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Slanted Door Review


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It was four of us for lunch. Two out-of-town friends who had never eaten there before, one local, and out-of-town me. Short summary: good, but I've had way better meals here.

"Slanted Door spring rolls with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce." Okay. Nothing special.

"Green papaya salad with rau ram and roasted peanuts." Okay.

"Shaking beef: cubed Meye Ranch filet mignon with organic red spring onions." I normally don't order this much anymore, but we were with two newbies and this is one of their signature dishes. I've had it better. It didn't explode like I expected it to; it was less spicy.

"Spicy catfish claypot with cilantro, ginger and thai chilies." This was a terrific dish. My notes say "slick unctuousness," which sums it up pretty well.

"Lemongrass tofu with shiitake mushrooms, pressed tofu and chili sauce." Another well made dish. Well balanced, good bite. Yum.

"Sweet white corn with golden chantertelle mushrooms." Light, balanced, delicious.

This was my first visit in their new location on Embarcadero (although they're moving again soon). I liked it. For one thing, it was much easier to park.

Bruce

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I'm curious of your thoughts of where Slanted Door ranks as a Vietnamese restaurant. Putting aside the fact that it's much nicer than most VM places, do you think the food is better? And if so, is it better because it's been Americanized or "fused"?

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It's different. It's not a Vietnamese restaurant. You can't order a bowl of pho, or a bun. It's just not comparible.

Personally, I find the "nouveau Asian" trend, one that was started by places like the Slanted Door in San Francisco and Pasion in Philadelphia, to be the best thing that happened to American restaurants in years.

"Food from the hot zone."

I love those places.

Bruce

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  • 2 months later...

I just got back from dinner here and it was one of the more disapointing meals I have had in a while. Despite some of the negative comments on here, I went into it really wanting to like it, but I just couldn't.

It wasn't terrible but it was nothing special. Starting with the atmosphere, which my wife likened to a Cailfornia Pizza Kitchen. I realize that these are temporary digs, but temporary doesn't have to mean generic. We weren't seated until about 25 minutes after our reservation and we waited another ten for any sign of service.

The food was fine, but that was about it. The spring rolls were plain, but what can you really do special with those? The imperial rolls were pretty good but not much flavor was happening. My wife's scallops with spinach and black bean sauce were pretty tasteless. I did really like the shaking beef, especially the red onions.

But there just wasn't much to the meal. I expected more in the way of presentation. I expected more in the way of amibiance. I expcted better service. For the price I expected to not have to pay extra for plain white rice. And I expected more flavor. And that is where I guess I was let down the most.

Was I asking too much?

Edit - I'm not positive but I think Charlie Trotter was seated right before us. I know it is far from Chicago, but - Trotter party, striking resemblence.

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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I'm certainly no expert on Vietnamese cuisine, but I remember being grossly underwhelmed by the food at Slanted Door at its original location in the Mission. Nothing I tasted impressed me, and at that location I remember almost nothing but the echoing din of the unbelievably loud dining room!

I hope that the ambience is better in the new location (or wherever they plan to go). I have (a little) hope that the food may in time become more memorable.

Squeat

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The spring rolls were plain, but what can you really do special with those?

birlus, i've had some spring rolls that just knock me over. and others are just horrible to OK.

the SL is just OK. i don't see what all of the fuss is, especially in a town with such a huge asian population. are there not many vietnamese restaurants in SF?? i can't think of any other reason why this place would have remained so popular for so many years. unless it's being filled night after night by people who really don't put much thought into food.

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Oh, Stone. We, YOU, had a very enjoyable meal there last Feb (an EG dinner). I sat next to you...I know you liked it. I agree it was barely VietNamese..but the food was good. And as for price, it is one of the more reasonably priced restaurants in the Bay Area. Our 3 course meal was only $35 each...that is cheap compared to most.

Lobster.

