Pho Thin (61 Dinh Tien Hoang), Hanoi.

January 2015.

This place is a bit hard to find because of irrational address numbering although it is close to the centre of the Hanoi old town and just across the street from Hoan Kiem lake.

It’s a pretty forbidding middle-aged lady running the show. She has no interest in welcoming what is obviously a tourist, but is also ignoring what appear to be her regulars. She looks unhappy and doesn’t say much except occasionally to yell at employees.

Sitting down on a bench at a stainless steel table, a bowl of goodies is set in front of me.
At last, the famous beef pho. And here it is very good. I’m not sure exactly what the stock is, but it’s fragrant and not too salty. It’s very hot, and the dysthymic old witch drops the ubiquitous rice noodles in on top of a fascinating combination of vegetables including garlic, chives, cilantro, and several other things I couldn’t identify. The beef is a lean medium cut sliced thin and just boiled in the soup I think. On-table condiments: red sour sauce, lime to squeeze, and chopped peppers. I added more peppers and wished I hadn’t, but the whole thing was beautifully satisfying, of course dirt cheap, and pretty low-cal as well.

I kept an eye on my fellow diners and figured out that you grab the noodles and beef with your chopsticks in the right hand, and suck up the soup from a little metal spoon held in your left. You can also put, and I did, lime and sauce condiments into the spoon to vary the flavour one way or the other. Really delicious.

The bill is $2.50. Keep your eyes peeled if you get up from the table because the restaurant doubles as a thoroughfare and every few minutes a scooter goes through behind you toward whatever is beyond.

Food 8.6, service 2.3, ambience “authentic”, value 9.8.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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