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


Sunday, November 16, 2008

@ Home (well someone's home) with Flannery and Wine.

My friend Steve invited me over the other night to partake in some Bryan Flannery meat and wine. How can I say no to two of my favorite things in the world?

If you don't know Bryan Flannery (BF) meat you need to read this carefully. BF puts out the highest quality meat at the best price. USDA PRIME beef, artisan bacon, the works. Of course it's not cheap, but it's FAR cheaper than all the other butchers at his price. For example, IOWA Farms in San Diego is over $34/lb for USDA Prime 24 day aged Midwest NY steak, Bryan? $32/lb. But when you put them side by side you'll be blown away by the difference. You can't get meat at Ruth Chris/Maestros/Morton's as good as Flannery.

So when Steve told me he had a few BF Hanger Steaks I was ready as spaghetti to chow down.

3 strips of Prime Hanger @ $15.99 a lb (one strip is roughly 1.2lbs). If you've never heard of Hanger Steak you're in for a treat. It's the part of the beef that's "hanging" from the diaphragm of the cow. Really strong in a rich beefy flavor. If you go to Whole Foods you'll find this for about $12lb. But it'll still have the nasty central membrane attached and the quality is SO much lower you wouldn't even think it was the same meat.

I introduced my friend Ryan to Hanger Steaks from BF last week for his new Le Creuset Grill Pan and homeboy was in LoVE. This is his love and dedication to it.

***: dude, i dropped a piece last night
***: and i got cat hair on it
***: i still ate it (after i brushed it off)
Usually some nice coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper do the trick for these puppies.

You can see the nice lines of fat that run through the beautiful piece of delicious meat.

To pair with it we had some bacon that BF had sent me the week before. Vande Rose Farms Artisan Fry Applewood Smoked Bacon. Bryan in his infinite generosity sent me this box for free because I had no idea which bacon out of the two he had to chose from so I got 2 for the price of 1 =).

The bacon is dry cured with brown sugar, salt, pepper and applewood smoked. Cook's illustrated recommended it as it's FAVORITE premium applewood bacon.

Steve took the bacon and quickly seared it to wrap around some freshly purchased scallops *YUM!*

To pair with our meal we opened a couple of bottles of vino.

d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2005

Not your typical Aussie Shiraz with in your face fruit and syrupy bold consistency.
  • 10 hour decant.

    When I took a sit at hour 2 I almost gagged at the amount of petroleum syrup there was in this wine, I wasn't ready for it. But when I re-bottled it and brought it to Steve's it changed into a whole different beast. A nice nose of small dark berries with some spice box waffling at the top. I was surprised by great amount of acidity on the palate with clean concentrated fruit of (limited) strawberries and blueberries with fresh cracked pepper sprinkled on top. Elegantly made with no overwhelming alcoholic presence and a long 30+ second finish of light tickling fruit and fine tannins. (93 pts.)
We also had Alban Vineyards Reva Estate Syrah 2003, a big boy in the California Syrah scene.

  • Incredibly dark and deep colored wine. A nose of toasted oak/fresh vanilla, smoke, pepper, rich deep black berries. Giant gobs of mellow/ripe blackberry, syrup, pepper, cocoa coat the insides of your mouth. As rich and big as the wine in, it's a very smooth drink. Nice long finish with a backbone of tannin and acidity that suggest its ability to age. What's most surprising is after about 2 hours you start tasting meat and bacon fat on the palate. Reminded me a bit of a Youthful Cali Cab when we first drank it... (94 pts.)

Steve also busted out some Skirt steak from BF that we didn't cook. Just wanted to show you the proliferation of thin lines of fat that run through this steak. Doesn't it make you drool? Don't you want to reach out and touch it?

We tossed the Bacon wrapped scallops on the grill with the hanger and settled in for some wine and cheese.

Shortly after we had touchdown!

The bacon is beyond words. I'll try but it can't even match the joy my taste buds felt. A great combination of sweetness from the brown sugar mixed in with the salty bacon fat but at the same time thick and meaty full of strong ham flavor that rises up against the fat.

We then partook in the hanger steak with a side of saffron rice.

For the inquiring minds, the Saffron rice is a combination of

  • White rice
  • Chicken broth opposed to water
  • Olive Oil
  • Saffron
  • Half a sweet onion.

Put it all in a rice cooker and let it go (Thanks Steve!)

The hanger is as delicious as always. The thin strips of fat melt away at medium rare and integrate beautifully into the meat. The meat itself is soft, which is actually something rare in hanger steak which tends to be a rougher steak. But the dry age + incredibly high end Prime nature of the steak allow the steak to almost melt in your mouth like butter. The meat does a great job of balancing out with the salt and pepper, the richness of the fat doesn't allow the salt to overwhelm it, but to be a partner in it's dance of flavor love.

