Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Pho 10, Hanoi, Vietnam (Alissa and Don Eat Asia Day 22, Part 2)

While were in a bookshop in Perth, I came across a book published by Phaidon called 'Where Chefs Eat'. At this stage Hong Kong's dining experiences had been long planned and booked, India's had largely taken shape and at least the Iggy's reservation had been made. Hanoi on the other hand was another story. Typing in 'best restaurants Hanoi' into Google during lunch breaks was not very conclusive, and it was only after digging deeper into the food blogs that I found some of the really exceptional places for the Vietnam leg. So finding a book that could give us some indication of where we should be eating was very useful. I skipped straight to the Hanoi page and found Pho 10 as a recommendation. I did my research and they were certainly one of the names most mentioned on the blogs as one of the places to go for a good bowl of pho in the Old Quarter, along with Pho Gia Truyen.

I was told Pho Gia Truyen were so popular that the sell out by midday, so we made Pho 10 one of our first night meals (being greedy foodies, Banh Mi was also on the agenda). Located in the Old Quarter within walking distance of our hotel, it was not hard to find - especially given its bright orange sign. Walking in what struck me was that while it was very simple in design and comfort level, it was very clean and orderly with the small kitchen separated from the diners by a glass partition.

We ordered the pho with the raw beef that would cook in the broth as we ate it. Having eaten at a few of the pho joints throughout Perth, it was instantly recognisable as a better, more focused version of the dish I've known and loved. However in its focus there was something slightly sterile about it - like it had been cleaned up of its 'streetness' to some degree and in its refinement had lost something of itself. Its hard to describe - the dish was very well executed in all ways and was very enjoyable, but there was just something special missing in it.

The Verdict: Very Good
Don't get me wrong - Alissa and I definitely enjoyed this pho, and it was as good or better than the best you can get in Perth. Its just that looking back on our time in Hanoi we'd rather eat Cha Ca La Vong or bun cha over pho at Pho 10. Eating at Pho Gia Truyen later made it clear that while Pho 10 was clean and thus tourist friendly, the filthy tissues-all-over-the-ground environs of Pho Gia Truyen housed a far superior version of this dish that had a richer, more umami flavour to it and a gutsiness that the good but safe pho at Pho 10 lacked. Which is perhaps no so much a reflection on how good Pho 10 is, but just how high the standards of the best food can be in Hanoi. 

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