Location: 631 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA
Just eating at Turtle Tower makes you feel like you’re “in the know.” Set in the midst of Little Saigon, the Pho shop even has hipster-ready t-shirts and a secret room in the back (you enter through a dirty alley!) that add to its exclusive mystique.
The northern-style pho tastes like it was prepped in Hanoi. Featuring lighter broth and wide rice noodles, the soup comes unencumbered by hoisin sauce or any of the usual garnishes typically found in South Vietnamese versions of the dish. Turtle Tower’s main objective is to keep it simple. Well keep it simple and keep it fresh.
Chef and owner Steven Nghia is uncompromising about the quality of his ingredients. Nghia buys produce from local farmers’ markets, uses only free-range chicken, and the noodles are handcrafted every day. Steven, on that note, we have an idea for your next t-shirt: “Turtle Tower Keeps It Fresh.”
Even though the menu and food are uncomplicated, team Turtle Tower (the restaurant gets its name from the Thap Rua, one of Hanoi’s most prominent landmarks) presented HM with a clutch of off menu dishes. Here’s what they cooked up for us.
Pho Tai Ga
What it is: You don’t have to choose between rare beef and chicken. You can get both in the same bowl.
What we think: A collision of flavors that’s at first a bit jarring then settles into a symphony of noodle-y goodness.
Inside Info: You can get Turtle Tower’s pho pretty much any way you want it. That can mean generous helpings of rare beef, extra tripe, or a bowl teeming with giblets.
Bun (No. 12)
What it is: Grilled pork patty and sliced pork loin suspended in a tangy broth served with cold vermicelli noodles, lettuce, mint, and cilantro.
What we think: A lovely cool contrast to a heaping bowl of hot soup. Great for putting out fires in your mouth when you’ve shoveled in too much Pho and Sriracha sauce.
Inside Info: While technically on the menu, you can can get the dish with larger portions of patties or just the sliced pork. We opted for more sliced pork and were not even remotely disappointed.
Custom Side Dishes
What it is: If you want ANYTHING, all you need to do is ask. Customers often order mini sized portions of the side dishes. We were tickled by the prospect of ordering mini dishes of egg, giblets, and liver.
What we think: We ordered a mini portion of the liver, because let’s be real, there’s nothing wrong with a little extra iron in the diet.
Inside Info: Egg yolk with soup, a popular off-menu item was just recently added in January.
Written by: Kat Manalac & Danny Dumas
Photos by: Jon Snyder