Located at 49 Bat Dan Street, Pho Gia Truyen (meaning family heirloom pho) is the most well-known pho restaurant in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. As the place is the most popular eatery on the street, it’s often referred to as “Pho Bat Dan”.
If you’ve tried a Vietnamese food before, almost likely it’s Pho. But if you’re wandering what’s this noodle soup dish, you can learn everything about pho (well, almost).
When Hanoians talk about the best pho in town, Pho Bat Dan is always one of the top three restaurants (lets just call it restaurant) they consider. Thus, the place happens to be a stop on our daily street food and the old quarter’s food tour. Within this article, we would like to review it basing on our most recent visit.
Our clients and us showed up at Pho Bat Dan around 19h00, the place was recognizable from the beginning of the street because of the long queue in front. The queue never stopped. Most of the customers were locals.
We joined to wait in line, standing next to the motorbikes and three plastic tables on the side walk – each was surrounded by slurping people. Line moved quickly, so no one seemed deterred by the length. The small shophouse looked full, but there was a high turnover. After about eight minutes, we stepped forward facing to the lady owner slicing the beef and taking the order.
Because of the long hour required in cooking a quality broth, good pho restaurants in Hanoi serve one type of pho only; either pho bo (beef pho) or pho ga (chicken pho). So does Pho Ban Dan, it sells beef pho. Local people appreciate it.
We looked at the menu nailed on the wall above man pouring the stork onto ceramic bowls, it shows three options of beef cuts; tai (medium rare), tai nam (medium rare flank), and chin (well done). The add-on could be a poached chicken egg or some Vietnamese fried donuts (with an extra cost). Hence, for foreigners, ordering was as easy as just pointing.
Having pho Hanoi style means there is no basil, no mint, not bean sprouts like the southern pho, if you ever had pho in Saigon to compare. In stead, you will have just what you have in the bowl, which is rice noodle, stock, thin sliced beef, and some green onions.
To Vietnamese standard, Pho Bat Dan’s bowl is medium size, with a pretty big bulk of beef given. We simply love the regular tai (medium rare), which we can feel the tenderness of the fresh meat while the savory of the broth is the same with other beef cut options.
After tasting the famous bun cha and banh mi on our way, we didn’t feel hunger at the pho place. But we wanted to take the chance to fully experience the way people eat pho, so we ordered a bowl for each with extra eggs and donuts. The cost for a bowl of pho tai was 50.000d (2,2 USD), 5.000d for an egg, and 10.000d for the donuts.
Following the payment up front, we stepped aside and waited to pickup the bowls ourself. Since there were four of us, we took each bowl to our seats (which we had grabbed from the person who had just finished a meal) and came back for the next. Yes, it’s basically self service there.
At the table, as the regular routine, we added some rice vinegar and chili sauce to enhance the flavors. Soaked the donuts into the pho’s soup, which absorbed the richness of the stock – like the icing on the cake. The broth was strangely clear, but highlighted by a sweet taste from marrow rich beef bones, local meat, and flavorful herbs.
Regarding to the atmosphere, Pho Bat Dan’s ambience is a basic shop house, looked chaotic at times. Like most eateries in the Old Quarter streets, the cleanliness was questionable, thankfully our clients’ eyes got used to it after walking around the area during the food tour.
The space was noisy, lack of seats, and long queue most of the time. The woman in charge seemed abrupt, her face and assistants’ expressions put many customers off. A customer siting next to us ordered a coke, all she got was a can of coke, nothing else, not even a straw, and when she asked for a glass and straw, what she got was some serious attitude from the lady server.
Clearly, the service was poor. As local foodies, we were against it for a long time, then we started to understand that what’s available at Pho Bat Dan is obviously a traditional Vietnamese street food venue for locals. So, we came to eat the popular pho without expecting any smiles or other unnecessary frills.
If their service is not what you are looking for, then this is not the eatery for you. If you’re not the type to sit down on low stools, share a table with strangers, squeeze with a crowd or wait in line, not accepting the local standard of “service”, don’t go there.
But, if you’re not fuss with their service, if you want a tasty pho and a real local experience, you should not go past Pho Bat Dan. If you’re willing to brave a little bit of waiting (average wait is about 8 minutes) and discomfort, you’ll forget how small the stools or space is once you dig into the piping hot bowl of beef noodle soup. Which was for our clients; “pretty damn mind blowing” said them.
- Pho Gia Truyen
- 49 Bat Dan Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- 6h00 -10h00, 17h00 – 21h30
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