The food gods rarely give second chances. But to many pho devotees, their prayers have been answered with the re-opening of Pho Ha Noi in Little Saigon’s brand-new, upscale Vietnam Town plaza.

Pho Ha Noi was a beloved pho shop on Capitol Expressway that inexplicably closed in late 2013, despite a steady following and a solid four star Yelp cred. I spoke with owner and head chef Charlie Nguyen, and he said the restaurant closed because of family issues and nothing business related. One of my good friends, who actually first introduced me to pho, used to wax poetic about Pho Ha Noi and how no other pho could compare. When I heard about their soft opening in early December, I grabbed him and told him it was time to put up or shut up.

Unlike most pho shops, which are sparsely decorated, Pho Ha Noi’s new location and décor are upscale; fancy chandeliers, quartz countertops and a stunning mural of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake adorning the rear wall. The service was also friendly and terrific.

At the behest of my cohort, we ordered their special combo pho dac biet ($11.25)—and to prove our credentials, we ordered the tái riêng (rare beef on side) to accompany our pho. Every other place I’ve been serves the rare beef in thin slices, but Pho Ha Noi dices, or tenderizes, the beef and tops it with a little cilantro, green onions and fresh garlic.

Pho Ha Noi is known for their Northern-style broth, so it’s a little different than what most people are used to; it has a strong beefy taste with hints of green onion and ginger, unlike the southern broth which is more star jasmine and white onion. The depth and breadth was phenomenal, and I slurped up every last drop.

Another house specialty are the handmade fresh, wide noodles. Pho Ha Noi’s seem to be thicker and tastier, which helps capture the nuances of the broth. The tripe, tendon and brisket that all come standard with the special combo were delicious, but the absolute highlight was the tenderized rare beef that was so supple and cooked in their piping hot broth.

I worried a little about coming to Pho Ha Noi on opening night, because they may not have had all the kinks worked out. Other than a little payment snafu, they were up and running like a place that had been doing it for years. Second chances are rare in the restaurant world, but Pho Ha Noi is making the most of it. Rejoice, South Bay pho lovers. Christmas has come early.

Pho Ha Noi 
969 Story Rd, Suite #6048, San Jose.