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Oh, Stone.  We, YOU, had a very enjoyable meal there last Feb (an EG dinner).  I sat next to you...I know you liked it.  I agree it was barely VietNamese..but the food was good.  And as for price, it is one of the more reasonably priced restaurants in the Bay Area.  Our 3 course meal was only $35 each...that is cheap compared to most.

It was certainly good and I had a good time. Saying it's overrated doesn't mean it's not good. But SD is one of the most popular restaurants in San Francisco, a city known for excellent food. That's why it's grossly overrated. SD is about style, not substance. It's an average (not bad, but average) "tricked-out" Vietnamese restaurant clothed by Banana Republic. Take away the wine list, clay pots, and attitude and no one would think it's so great. Take that food and put it in a Tenderloin dive and no one would notice it.

Edited by Stone (log)
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Oh, Stone.  We, YOU, had a very enjoyable meal there last Feb (an EG dinner).  I sat next to you...I know you liked it.  I agree it was barely VietNamese..but the food was good.  And as for price, it is one of the more reasonably priced restaurants in the Bay Area.  Our 3 course meal was only $35 each...that is cheap compared to most.

It's cheap for a restaurant that can boast of having had an ex-President's patronage and attracts an expense-account and name-dropper crowd, but it ain't cheap for Vietnamese (or any ethnic Asian cuisine) and it ain't worth it. But it's got a great thing going as THE "safe" Asian destination restaurant, and as long as they don't screw up the well-prepared, inoffensive food and maintain the high level of service (which is good, warm and welcoming), Charles Phan can cry all the way to the bank. Wait until SD moves into its new digs in the Ferry Building (talk about location!) and you'll see a real cash cow. You've got to hand it to the boy from Mission High!

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Well, I had lunch there this past Saturday, and enjoyed it a lot. It was not spectacular, but it was tasty (Spiced organic haricots verts with honshmeiji, and Cellophane noodles with crab), the service was good, and even as it filled up it did not get too loud. Definitely classier than the "authentic" Vietnamese restaurants I go to in NYC. And I loved the drinks, and the jackfruit ice cream. Then on Monday, Charles Phan did a master class for the conference I was attending. He was very informative about the fundamentals of Vietnamese food, and the dumplings, hot-and-sour soup he demoed were deliciously complex and delicate. So I can't say whether or not it's overrated or overpriced, but I was definitely glad I finally had the chance to try it.

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Then on Monday, Charles Phan did a master class for the conference I was attending. He was very informative about the fundamentals of Vietnamese food, and the dumplings, hot-and-sour soup he demoed were deliciously complex and delicate. So I can't say whether or not it's overrated or overpriced, but I was definitely glad I finally had the chance to try it.

Suzanne, were you here for the Woman Chef's conference, and did you have any contact with Chef Nei of Jai Yun (Chinese)? I heard he was a guest speaker.

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I have to agree that the restaurant is overrated. It's a good meal, but not a great meal. When they were one of the only restaurants doing pan-Asian fusion and modern-Vietnamese-style food, it was one thing. But you can get shaking beef in every major city now, so it's no longer impressive.

Bruce

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Suzanne, were you here for the Woman Chef's conference, and did you have any contact with Chef Nei of Jai Yun (Chinese)?  I heard he was a guest speaker.

Yes, that was my reason for being there. And Chef Nei was on the same program with Charles Phan -- it was a compare-and-contrast between Chinese and Vietnamese. I forget the name of the woman who translated for him, but he too was a terrific presenter. Wish i'd taken more notes. At my table, we were a bit disappointed at the hot-and-sour soup he prepared, but put it down to the folks in the kitchen making the big batch, rather than him. I hope to try Jai Yun on a future trip.

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I forget the name of the woman who translated for him, but he too was a terrific presenter.

