Sunday, November 23, 2008

Slanted Door (San Francisco, CA)

High end Vietnamese food with an American twist, that's what you get when you visit Slanted Door. Slightly Americanized Vietnamese dishes made with higher end / finer ingredients. Nimen Ranch beef, local vegetables, and fresh ingredients are the calling card for the restaurant. The chef Charles Phan wanted to create a concentrated Vietnamese menu, not like the typical Vietnamese restaurant with hundreds of dishes, so the menu is a "handful" of noodle, appetizers, meats, and seafood. The restaurant has been greeted in the last decade with much success, if you were looking for dinner at 6-8pm on a Saturday night you'll be making a reservation 3+ weeks in advance.

The restaurant is situated in the Ferry Marketplace Building along the waters of San Francisco Bay.
A gorgeous view of the Oakland Bridge greets you as you walk to the entrance of Slanted Door.

To be honest, I had no intention to eat here when we visited the Ferry Building. It was pouring rain and we had no clue where to eat so I figured I could TRY to get a seat at Slanted Door at 12:30pm on a Saturday. I walked in to about 12+ people deep trying to get their name down for a seat and 20+ people waiting in the ... waiting area to get seated. When I finally got up front to put my name down, the maître d asked if we were all there (no, cause someone was in the restroom line!) and if so he would seat me. I ran to the restroom line, pulled "someone" out and we went back to the counter. Apparently due to all the rain a few parties of 2 had canceled for their 12:30 seating. What luck!

We were escorted into the dining area, which is built in a very sleek and modern decor. Crisp bright white with large open space and modern art deco at every open wall space.

They seemed to give different tableware to the customers here, we got these really cool looking chopsticks with etched spirals into the top. The other chopsticks around us were just boring ol wood chopsticks.

Since it was a rather cold and wet day, we started off with a bowl of Pho Bo

Beef noodle soup with wide rice noodles in a Pranther Ranch London Broil broth. The soup was accompanied by the standard garnishes of sprouts/basil/jalapenos.

Do not let the picture fool you, the bowl of Pho is small. So small in fact, you could have laid your spoon directly across it and almost reach from end to end.

The noodles themselves were not particularly good. A little overcooked and the wide noodles didn't do anything for me. The soup was smooth and rich in beef stock but light enough as not to overwhelm the palate. What really stood out in this dish was the slices of London Broil that came with the soup. Really tender thin slices of beef that melted in your mouth. The meat itself wasn't fatty at all, but it was so soft and flavorful.

The next dish was their ever popular Shaking Beef

Cubed Niman Ranch Filet Mignon with stir fried onions, water cress, and a lime dipping sauce. I thought the Beef itself was tender and full of fatty goodness, but it was lacking in flavor. It seemed to me as though they didn't cook the onions with the beef long enough. The onions were coated in a delicious peppery and sweet sauce (I assume fish sauce + Hoisin?) that mixed well with the bitter lemon grass. If the beef was as well marinated as the onions, the dish would be absolutely perfect.

The lime sauce was a bit overpowering with the beef alone due to the lack of flavor in the beef, but when eaten with the onions, watercress , and beef it combined nicely.

We also ordered some Broken Jasmine Rice

This rice was sensational. Little broken pieces of fragrant jasmine rice, perfectly cooked. It absorbed all the sauces wonderfully.

Our final dish was Caramalized Catfish

The dish is served in a clay pot. The sauce was reduced to almost a thick goo with three large catfish filets. This dish was spectacular. Moist, flaky catfish flavored deeply with the sauce. It was almost as if the fish was born with fish sauce, garlic, and onions oozing out of its body. This was my favorite dish by far.

I found the restaurant to be an enjoyable meal. I can't imagine myself planning a trip around it and booking 3-4 weeks in advance, but if I was in the area I would not hesitate to come back (if.. I didn't have to make a reservation). I'm sure many think of it as the P.F. Changs of Vietnamese food, but the quality of the ingredients really shines through on each dish.

Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111



Susan (Sharon's friend) said...

I agree with your review of the Shaking Beef - not enough flavor. The most memorable dish I had there was the daikon rice cakes with shiitake and shallots.

Tracey said...

Thanks for the review... I've been wanting a trusted perspective on this place for a while. Everyone tells me to go here when I'm in SF, but being Vietnamese, it's hard for me to plunk down that amount of money for a Vietnamese restaurant -- I'm so used to phenomenal food at the $5 pho places. It sorta wouldn't feel "authentic" I guess, without the backlit moving waterfall pictures on the wall, and lack of friendly service...

Charlie Fu said...

Oh don't worry Tracey there was plenty of indifferent service here =).

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