The best pho in Hanoi is arguably found at Pho Thin, a nondescript eatery on Lo Duc in the city's French Quarter.
When it opened in 1979, Vietnam was still recovering from the war and food was rationed. To add more flavour to the standard raw beef, broth and herb combination, owner Nguyen Trong Thin made the controversial call to stir-fry the beef in garlic before adding it to the soup.
In the years since, more Pho Thin outposts have opened across Asia, including wider Vietnam and Japan. Last week, Australia's first Pho Thin opened softly (it opens officially September 19) in Hardware Lane.
Nguyen Lam is behind it, although the now-elderly Nguyen Trong Thin also made the journey to ensure the right local ingredients were chosen to keep the flavours true to his original recipe.
As at the Hanoi original, "stir-fried up" rare beef pho is the signature dish. It comes with flat rice noodles in a rich, aromatic stock cooked overnight to develop its flavours. It has no added MSG and is topped with nothing but sliced spring onions and a bit of coriander. Bean shoots, says Nguyen, ruin the broth.
You are allowed to customise your soup with the table condiments, which include house-made chilli sauce, pickled chilli, fish sauce and lemon wedges. You're also encouraged to order a piece of fried dough (dau chao quay), to dip into the aromatic broth.
As well as the signature, there are four other pho options, including beef cooked in red wine, a range of other Vietnamese dishes such as bahn mi, vermicelli bowls and rice-paper rolls, plus local and Vietnamese beers.
Melbourne has no shortage of pho options, but according to Lam, there's nothing like this. "I wanted to introduce the original taste of pho," he says.
Open daily 10am-9pm.
Shop C, 389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (enter via Hardware Lane), 03 9193 8668