Pho Ha Noi, San Jose
I came here for my third taste of "Northern" style Pho, and probably the best version I've had so far. The broth here is very clear, light in color, and well skimmed of fat. The taste is very simple, a light beefiness, with a nice balance of ginger and fish sauce, and none of the spices like anise or clove found in its Southern counterpart.
The tenderized beef was similar to what I've had at Turtle Tower and Pho Quan Ngon in SF. Here I tried Dac Biet #6, and enjoyed the thick cuts of tendon, which were perfectly cooked, having just the slightest bit of bite left in them, and with good flavor to boot. Brisket and tripe were fine, but the tenderized beef and tendon were standouts. Most reviewers elsewhere complain about the lack of beef here, and I would tend to agree, Turtle Tower probably gives the most generous portion of the three I've tried.
They give you two options for noodles, thin or thick and I went with thick since that's what Northern style usually comes with. The thick noodles here were very fresh with the same silky texture as Turtle Tower's.
Garnishes here were similar to Southern style, which differentiates it from the other 2 I've tried. Here you get basil, jalapenos, raw sprouts, and a lime wedge. There's also no soup nazis here like at Turtle Tower, I spotted plenty of patrons dumping Sriracha and hoisin in their bowls. Honestly, I find it insulting to do that to an apparent "purist" Pho, but to each their own and the owners here don't seem to mind.
I'm still partial to Southern style Pho, but when I want the cleaner, more simple Northern style, Pho Ha Noi is where it's at.
I also noticed they offer a potentially legit Pho Ga here "with intestines" so I'm assuming it comes with liver, gizzards, but a review elsewhere mentioned they don't offer the unborn eggs any longer. The only other two places in San Jose that offer Pho Ga with innards are Pho Kim Long and Pho Ga An Nam.
I have order a side order of " intestines" about six months ago and got two unborn eggs. Unborn eggs are not available everyday but are available sometimes. So you have to be lucky.
I fear the only way to get unborn eggs you will have to dress your own chickens, something I not looking forward too.
I remember that at our pho chowdown last year, we all generally liked the pho ga at Pho Hanoi but thought it was salty. I've since had it again twice and it's always noticeably salty. That and the huge amount of cilantro which I like but might put off some, makes Pho Hanoi's pho ga just average in my rankings (surprising, given their pho bo is #2).
I've been lagging on my effort to rank all of the pho ga in the south bay (to follow up on my pho bo rankings), but now that it's cold I might jumpstart it again. By the way, among the 5 pho places in this one street corner, Pho Thien Long's pho ga is best for broth & overall taste, but they don't have the silky fresh noodles.
I visited Pho Ha Noi early this morning, and ordered Pho Ga with intestines, and thin noodles.
Really nice pho. Broth was golden, clean and fragrant; the chicken was tender and juicy with a nice mix of light and dark (with skin - yay!), but it was the noodles that made me the happiest. So fresh, perfectly cooked, and no clumping. :) I think I was fortunate to be there at 7:30. Even though the sign said open at 8:00, they were open, and noting my confusion about entering, the owner welcomed me in, saying "We're on Vietnamese TIme!"
I can roll with that.
Back to soup. I would have enjoyed more intestinal parts, getting only slices of kidney and most of the liver. I suppose I should just ask... Also, it was odd that a northern place would serve basil and bean sprouts, but I didn't mind.
BTW - My humble opinion is that Sricha and/or Hoisin sauce are best used in a separate bowl mixed with some nuoc mam, and used for flavoring meat only.
1759 E Capitol Expy, San Jose, CA 95121
Wasn't impressed. Biggest issue was the broth which was neither flavorful or piping hot. The later was a big issue since I got the Dac Biet with the rare steak on the side. A generous portion of meat, but the broth couldn't handle cooking the steak and I like mine cooked rare as well.
I guess I'm weird that I'll get steak "black and blue" but I prefer my Pho rare steak on the pinkish side vs. bloody and this soup couldn't do it. I usually go a couple of pieces at a time, but when the first few pieces were cooking super slow I dumped the whole plate in to salvage what I could . . .
Maybe will try the Pho Ga sometime, but the Pho Bo was not praise-worthy at all.