I can't say it was the best noodle soup in Thailand, but I certainly think it was the best noodle soup I have ever had in Thailand.
And I do like my noodle soup.
Y.A.N. Noodle Bar Coffee is the place. It's in the Royal Paradise complex in Patong, Phuket - 141/14 Rath-U-Thit Road - tel: 087 284 5443 or email: email@example.com.
The complex is a horseshoe shaped area bounded by a one-way road that comes in from Rath-U-Thit Road (spellings vary), goes up to the entrance of the Royal Paradise Hotel, and then continues around to exit a little further down Rath-U-Thit Road.
There's a central walk way leading up to the hotel between the two sides of the access road, and a couple of smaller soi running parallel to this on either side of it.
Then there is an alley-way that runs from the centre of one side of the area to the other side of the horseshoe.
This bit is important if you want to find this noodle bar, (and I think you should if ever you are in Patong).
Traffic enters from the southern part of the horseshoe road and just follows its way around to exist via the northern part.
On foot you can enter via either the entry or exit road or the central walk way.
Um, a note for travellers though. During the day, it doesn't much matter which way you come in, but at night the complex comes alive, especially on the northern side.
It should take you about a second or so to realise that you have entered the heart of Patong's gay night life.
(Though the owner of the Sundowners bar did tell me that he had a few young blokes sitting out the front who would take a swig from their drinks, look bemusedly up and down the soi, take another swig and did so for some time. Eventually they asked him "excuse me, do you speak English?" Upon being assured that he did, one asked "is this Bangla Road (ie, the main place for straight bars)?" No was the reply and they downed their drinks in a gulp or two and took off at a rate of knots.)
But you needn't be scared. Nobody will bite, though attempts will be made to drag you into one of the go-go boy bars.
The bisecting alley-way I referred to runs between Sundowners and Connect and you'll find Y.A.N. at the other end.
Or just come via the southern entry. There are a couple of boy bars just opposite, but you can ignore them.
Anyway, Y.A.N. is, as far as I can tell, run by a couple of Isaan guys and their farang (pronounced falang) boyfriends. Or at least one of them, which is a very nice Danish fellow by the name of Jan. The American David, an entomologist, certainly helps out.
It is not your typical Thai restaurant that offers the usual several dozen usual menu items.
They roast chickens Isaan (ie the north-eastern part of Thailand that linguistically and culturally is more a part of Laos than the rest of the country) style in a large earthenware pot with a small charcoal fire in the base, with the chickens suspended around the interior rim.
The chicken, with a subtle smokey flavour, is delicious.
Basically you can get noodle soup or a somewhat western style chicken salad there. Though I think you could get some chicken and rice if you asked for it.
Certainly I saw the impossibly cute and good looking waiter Da (Ta? - it's pronounced Da anyway) having this, and I think I'll be ordering this for my last meal in Thailand.
It's a family run business on the Thai side, and he is somebody's nephew. With a winning smile. But I'm getting distracted.
Right, the soup.
Of course it is basically rice noodles in a broth that you season yourself using the usual Thai condiments of fish sauce (basically for the salty flavour), sugar, ground chillies and usually some vinegar I think. It's all about balancing these competing flavours.
Though here there is some chilli in a dark paste as well.
Part of what makes or breaks a good noodle soup in my view is the quality of the broth. When they open the lid for this the smell is great. It is a good start.
The other ingredients, such as the vegetables, are fresh and it is well presented.
While you can have it with pork, I'd recommend the chicken.
It will come with bits of pork crackling in it that are completely yummy. It may not be good for you, (supposedly), but the deep fried pork in Thailand is to die for.
The owners have gone to a bit of trouble to make a place that gives you a little taste of the Thai experience, while also creating a place that is clean and inviting. It is a bar, (which isn't saying much in a country where you can get a beer at KFC or the little bakery nearby), so you can enjoy a proper drink with your food. They do have wine available, either by the bottle or the glass, though it will be from a cask (um, box or whatever for non-Australian readers) if you just want a glass.
I asked for a glass of red wine last night and was very pleasantly surprised with the South African, (yes, yes, I know, but I had no choice and at least we did beat them - finally - in the rugby the other day), blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and pinotage that came out of said cask.
I think I'll be having another tonight as well.
Finally - beware. The Isaan are, in my opinion, all certifiably insane.
You'll have a great time with them, but before you know it it'll be 3 o'clock in the morning and you will be pissed out of your brain.
Do go and visit, but if you do hang around, don't say you weren't warned.