Austin: Ex Sea Dragon chef now at Pho Ha Noi

Pho Ha Noi opened in Fall 2017 in a location that sees a lot of places come and go. (It was last a vegetarian Vietnamese place.)

They have northern style pho, which I had once and I thought was okay. They also have delicious banh trang tron, which is a flavor-packed street food made out strips of rice paper. I don’t think I’ve seen banh trang tron anywhere else in ATX.

Recently, the owners hired the now closed but once beloved restaurant Sea Dragon’s former chef. Sea Dragon had a mediocre buffet but was famous for specialty Vietnamese and Chinese-Vietnamese dishes. One of their best-loved dishes as pho ap chao. The style it was made at Sea Dragon was amazing, and hard to find elsewhere.

Guess what Pho Ha Noi has on their menu now. Pho ap chao! Just like it was at Sea Dragon. Crispy and chewy wide banh pho with a delicious stir fry with protein of choice (sea food or thap cam protein medley are my faves). It’s sooo good. People were even mentioning it on Yelp. I wanted to post here as a heads up in case any ATX HO people missed Sea Dragon and hadn’t heard the wonderful news.


I’ve never seen Pho ap chao and I must’ve eaten at a hundred Vietnamese restaurants (I love Vietnamese food). Is it rare?

No, not rare. But most of our Austin VN restaurants and most VN restaurants in the US for that matter, are pho houses that also have a bun and com tam selection, but pho ap chao (also sometimes called hu tieu ap chao—the wide pho and hu tieu are the same thing) is usually only served in VN restaurants with extensive menus (like New Fortune or the erstwhile Sea Dragon). New Fortune also has ap chao on their menu (labeled hu tieu ap chao) but it is not prepared in the same style as Sea Dragon so I never got excited about it. That’s a great place also, but for other things.

I actually found a place in Round Rock near Ikea called Fortune Garden that prepares their ap chao noodle dish the same way as Sea Dragon used to but they use cheapo tiny scallops and little shrimp and such and the seafood isn’t good quality. The light amount of sauce and overall crispy chewy dish is the same, though.

I’ve also had terrible ap chao noodle in gloppy sauce that made the noodles soggy, or ap chao that had a noodle nest that was made with thin soup banh pho over-fried into a crispy bird’s nest and was just not good.

If you’ve had chow fun or char kway teo at Chinese restaurants, pho/hu tieu ap chao is similar to that but the noodles are pressed to the oily pan to make them partially crispy in addition to giving them wok hei.

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Where do you like for pho in Austin? I’ve tried so many of the top recommended places (Pho Saigon, Tan My, Pho Please, Pho Dan, Pho Thai Son, Pho Ha Noi just to name a few) and keep running into broth that is usually too sweet. My former go-to was PhoNatic in Mueller for the transparent and clean textured broth.

Sorry, a couple of the places you mention are where I would have told you to go.

One thing, though. Pho broth is characteristically sweet…at least the Saigonese style sold at these restaurants. (Barring Pho Ha Noi, which is supposed to sell northern style pho.)

You can actually tell when restaurants cheat and use doctored up pho broth in other soups (like bun bo hue) because it has that undisguisable sweet anisey pho taste. Please post back if you find a place that you like.

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Pho broth is characteristically sweet…at least the Saigonese style sold at these restaurants. (Barring Pho Ha Noi, which is supposed to sell northern style pho.)

Ha Noi was especially disappointing since I prefer northern style pho where the broth is supposed to stand on its own. Their broth was straight up watery/bland! I accept that vast majority of places will have the sweeter style of broth, but seems like most places here do broth that skews more rich/sweet to appeal to an American palate.