Hai Nam Pho Bistro

Hai Nam Pho Bistro is what happens when ethnic cuisine becomes a victim of too much "localization." The Vietnamese owners here believe that the food must be adjusted to local tastes, a perfectly reasonable theory that can spawn inventive dishes, but at Hai Nam they simply avoid flavorful cuts of fatty meats and traditional Vietnamese dishes that they deem unpalatable to Hungarians. For example, the bun cha (€6), normally a mound of flavorful pork belly, is a forlorn-looking affair of lean meat; the spring roll (€2), another Vietnamese staple, lacks that coveted porky flavor and crunchy crust.

Hai Nam's speciality is the beef pho (€5), which is very good indeed. The soup arrives in an aromatic broth with slippery rice noodles and drizzled with bean sprouts, chives, and cilantro. Both the slow-cooked shanks and the thinly sliced sirloins are tender and delicious.

Hai Nam is by far the most popular Vietnamese restaurant among local Hungarians in Budapest, enjoying a cult-following. While the pho soup is worth a visit, there are other restaurants in the city that serve more adventurous Vietnamese food.

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