Rating: 9 / 10
Sure, you can read blogs or newspaper reviews about new places to try, but one of my favourite methods of procuring tips is from someone who seems to know what they're on about. I was sitting beside an old Vietnamese man talking about the glory days of Hai Cafe in Oslo when he blurted out "Sea Sushi has the best Pho in town, Da Lat are pretenders".
Shocked to my core that a sushi place could bubble up a bowl of Pho, yet trusting his instincts since he name-dropped Hai, a group of friends assembled in the rain and walked up the hill to test the recommendations of a stranger.
All three ordered Pho Bo, to have multiple minds processing the same broth and noodles with which to contemplate our grades. I was served first, and scooped a clear, tea coloured spoonful of broth and sipped. The tension in my neck loosened, my palate opened at the hit of steam, the gloss of simmered soup rolled down the throat in celebration.
I waited until my two partners in crime had taken their moment of self-reflection and smiled as their faces turned from scepticism to disbelief. We ate in silence, the quiet agreement that we were experiencing something special. Hums and Ho's escaped mouths, hands trembled as spoons were lifted, herbs and bean sprouts were added and a squeeze of lemon, a spoon of chilli garlic, and then the remainder of the meal fell in slurping.
The broth was decadently balanced, not too sweet and off-putting, but with a bold beefy-tone that danced a top the slight pepper hit. It was umami laden and virtually impossible to put your spoon down until you saw the sad bottom of white bowl staring back.
Noodles and meat and condiments and herbs were all appropriate, but the star of this was definitely the broth. I have not tasted anything like this in Norway since the golden days of Hai Cafe, so sorely missed.
Who would have thought that Oslo's best Pho could be found at a generic Sushi place that has changed owners more time's than I can remember. It just goes to prove that you cannot judge a book by it's cover, and with the temperamental quality control at Pho Mai, i'd hedge my bets on recommending this whenever anyone asks me where they can get the best Pho in town...
Read more in our guide to the best Pho in Oslo here.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored in the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"