So if you haven't bought yourself some Flannery, do yourself a favor and go get some! Try the Hanger, I PROMISE you won't regret it!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tender Greens (San Diego)

Nothing beats a big heaping salad for lunch. No matter how much cream based dressing, egg yolk, bacon you put on it.. it just seems healthy. On top of that, have them prepare the salad fresh right in front of you only adds to the appeal factor. And then ON TOP OF THAT fresh sliced grilled/roasted meats on a toasted ciabatta bun? YOU GOT ME HOOKED!

So what restaurant has suddenly become my favorite lunch spot? The recently opened Tender Greens in Liberty Station Point Loma. A new restaurant that just opened up recently that specializes in freshly tossed salads and carved meats. "Healthy/Local" is the motto!

A fresh, clean, open aired restaurant with nicely appointed thick wooden tables and high ceilings gives you a feeling of relaxation and sanctuary from the hustle bustle of your work/school day.

The menu consists of a handful of "simple" salads (just a type of lettuce mixed with a dressing and maybe one or two other veggies), carved meat (served in a sandwich or alone with mashed potatoes), and "big" salads (the big time toss in 10000000 ingredients and let it rip). For $5 you can have a large plate of the "simple" salad or for $10 add that salad in with a carved meat selection (albacore, flank steak, roasted chicken, pork). The big salads are $10. They have daily specials with a special type of meat and salad.

After ordering at the entrance, you follow a trail of vegetables and sauces as you watch the workers prepare whatever veggie delight you decided to order.

Like a construction line, they first toss together your different types of base lettuce in a large bowl and mix it with your dressing of choice.

Toss it onto the next worker who adds the secondary ingredients to make your perfect salad. For those grilled veggie lovers, they provide freshly grilled Temecula Vegetables. A delightful and enticing treat, so enticing in fact that I spent a good 3-5 minutes photographing the veggies.

Don't you just want to nibble on one of these root veggies like Bugs Bunny? The workers probably thought "what the weirdo? why is this kid taking 50 photos of the root veggies, he's insane!"

And finally you get to the meat portion. Another drool worthy section of the Tender Green conveyor belt. After drooling over everything you SHOULD have ordered and regretting everything you DID order, you get a drink and pay.

My drink of choice today? Fresh lemonade with Hibiscus tea.

A crisp acidic bite with a hint of sweet and sour from the lemonade. The Hibiscus itself has a strong floral bouquet that might be overwhelming for some.

My friend ordered the Red/Green Butter lettuce with Tarragon sauce, Herb Brushed local Halibut, and creamy mashed potatoes.

First off, these are some of the most creamy, velvety, and buttery mashed potatoes you'll ever find. I'm sure each spoonful has at least one stick of butter in it. This doesn't detract from the fact that there is such an overwhelming mouth feel of richness from eating it. A+.

The Albacore is seared to rare/medium rare and brushed lightly with olive oil and herbs. Tender and meaty the albacore is a thick enough fish in that it's able to stand alone without the need for sauce. I feel as though there is JUST the right amount of herb flavoring that it doesn't overcome the natural meatiness of the fish.

Finally, the special of the day.. Slow Roasted Beef sandwich served with Butter Leaf Lettuce, Cherry Tomatoes, and Tarragon Vinaigrette.

*drool* moist, thick pieces of shredded beef slowly marinated in a rich peppery brew. The beef is then put on a toasted ciabatta bread with garlic aoili and roasted red peppers. The bread has such a nice crisp to it , flaky but not crunchy and firm on the inside.

The salad is an incredibly crisp and fresh butter leaf lettuce served with a sprinkle of feta cheese, in hopes to not overwell the light tarragon dressing. Served also with plump juicy cherry tomatoes. I'd eat this salad with some flank steak on it ALL DAY.

What can I say? I love this place. I love the fact that you can get such a large variety of salads that are fresh and flavorful without compromising portion size. I love it! And.. the Vons next door is the most badass Vons of all time.

Tender Greens
2400 Historic Decatur Rd
San Diego, CA 92106


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thai Buddhist Temple in the East Bay

Alert, alert! Mystery Eater Post up ahead!

Wat Mongkolratanaram is a Thai Buddhist Temple located in the East Bay- South Berkeley to be exact. It's close proximity to public transit (Ashby Bart, bus), wide variety of food choices, and unique location made it on my "must-try" list. And finally, one fateful Sunday morning, I was able to cross it off my list!

Wildly popular, the temple has been there for 33 years, and is in current talks regarding its zoning.
The Temple has been accused of being a "commercial restaurant," while the Temple contends that it is part of a Thai tradition, to serve its weekly brunch in exchange for tokens. You can read more here:

Whatever the local political ramifications, the food is what is at issue here! You can exchange cash for tokens, and tokens for food.

There are several different stations, which can be hard to maneuver amidst the crowds.

They have a "beef noodle" station where you pick your desired noodles, they throw it in some quick hot broth, and some choice meats.

The fare? Lurking behind the mosquito net, it's 6 tokens.

