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The Slanted Door

January 9, 2014

For years and years, I’ve heard people I know talk about their love for a certain restaurant in San Francisco.  Some of my non-San Francisco friends call this place their favorite restaurant.  And some of my San Francisco based friends say the same thing.  There’s gotta be something to it when this many people you know love the same place.  So, it was funny when planning for our weekend getaway to San Francisco and figuring out places to eat that my husband should randomly mention to me that he wanted to try this same exact restaurant, especially considering that he and I had never talked about this restaurant before.  Apparently he had also heard good things about this place.  Ok, I guess we’ve got to give it a try.

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The restaurant is known as The Slanted Door.  Located inside San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building, the Slanted Door is just off the waterfront with a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge.  The restaurant has a wide open dining room with an open kitchen laid out in a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing style, all designed by the restuaurant’s owner, Charles Phan, who studied architecture at UC Berkeley before starting his career as a chef and restaurateur.  The Slanted Door specializes in modern Vietnamese cooking using nothing but fresh ingredients to appeal to California sensibilities in healthy eating and living.  Nothing at the restaurant comes out of a bottle or a can, everything is made from scratch using traditional Vietnamese techniques with modern California ingredients.  Together, this elevated Vietnamese cooking creates one of the most popular, and well loved restaurants in the city.

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When our waitress came to our table to take our order, embarrassingly, I tried to order something that they don’t serve in their restaurant: cola!  They serve to caffeinated soda beverages at all.  I guess I realized I didn’t see soda on the beverage menu, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a restaurant that didn’t serve soda before.  So, in the end, I ordered what my husband had ordered, a pineapple sprizter.  The spritzer was made from fresh pressed pineapple, ginger, lemon, soda and mint.  The soda gives it a bit of carbonation, the mint gives it a bit of earthiness, the ginger gives it a spice and bite, and the fresh pressed pineapple combined with the lemon give it tang and tart but also sweetness.  Served with a sprig of mint, this drink was delicious, refreshing, and thirst quenching.  The flavors of the drink were earthy, healthy and blended well with the restaurant’s theme of modern twists to traditional Asian flavors.

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As a starter my husband wanted to try the mesquite grilled Prather Ranch pork belly.  Ok, how can I say no to a dish like that? You know what they say, everything’s better with bacon, or pork belly in this case.  The pork belly was served with red leaf lettuce, mint, shiso leaf, lemongrass and spicy gingered tamarind sauce.  At first, I was a bit worried about the tamarind sauce and how spicy it would be. In the end, I didn’t have the worry because it was more sweet than anything and didn’t have any spice unless you consider the spice from the ginger, which I don’t really consider to be spicy.  Now comes the ability to play with your food!  The idea is that you’re supposed to take a red leaf lettuce leaf, load it up with some of the pork belly, top it with some of the mint, shiso leaf (interesting flavor!) and the thinly sliced cucumber, then pour a spoonful of the tamarind sauce over the top and roll the leaf up into some sort of form that you can bite into.  Essentially the red leaf lettuce becomes your edible vessel containing all of these interesting flavors mixed together.  The pork belly was sweet and delicious, though I might have liked it to be a bit more crispy.  Combining the pork belly with the crunchy cucumber, the earthy mint and the interesting shiso and putting it together with the gingered tamarind sauce was brilliant.  The flavor was bold and packed a punch and a little bit more filling than I thought it might be.  It was a good start to the meal.

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Next up, we decided to order the green papaya salad.  The menu described it as a green papaya salad with pickled carrot, rau ram, crispy shallot and roasted peanuts.  One thing we needed to keep in mind was that this was modern Vietnamese cuisine and not Thai cuisine.  So, the green papaya salad didn’t come to the table with the bold and spicy flavors of Thai papaya salad, but more subtle and sweet flavors of Vietnamese cooking.  The peanuts and the crispy shallots were a terrific addition that I liked because it added the contrast of crunch to the dish.  The picked carrot and cucumber was definitely a Vietnamese addition which really added the nice bunch of vinegar and sourness to the salad.  The green papaya was sweet, but subtle.  The dish was overall very refreshing and a bit palate cleansing.

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For our entrees, since they were served family-style, we chose 2 different entrees.  The first was a noodle dish.  As steamed rice doesn’t automatically come with the entrees and needs to be ordered separately, we decided a noodle dish would kill two birds with one stone.  The dish was cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab, green onions and sesame.  Cellophane noodles are one of my husband’s favorite items.  This dish was flavorful and had a good amount of Dungeness crab meat spread throughout the dish rather than large chunks of crab meat only found sitting on top of the noodles.  The sesame added a nice nutty flavor and the green onions a subtle onion flavor.  You  never realize how filling noodles can be until you get a whole plate of them brought to you.

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Our main entrée dish was one that is a Slanted Door specialty and one of their most popular dishes: shaking beef.  Actually the menu reads that this is grass-fed Estancia shaking beef composed of cubed filet mignon, watercress, red onion and lime sauce.  The beef itself was fantastic, incredibly tender and rich.  The red onions were a nice touch, cooked but only to a certain point so that they retained a little bit of bite and some crunch.  The watercress was probably a little bit too much and we could have done with about half of it.  The lime sauce really makes the dish.  Served on the side, spooning it over the beef and onions and watercress creates a nice tangy, a little bit sweet, sauce for the amazingly flavorful beef.  I really enjoyed this dish.

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By this time my husband and I were both full, though we both new we wanted to try some dessert.  Since this was only lunch, it was a bit of an overkill to order one dessert each, so we decided the better option would be to split a dessert.  But, before we got to dessert, there was something on the dessert menu that caught my eye.  It was Vietnamese iced coffee.  Just seeing it on the menu brought me back to the Vietnamese iced coffee I enjoyed at the Rooftop Bar at the Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  I was hoping for something similar with a strong, rich, bold coffee flavor.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  This iced coffee was certainly strong, bold and rich and incredibly smooth. I probably could have drunk 2 or 3 glasses of it. I’m so glad I ordered it.

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The dessert we decided to order was sugar beignets.  But these weren’t just plain old beignets, they came with mascarpone dipping sauce.  The beignets themselves were light, and airy and fluffy.  It was like this puff of dough was as light as a cloud and dusted with just a tiny bit of sugar.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever eaten anything so light and airy.  But that wasn’t even the best part of the dessert.  The best part was the mascarpone dipping sauce.  This creamy, milky sauce was a perfect compliment to the beignets.  There was just a hint of sweet mascarpone in the sauce, but enough to add a touch of sweetness to the fried dough.  I was expecting the dipping sauce to be thick and creamy like condensed milk. But instead it was thin and light, exactly the opposite of a heavy sauce.  My husband said that this dessert was, without a doubt, the best thing he ate during our entire Thanksgiving trip.  I might have to agree with him.

I’m so glad that we decided to make reservations at this restaurant I had heard so much about.  The setting of the restaurant inside the historic Ferry Building along the waterfront with a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge was gorgeous.  The ambience of the restaurant was hip, modern, sleek and clean lines and reflected their food.  The food was a modern take on classic Vietnamese cuisine using locally grown and produced food products when appropriate and was as delicious as it was healthy.  I’d certainly come back to The Slanted Door again, if only to have the sugar beignets with the mascarpone dipping sauce!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. trishlee75 permalink
    January 9, 2014 10:54 am

    I super love the slanted door! Thanks for sharing!
    Trish

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