Pho Ha Noi Hunter Connection
- Date Visited: 25th of July, 2017
- Order: Phở Bò Đặc Biệt (Special Beef Combo Noodle Soup)
- Final bill: $10.00 AUD
Pho Ha Noi is located in Hunter Connection food court on the upper level. As you ascend to the top of the escalator, you will spot a big menu depicting classic Vietnamese cuisines.
As any food court within the heart of Sydney CBD, during lunchtime (12-1 pm), expect some queue time and scavenging around to find a free table. The ambience is filled with chatter, orders being taken and sounds of pots and pans sizzling in the flame from the various kitchen.
As any food court business is run, you can expect to wait in line, make your order at the cashier then wait for your food to be called out. What I found most comforting is that the staff are Vietnamese people, that is always a merit.
Testing out my Vietnamese I decided to place the order in Vietnamese, which the staff member responded in a northern accent which is another tick box to the whole package of pho from Ha Noi. As it was after 1 pm, there was not a massive backlog of order and my order was ready within 5-8 minutes. With the way pho is constructed, where most of the ingredients are already pre-prepared and all that is required is to assemble the bowl of pho, you should add on 5 minutes or so during peak hour.
So what do you expect in a normal bowl of special combination beef pho? You have the broth, rice noodle, different type/cut of meat, thinly sliced onion, cilantro and chopped green onion. Usually presented in a large bowl with good depth for you to mix in other condiments and herbs to your liking.
Pho Ha Noi in Hunter Connection definitely has all the right components. The broth looks clear and enough level of fat content on the surface. This is debatable, but I always feel like a good bowl of pho has to have that layer of fat which makes it shine and you can see the oily bubbles on the surface of the bowl. I definitely thought that it could do with a bit more green onion and peppers to top it off to not only add to the presentation but enhance the overall taste.
The bean sprouts and basil which is provided does look a bit wilted, but you would not expect super quality fresh herbs at these places. Lastly, I would have preferred if they provided proper chopsticks and spoons rather than the fast food chopsticks and spoon. It does make it harder to eat the pho and takes away from the experience. I guess it saves them time and money by using disposable utensils.
The broth is packed with flavours as you would expect from pho and you can feel that all the ingredients have been simmered for at the very least 4-5 hours to produce that thick aroma produced by the star anise and cinnamon. The broth was fairly light and a touch on the sweet side. We all know that MSG is a common component of Vietnamese cuisine, but the amount to use is very crucial as it can leave a bad aftertaste. As for the broth here, I do feel that the sweetness of the broth was not completely from the stock produced by the bone or herbs pouch, but a heavy addition of MSG. You can tell this if you feel thirsty and there is a mild aftertaste in your mouth well after you have finished eating.
The rice noodles had the right consistency and did not easily break when you slurp it into your mouth. It is important to have flexible and silky strands that have the right amount of thickness with good length so that it can be picked with the chopsticks. Pho Ha Noi in Hunter Connection definitely delivers on their noodle quality.
Overall, the meat cuts were fairly generous, thinly sliced and the rare beef was able to cook perfectly. Beef ball had the right elasticity and texture, which was delightful to chew. The beef tripe was cooked thoroughly and had a nice crunch to it, also cut evenly and not too thick so that you can eat it easily.
Lastly, the condiment was all there for you as per request. You have the classic hoisin sauce, which was a bit washed down but at least it was the real deal. You also had the red chilli sauce, fresh chilli and sate chilli sauce.
For $10 AUD and you get a fairly complete build of pho that consists of the authentic taste, in the CBD. It is not a bad deal. You get a fairly generous serving which does keep you satisfied for at least 2-3 hours before the thought of eating again. You can find other pho places around the area that can charge anywhere between $12-16 AUD for the same bowl of pho.
If you are working or around the Wynyard area and do not have the time to head towards World Square or Chinatown, then Pho Ha Noi in Hunter Connection is definitely a viable option. Would I say it is the best pho I ever had? No. But it is surely a good place to have in mind when you are desperate for a quick bowl of pho. Overall, this is an above average bowl of pho with a questionable amount of MSG in their cooking.