To the left of the "beef noodle" station was one, I'll lovingly call the "fried" section!

There were little coconut cakes and green onion cakes being served up, hot and fresh! (NOTE: The lady on the left seems to be agitated at my photo-taking!)

Another "station" was one for mixed plates-- various items served with rice-- yellow curry, red curry, green beans, eggplant with tofu, pad thai, etc. There were both vegetarian and meat options (vegetarian yellow curry, chicken yellow curry, etc).

Wanting to try a variety of these dishes, we opted for the plates. These "items" seem to be exclusive of rice, so we ended up with one plate of rice, green beans, yellow chicken curry and pad thai. The yellow curry was wonderful-- sweet, and the generous pieces of chicken were tender.

Unfortunately, the pad thai wasn't very good-- the noodles were broken and short, as if they were the remnants of a crushed package of noodles. Also, they were overly-drenched in sauce, as if to cover up the

Another "miss" was the green beans. Being an avid fan of all things spicy (flaming hot cheetos, sriracha, chili pepper flakes, etc.), these were spicy to the point of being untasty. Exclusive of the sauce, the green beans were still crispy, but not raw-- too bad about the sauce, which made it hard to enjoy.

Another plate was filled with rice, whole egg/beef mixture, beef in a red or massaman curry, and two whole chicken legs. The chicken leg was tender, and even though it appeared dry, it wasn't! The egg/beef mixture was also very good and you can see some in the left corner of the photo.

Beverage of choice? Thai Iced Tea, of course, for one token.

The star of the show (er, Temple)? The rice had a nice sticky, gooey texture, and the accompanying tapioca was dense and concentrated in flavor. While mango isn't in season right now, they still managed to find some very ripe and sweet pieces to accompany the sticky rice.

At the price of five tokens, it was well worth it. And here's a macro of the mango, for the mango lover in you!

There is a lot of seating, with some tables reserved. You clean up after yourself.

The lines can be long, so do get there early. It's a great atmosphere, buzzing with lively conversations, and most importantly, a lot of variety in the choices of food. Nothing fancy, but good portions and a nice change of scenery from your local stand-by thai restaurant.

Wat Mongkolratanaram

1911 Russell St

(between Martin Luther King Jr Way & Otis St)

Berkeley, CA 94703

(510) 849-3419

Sundays: 9 A.M. to 2 P.M.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kebab Shop (San Diego)

The Kebab Shop, a small joint located in Downtown San Diego.

The website states that it's one of the first real Kebab shops in the United States, like the ones you find littered all over every street corner of Europe. That statement would lead you to believe that the food here is traditional street style food, that it adheres to what you would get in a drunken stooper at the street corner of some back alley in Madrid. That's where you're wrong.

Now, this restaurant isn't bad, I actually don't mind coming again, but to call yourself the first real Kebab shop and prepare your food the way you do... I dunno.... please read on and you'll find out why I'm vexed.

When you first walk by the restaurant, they have a large window showing you multiple meat spits of chicken, beef, and lamb.

It's always encouraging seeing fresh meat being roasted. Never fails to have intensely spiced flavorful meat.

Their menu is pretty simple, Doner Kebab, Shawarma, Kebab plates, and Meat plates.

With your Doner Kebab and Shawarma you can get fries/salad/rice for 75 cents extra. FUNNY THING IS, they charged me 1.95 for my fries instead of 75 cents. I didn't notice this till I saw my receipt the next day. (1.95 being the price of a "full side of fries" which is not what I got).

Frank ordered a Lamb Meat plate.

A large amount of shaved Lamb with golden crisp french fries and Tabouli (couscous, parlsey, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, and lemon juice). The first thing that struck me about the Tabouli was how pronounced the mint was. Frank didn't consider it overwhelming, but I thought it detracted a bit from the sour/savory aspect of the dish.

I ordered the Lamb Doner Kebab.

Would you mistaken this for a burrito? Cause I SURELY DID. Doner Kebab's come on flat bread, do not mistaken flat bread for TORTILLA. Now.. the food was good. The meat was rich in pepper and whatevers assorted spices they put into the lamb and the sauce was mild and creamy (and refreshing) with just the right amount of onions. But man.. they wrapped it in a tortilla wrapping. The first thing Frank said was "taste like supermarket burrito wrap". Of couse it's not that bad, it's pretty high grade tortilla wrapping.. but come on!

I do like how they try to "hedge their bets" on their website. After saying they are the first Doner Kebab shop in the US, they then say they are California style. You aren't the first Doner Kebab shop in the US cause I've had some all of the country that have seen far more years.

Their fries are DELICIOUS. Fried to a golden crisp just like the corner street shops, with a bit of potato on the outside and all kinds of crispy deliciousness on the outside.

Please don't let my dismissal of their Doner Kebab claim stop you from coming here, it's actually a pretty filling and inexpensive meal (except when they overcharge you) that's well seasoned and tasty.

Kebab Shop
630 9th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101