For over a decade the Slanted Door has been one of the most sought after dining experiences in San Francisco. Executive Chef Charles Phan blends his passion for Vietnamese cooking with top quality ingredients, showcasing the abundance of produce and ecologically farmed fish, game, and poultry sourced by local farms. Many of his recipes are inspired by his mother’s cooking, along with ideas he has picked up from his travels to Vietnam. If you are looking for irresistible food and a lively atmosphere, the Slanted Door may become your new favorite.Read More ...
For over a decade and a half the Slanted Door has been one of the most sought after dining experiences in San Francisco. And after my first visit, it is easy to see why.
In 1995, the Phan family opened the original Slanted Door on Valencia Street. Dedicated patrons have been faithful ever since, following the restaurant to its current location in the restored Ferry Building; a space designed by Olle Lundberg, providing unparalleled views of the San Francisco Bay. Situated in the northeast corner of the marketplace, the restaurant features a dining room that can seat up to 150 people, with space for 20 at the bar, 34 in the cocktail lounge, and 44 in the newly opened heated patio ideal for those chilly San Francisco summer days. The décor is contemporary yet simple, and with the open air space and tables quite close together, one can expect a constant buzz.
Executive Chef Charles Phan blends his passion for Vietnamese cooking with top quality ingredients. His menu showcases the abundance of produce and ecologically farmed fish, game, and poultry sourced by local farms. Many of his recipes are inspired by his mother’s cooking along with ideas he has picked up from his travels to Vietnam.
At first glance the menu may seem a bit overwhelming, as many dishes are not found on most traditional menus. However, the dishes are grouped into specific categories with descriptions, and utilizing the help of the knowledgeable and friendly staff will assist in making a selection. In addition, the well trained personnel are happy to provide recommendations for wine pairings. The only problem I encountered while dining at the Slanted Door was a yearning to order far more food than I could eat!
If you’re visiting the Slanted Door with a group, consider the prix fixe tasting menu. Available for lunch and dinner for parties of seven or more, the menu consists of your choice of three appetizers, three meat or seafood entrées, one vegetable dish, and a dessert platter. And since the restaurant recommends dining family style, there is no better way to sample a variety of dishes.
Chef Charles Phan’s signature Grass-fed Estancia Shaking Beef dish is not to be missed. Tender cubes of filet mignon are tossed in a tasty soy vinaigrette (a combination of rice vinegar, rice wine, light and dark soy sauces, and fish sauce that blend together beautifully) and stir fried in a hot wok along with generous amounts of organic, slivered red onion. Garnished with a bed of vibrant and peppery Sausalito Springs’ watercress and served with a side of pepper and lime juice dipping sauce, the result is simply mouthwatering.
The solo soup featured on the dinner menu is one to take advantage of: a Catalan Farm Sweet Corn and Dungeness Crab soup. Unlike the cornstarch-thickened soup often served under this name, the simply prepared dish consists of a light, clear, and fragrant broth that doesn’t distract from the true flavors. The small corn kernels are sweet and taste as though they have just been cut. Generous amounts of fresh Dungeness crab float throughout, their sweetness blending well with the corn kernels. Green onions and a hint of ginger enhance the dish, while a little egg white gives the soup texture.
The Crispy Imperial Rolls are another popular item at the Slanted Door. The rolls are generously filled with savory pork, sweet shrimp, and glass noodles bursting with flavor. Often times one will find crispy rolls to be too greasy, but these were the exception. The outside is lightly fried to a crunchy and flaky golden brown, finished with butter lettuce and fresh mint. Top them off with a peanut sauce and you’ve got yourself a winner!
Another staple is the Chicken Claypot. Chicken breasts and thigh meat are covered in a delicious ‘caramel sauce’ -- a blend prepared with a luscious consistency. The soy sauces add a note of Vietnamese influence to the dish, while the caramelized brown candy sugar balances the sauce with sweetness. The dish comes out bubbling and the aromas are heavenly, boasting intense flavors. Just the right amount of chilies and fresh ginger round out the dish nicely.
The grilled Berkshire Pork Chop comes highly recommended by our server and becomes a personal favorite of mine. The meat is sourced from the Range Brothers in Capay Valley, whose mission is to raise natural and simple meat, which is reflected all the way to the table. A thick cut chop is marinated in lemongrass, shallots, and fish sauce, then sliced from the bone and presented over a pool of shallot-ginger-soy. The dish is accompanied with crispy sweet potatoes that are a lovely contrast in texture and richness to the delicate pork chop.
Wine director Mark Ellenbogen has created a wine list at the Slanted Door that focuses exclusively on the food. You won’t find your typical California Chardonnay or Cabernet anywhere in the restaurant. Instead, exotic whites including German Rieslings and Alsatian Gewurztraminers are big players, with French and domestic reds and whites to round out the list. Each bottle has been carefully selected for its quality, value and compatibility with the food. The best part? The wine list reflects affordability, with more than one-third of the wines priced under $40, giving diners the opportunity to explore unfamiliar wines that pair perfectly with the flavorful, often spicy Vietnamese food.
If wine is not on your agenda for the evening, make your way to the bar and indulge in one of the hand crafted cocktails or enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed, organic and/or biodynamic juice. Similar to the wine list, the bar features a small selection of high quality beverages from smaller producers, often bright and crisp in taste and balanced with a touch of sweetness. The Slanted Door also features a variety of hard to find Chinese teas. In any case, you won’t leave thirsty.
The Phan family seems to hold on to something that is often forgotten in today’s restaurants: dedication and service. Their excellent hospitality makes patrons feel like family, and combining that with great food and good value, it’s no wonder the Phan family is so successful.
If you are looking for irresistible food, top notch service, and a lively atmosphere, the Slanted Door may become your new favorite. I can’t wait to go back and try more.
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