Saturday, March 10, 2007

Turtle Tower

The first time my friend Helen told me about Turtle Tower, a place for Northern Vietnamese food right in the Tenderloin where I live, I immediately thought of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (for the "Turtle Power!" cheer). I was also a little wary about going to a Vietnamese restaurant with a name containing words I could actually pronounce. But since I'm an equal opportunity food fan, and since the Yelp reviews were so good, I had to give it a try.

The restaurant is located on Larkin Street in between Eddy and Ellis Street, so it's not in the best of neighborhoods, and it definitely isn't pretty to look at on the outside or the inside. But this was the best pho I've ever had in San Francisco - even better than Mangosteen, which is just a block away from Turtle.

Pho with beef flank, tripe, and brisket ($6.30 small, $6.95 large)

As you can see in the photo, Turtle makes their pho in the Northern Vietnamese style, while most places make it in the Southern style. At Turtle, they use flat, wider white rice noodles and a clear broth. They also don't add bean sprouts or onions, and lemon (or lime) and green chili are the only condiments you can add. (Note: Helen once asked for hoisin sauce to add to her pho, and they looked at her as if she had sprouted horns. So to avoid incredulous looks, don't ask for hoisin sauce.)

Aside from these differences, the pho was absolutely delish. I loved the soft texture of the noodles, and the broth was more complex and less salty. I was never a fan of onions or bean sprouts in my pho anyway, so I didn't miss those much. I was wondering why there aren't more restaurants that make pho in this style, and one of my Vietnamese friends told me it had something to do with the Northerners fleeing to the South after the Communist takeover. They developed their own style of pho and stuck to it, since the Northern style reminded them of the enemy.

Anyway, I went back for another lunch at Turtle today and tried their Imperial Rolls as well. They were super crispy and filled with yummy pork, herbs, and veggie bits. It came with a side of cold rice noodles and of course, fish sauce.

Imperial Rolls (don't know price, but it should be around $5)

So I've officially been converted into a Turtle Tower fan. All they need is actual turtle-themed decor and it'd be perfect.

Turtle Tower
631 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 409-3333


Unknown said...

Yay, Turtle Tower! See, I told you Turtle Tower = life-changing pho. I'm glad I was able to convert you. ^_~

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Passionate Eater said...

I like that Vietnamese place with all the flamingos inside (near the Federal Bldg), but it looks like Turtle Tower is a tasty alternative!

Douglas Cress said...

Ive read thru your posts - you're already blogging up a storm :)

I've listed some of your reviews at....

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns :)