Now this is more like it – that’s what I call a kitchen. Bac Hai Hanoi at 25 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1 serves pho and keeps its restaurant and kitchen respectably dishevelled. I had high hopes when I spotted this one. Big chunk of cooked brisket on the kitchen slab next to a pre-boiled chicken, piles of dirty bowls, a fair number of soup slurpers, 1 rat (live) and a decent display of herbage on the tables. I ordered and waited.
Doubts did cross my mind when I spotted the menu. Call me a stickler for detail, but a pho restaurant should only serve pho. Bac Hai offers up mien ga (chicken soup with thin translucent noodles) and pho xao (noodle stir fry) Too much diversity is not a good thing. However, I was willing to look over this major missive when I surveyed the state of the restaurant. Not quite up to the Hanoi standard of filth – floors are a bit too clean – but not bad for Saigon.
The only real problem was the pho itself. Where’s the soup? I had to ask myself. Can’t see the soup for the noodles and that’s not good. I had to wade through a thicket of wide flat pho noodles to find my paltry puddle at the bottom of the bowl. Sadly the soup stock wasn’t a winner either. Lacking the aroma of pho 24, this soup harks back to the limp affairs that litter too many street corners of Hanoi. These boys just aren’t trying hard enough.
There are a lot of restaurants that serve Hanoian dishes in Saigon and most cater to a clientelle of, I’m guessing here, 70% Hanoian and they deserve better than this.
In a city of 8 million++ and – big-big guesstimate here – well over 5,000 pho restaurants there’s no time for second chances – even at 7,000VD a bowl. In the words of Simon Cowell, “I don’t think you’re taking this seriously. Goodbye.”