The Spot: I'm cutting a wider arc through Hanoi these days for new phở, venturing into the 'burbs for noodle action, pursuing wide thoroughfares in new residential and commercial precincts to see where most Hanoians are sucking it up. Today I'm on the newish Xa Dan Rd, a km south of championship chicken phở and not far from Hanoi's frequently flooding first road tunnel.
Space and Atmosphere: Functional suburban barn style, fashioned out of corrugated tin on all sides, concrete floor and overhead fans pushing hot air about. Seating for more than a hundred in the barn with potential for fifty more on the very much wider than old quarter footpath outside. In contrast to the simple purpose built design of this establishment are the OTT altars for business prosperity, where more is definitely more. If profit can be measured in ornamentation, in flowers and fruit on an altar, then this phở shop is booming. The proprietress has a smile for the patrons in between pecking bits of corn off a cob and periodically flicking the corners of each bill in her massive cash wad. I'm yet to see a cash register in a phở eatery, except of course for that popular phở franchise.
Shopfront Style: A primary colour contrast of cloudless sky blue against lucky bright Asian red. Pepsi is the preferred cola if you couldn't tell.
Serving Station: This phở house is prepped for an onslaught, all patrons' proclivities for various cuts of chicken meat catered for in trays and containers organized in assembly line manner. Dark flesh, white flesh, skin, organs and large supplies of sliced onion and herbs are laid out around a chopping block formed from a very robust tree trunk. Cleavers, tongs and scissors are the surgical tools needed to tear these birds apart and portion them into bowls.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Classic white seems to be rivalling the old standard China rose bowls with the scalloped rims, these days. Someone's been reading home beautiful magazines. Sticks are straight, washed after use and flung in the sun to dry. I like the little ramekins of salt, fresh chili and lime leaf needles issued on request here. I am very much a fresh chili patron as opposed to a red chili sauce patron. Interestingly, that places me in the minority in the way Vietnamese add their spice at the table.
Meat Generosity: Chicken portions are not dealt daintily here but sometimes I pay for this heavy-handedness at the financial transaction end of proceedings. The conversation may start with the question "why is my bowl more expensive than the last customer's?" and the retort is always "Oh...hahaha...but you had more meat than him'. Say no more!
Service-to-Delivery Gap: We shout the order from the bike parking bay roadside, and by the time helmets are dispensed with and we are positioned on stools out front, the ladle is pouring with steaming broth.
Stock Factor: More sweetness than most chicken phở, putting me in mind of the broths of the south.
Cost: 30,000VND (USD$1.55, AUD$1.60) - a bit over the norm for chicken phở
Rank: After twenty-seven 'Hanoi Pho Swoop' installments and several posts on pho prior 'the swoop', the ranking palaver is at best like a game of bingo. I would have to go back through the whole archive to do it proper and that's not going to happen. This joint's not bad if you have reason to be in this neighbourhood. Address on signage above.