The Spot: 36 Hang Da Street, between Hang Bong Street and what was the Hang Da Market, in amongst a range of clothes boutiques and jewellery shops, in the vicinity of most famous bun bo nam bo. This pho establishment has gone completely unnoticed. Until now.
Space and Atmosphere: The premises are long and deep, characteristics common of old quarter houses, which are referred to in some literature as 'tube houses'. The front room has walls lined, to about shoulder height, with white bathroom tiles edged at the top with green, presumably for ease of wiping, should any soup or chili sauce go astray. Other elements of the decor are purely functional, too: a clock tells the time, an agricultural pesticide company calendar tells the date, a grime coated TV screen up high tries to broadcast a picture and the business altar brings business.
Shopfront Style: From across the street, I see elements of art-deco in the second storey of the building, with the historic Hue name,Phu Xuan, painted white, standing out in brown render work. The downstairs is not in keeping with the upstairs. Here, business is done, income generated and style gives way again to function.
Serving Station: On a large table, glass cabinets are arranged like building blocks, some containing bowls, others various ingredients and utensils. A chopping block is used to flatten raw beef (tai) and (health inspectors of the west, close your eyes) to slice cooked beef (chin). Soup pots are clumped by the pavement. On the personnel front, sisters are doin' it for themselves here. A young boy, presumably one of their sons, attempted to open the fridge door and was admonished and swiftly sent from whence he came.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Big white bowls for soup, medium white bowls for lime wedges, small white bowls for fresh chili. Red sauce, vinegar and fish sauce come in recycled plastic bottles, crude holes punched in their caps. Standard bamboo sticks, relatively easy to match in length, width and bias.
Meat Generosity: A fistful from the sister with the big hand
Service to Delivery Gap: Given that it seemed to be family hour, with kids making various demands of their parents, who in turn made them of the staff - for no onions, nothing green, no meat - I count my blessings that I have my soup in five minutes.
Stock Factor: Dark and robust, salty but tasty.
Cost: Pho Tai is 20,000VND (USD$1.05, AUD$1.25), Pho Tai Chin is 25,000VND
Rank: Fair to middling.