This past weekend, I found myself hungry in San Francisco around 1 PM, even though I had just eaten lunch at Pho+? Ao Sen after my run with my new running buddy, Arik, and the Papa Bear. Although I'd like to attribute my hunger to the run, I think it was just that I really wanted an excuse to take the Papa to Turtle Tower Restaurant in San Francisco, a Vietnamese noodle shop I discovered a while back during my pre-Symphony meals.
Turtle Tower serves a different kind of pho+? than many of the pho+? shops around the Bay Area. Can you tell what's different from this picture?
There are many differences depicted here, including the condition of the raw beef (tai) as well as the color and clarity of the broth. The raw beef trimming is more like pounded raw beef rather than the carefully sliced meat in other places. Both times I've had pho+? at Turtle Tower, I've really enjoyed this texture here. But the most striking difference is the lack of herbs and bean sprouts in this picture. Northern-style pho+? forgoes all the trimmings, choosing a more broth-powered approach, garnished only with green onions and a dash of lime.
The thing that stands out in my mind about the pho+? at Turtle Tower is their home-made, hand-cut noodles.
These noodles are smooth, slippery, and exciting as they dance around in your mouth as you slurp and chew with their variable widths occupying different surface areas inside. Although not as chewy as the reconstituted dried noodles, they have a slight sweetness that accentuates the taste of the broth. The splash of lime brings out the best of the noodles - deliciously satisfying!
As many of you attentive readers might guess, I haven't said much about the broth, which is unusual for my pho+? posts. The actual flavor of the broth is a bit difficult for me to comment, since I don't know any other Northern-style pho+? shops. I'm not sure if what I found lacking was due to my exposure to (and general preference for) Southern-style pho+? or something inherent in the broth specifically at Turtle Tower... I don't think I can justifiably compare my favorite Southern-style pho+? with this one, since it's really a different beast all together.
Although I very much enjoyed Turtle Tower's Northern-style bowl, my number 1 pho+? ranking hasn't changed a single bit. If I had to eat a bowl of pho+? every day, I'd prefer it to be from Beef Noodle #1!