime wedges are fully replenished on fancy orange tear-shaped plates. All in all things are spiffy in the condiments department, with smudges and smears kept to a minimum. A clean-freak is in the house somewhere!
Serving Station: A chopping block, various plastic containers of seasoning, mi chinh, lime leaf needles and stainless steel bowls and trays loaded up with bird bits for all tastes as well as plates of rare and corned beef for the pho purists...the big custom-made glass and steel cabinet is well set up for pho assembly, with the finishing touches of herbs and soup carried out by the ladler on the street.
Meat Generosity: A generous handful of quality bird from the thigh and breast lands in my bowl along with a serving of trang trung (tubes and eggs).
Service to Delivery Gap: I hit this bird soup house during a lull, so after putting in my order on the way in, the soup practically followed me to the table.
Stock Factor: I slurped to almost the bottom of the bowl.
Cost: All spelled out in the photo above. (USD$1.40, AUD$1.72)
Rank: I can't bring myself to start the ranking palaver again, by setting pho in conflict with pho, chicken pho against beef pho in an unresolvable battle that will only end in tears. Nor do I want to be exposed for my less than scientific research methods. Let me just rate this as pretty bloody good!