Sunday, March 23, 2008

the slanted door

The Slanted Door signature spring rolls

My mom and I stumbled upon The Slanted Door last time we were in San Francisco. Tired, cold and hungry from a day trip to Sausalito, we were lucky enough to find the doors that opened up to some of the city's best Vietnamese cuisine. First off, you need reservations. According to Opentable SF, The Slanted Door has, day in day out, one of the most sought after reservations in the city. If you don't have one, well, just be prepared to do a little bit of stalking action at the bar, where you are still served the full menu. (It's generally not too bad after 9pm.) Last month, when Mr.S and I were there, we dined at the bar again, which I actually prefer over the main dining room.

The menu offers kicked-up Vietnamese fare, with a bit of French flair, and the best part, uses local and seasonal ingredients from nearby farmers. The food is incredibly flavorful, so savory that it makes your salivary glands ache. It's just the right balance of spice, sweetness, sour, and umami.

To start, try a half dozen Kumamoto oysters, the signature spring roll stuffed with shrimp and pork, and the grapefruit jicama salad with candied pecans. The spring rolls were light and delicate, flavored with mint and basil.

For the entrees... what is not good? I've really enjoyed the Catfish in a Claypot, stewed catfish in a savory-sweet, deep caramel sauce. The Caramelized Prawns come in a similar sauce, but with hints of smokiness and heat that compliment the sauteed onions and garlic. I suggested that Mr.S order the Shaking Beef dish, a very simple stirfry of traditionally, sirloin tips in a sweet and garlicky sauce. The Slanted Door's version uses filet mignon cubes from nearby Meyer Ranch beef. It was perfectly cooked, crispy and caramelized on the outside, juicy within, tossed in a soy vinaigrette, with a side of lime and pepper dipping sauce. It's called shaking beef, by the way, because of the way the wok is shaken and moved during the cooking process. (If you're interested the recipe for the dish can be found here.) Though I've only tried a few dishes from the menu, I trust that everything else is equally fresh and well-seasoned.

Catfish in a Claypot, with caramel sauce


Bò Lúc Lắc - Vietnamese Shaking Beef with Watercress and Onion


Consistency. I believe that is what helps to make the Slanted Door so popular. Consistently good food and spot-on, efficient service staff. Many such restaurants get their limelight, but quickly let their guard down and start to get sloppy, which is a dangerous, perilous slope in the restaurant industry. The Slanted Door is not one of them. It's a clean, tight package that delivers time and again. This is also one of the few restaurants that I've encountered who has made Asian fusion cuisine really work. Very few frills, no over-the-top "deconstructed" plates here, just solid food with robust flavor. And along the way, it's helped to support local agriculture and economy. What can be so bad about that?


Slanted Door in San Francisco

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

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