After my whirlwind of blowing into town and dashing to the two Armenian delis before they closed, I headed to the corner of McKinley and First for a solo dinner of noodles. I had wanted to try the hu tieu nam vang at Lyn, but found the lights out and a “closed” sign on the door.
So, I aimed a few yards north to the next restaurant, Pho Paradise, remembering the name from mentions here but not knowing if those were positive or negative. The lit sign over the entrance promised bun bo Hue and seafood noodle soup (hu tieu).
The condiment tray on each table had the usual, plus crushed peanuts, pickled jalapeno chili slices, and mauve-colored fermented shrimp sauce. Usually I have to request the shrimp sauce when I order bun bo Hue, so it must be popular order here to have it available on the table.
The house specialty noodle soups, #14 Hu Tieu Dac Biet (made with rice noodles) and #14A Mi Dac Biet (made with egg noodles), were described as seafood soup, shrimp, BBQ pork, imitation crab meat, squid, and chicken. I asked for “half-half”, meaning half egg noodles and half rice noodles in a medium size. My waitress didn’t need any further explanation.
Both types of noodles in the soup were cooked the way I like with some bite to them. In addition to the topping ingredients listed on the menu, this also had fish balls, cilantro, slivers of white onion, fried shallots, and extra bonus points for the crunchy bits of fried pork skin. The shrimp quality wasn’t great here and I tried to ignore the fake krab. Everything else was done quite well with the boneless poached chicken breast and BBQ pork being quite tasty. The side plate of garnishes had some very fresh (but unplucked) bean sprouts, basil, lime, and fresh chilis. For me hu tieu is all about the soup, based on pork bone broth with seafood accents and often some chicken stock too. The soup stock here is quite tasty with a sweet brininess if a bit too yellow and salty from chicken bouillon.
Hu tieu mi dac biet (#14/14A half-half)
This was a solid performance, up to San Jose quality and better than any hu tieu I’ve had in the City of San Francisco. I was charged $6.95, which is a large size, but that’s been typical in my experience when ordering half-half. I also had a salty lemonade for $2. A satisfying, light and bargain priced dinner.
1848 N 1st St, Fresno, CA 93703