Turtle Tower, SF - get #9 Pho Ga!
First time to Turtle Tower Restaurant. It was pretty busy for a Sat night at 6pm.
Large #9 Pho Ga $6.75 - Chicken noodle soup. LOVED IT! Everyone should try this dish. Lots of soft, thin, rice noodles, not enough chicken meat for me, but that's ok, & green onions. Simple yet tasty. Small eaters should get a small $5.75, but if sharing Large is better.
His dish we shared was #12 Buncha Ha Noi - grilled pork patty & sliced pork w/ vermicelli noodle & lettuce $7.95. I thought it was going to be served different and was a bit disappointed. Just some cold vermicelli noodles w/ lettuce and mint leaves, then a small bowl w/ a few grilled pork patty - the size of a quarter and some sliced pork. NOT enough Meat! Served in a fish sauce I think. Not my favorite.
Caffe sua da - French filtered coffee w/ condensed milk iced $2.85. Tasted fine.
$17.55 + $1.50 tax = $19.05 Before tip. CASH ONLY.
One unisex bathroom in the back on the Right.
Recommended for Pho Ga #9!
Address: Larkin @ Willow
Turtle Tower Restaurant
631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109
I gave #10 (chicken with intestines) a shot and liked how it tasted just like my chicken broth at home, good chicken stock with ginger and fish sauce undertones. The only thing missing was the ginger scallion sauce I make, but I guess it's more of a Chinese thing like they do at Pho Ga Huong Que in Oakland.
All the innards (liver, gizzards, unlaid eggs and intestines) were nicely cooked, and I noticed that the unlaid eggs were especially tender here.
I'm wondering, do they use the typical free range chicken here? I didn't get any dark meat (or at least I don't think I did) so it was hard for me to tell. I do agree with Ann L about the amount of chicken meat, it was pretty scant even for my large bowl... or maybe an option of all dark meat would suffice.
The broth was very pale and clear, as opposed to Pho Kim Long's deep yellow broth in SJ. I'm guessing they use mostly chicken bones for the stock with minimal skin. At home, I use the leftover skin and bones from trimming down chicken thighs, so my broth always comes out very yellow, even after skimming the fat.
As for the Pho Bo, I tasted my DC's beef broth to refresh my memory from my first visit, and I found the broth to be surprisingly un-beefy, tasted almost like a combination of chicken and beef broth. She got it with no onions, and it came without cilantro as well, so the plain, unadulterated broth is all we tasted...well, besides the sprinkle of ginger garnished on the beef. The broth was a light brown hue, very clear, with no notes of anise, cinnamon, or clove.
I'd come back for the Pho Ga.
I'm pretty sure they are using whole chickens to make their stock-you can't get that flavor from just bones. My family makes chicken stock using whole chickens and the broth is similarly pale in color. I think it is because most Chinese or Vietnamese people do not roast the chicken prior to making stock (since most people lacked ovens in their homes).
Portion sizes are definitely Vietnamese rather than American.
You can order chicken by itself, but I think it is pretty pricey and worth it only if you have a bunch of hungry people. They will also give you raw beef on the side for your noodles (even if you are ordering chicken). Personally, I think mixing beef with chicken is blasphemy.
I've noticed that the Northern style bun plates aren't popular with the non Vietnamese, (possibly because people are expecting noodle soup?) They're better when the weather is hot and you want cool noodles with crunchy greens.