The translator may have been Olivia Wu. She's a terrific food writer for the SF Chronicle as well as a restaurateur, but controversial in Chinese cooking circles because she sticks by the northern Chinese tenet that there should not be more than two prominent ingredients in a stir-fry. I'd go along with that, as it seems to be an operative principle in my wife's Shanghainese cooking, and it works for us. (No "Happy Family" dishes in our happy family.) :cool:

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No, Olivia was the moderator. The translator was someone else, who did a much better job (as far as I could tell) than the translator in Lost in Translation :wink:

Sorry for picking up on the tangent, but that translator in the opening scenes of Lost in Translation was absolutely hilarious. One of the funniest scene I've seen in a while. And the rest of the movie is quite good too, though not nearly as comical.

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No, Olivia was the moderator. The translator was someone else, who did a much better job (as far as I could tell) than the translator in Lost in Translation :wink:

Sorry for picking up on the tangent, but that translator in the opening scenes of Lost in Translation was absolutely hilarious. One of the funniest scene I've seen in a while. And the rest of the movie is quite good too, though not nearly as comical.

I haven't seen that one. Was it as funny as Tommy Chong's simultaneous translation of Blind Melon Chitlin's lyric? (I guess that name makes this food-related; tangent my patootie!)

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  • 2 years later...

Somehow, I wish I read this topic before we went to The Slanted Door. The gyst of it reflected our experience (Molto e and I) as well. The location is great. The views are great. The decor is nice. I think it is likely better at night (the decor) than during the day. It has less of a "cafeteria" feel about it.

gallery_8158_2783_22118.jpg

It is obvious that a lot of other people haven't read this thread either as it was very busy on a Monday night. The food was good, but nothing special. It didn't have any real spark. It definitely felt like vietnamese food for an American palate. I had dinner later in the week at Le Cheval in Oakland. Le Cheval blew The Slanted Door's windows out in just about every respect. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera at Le Cheval so I can't show pictures of the fried Dungeness Crab that I had amongst other delights. Oh well.

But getting back to The Slanted door, it was good, but ultimately disappointing as I stated above. We had

gallery_8158_2783_13790.jpg

green papaya salad with tofu, rau ram and roasted peanuts

gallery_8158_2783_74078.jpg

crispy imperial rolls with shrimp, pork and glass noodles

gallery_8158_2783_44711.jpg

gallery_8158_2783_27329.jpg

manila clams with thai basil, crispy pork belly and fresh chillies

gallery_8158_2783_3856.jpg

cellophane noodles with fresh Dungeness crab meat

gallery_8158_2783_39674.jpg

shaking beef cubed filet mignon with garlic and organic red onions

gallery_8158_2783_11330.jpg

spicy Catalan Farm broccoli with honshimeji mushrooms and pressed tofu

gallery_8158_2783_64299.jpg

Meyer lemon pudding cake

Nothing really stood out one way or another. This was the definition of a mediocre meal. It is a shame to have a mediocre meal in San Francisco, which unfortunately was the second one that day (the other was Mijita, also in the Ferry Plaza Market).

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Perhaps you didn't read it because it was from 2003 and stale anyway. I quite like the SD and wouldn't hesitate to reccomend it if price is not a concern. I used to eat there when it was a small place in the Mission, alas the prices are so high now but he has also cultivated organic suppliers for these ingredients where less was available before. I notice I do steer clear of certain things that you can get same or better elsewhere like the imperial rolls, unless I am having a noodle bowl from the afternoon tea menu:

grilled lemongrass pork over rice noodles with imperial rolls, cucumber and mint

9.5

I really like the way they do this appetizer, but maybe it's only on the lunch menu:

Vietnamese crêpe with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and onions

9.5

Those clams looked awesome.

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Perhaps you didn't read it because it was from 2003 and stale anyway. I quite like the SD and wouldn't hesitate to reccomend it if price is not a concern. I used to eat there when it was a small place in the Mission, alas the prices are so high now but he has also cultivated organic suppliers for these ingredients where less was available before.  I notice I do steer clear of certain things that you can get same or better elsewhere like the imperial rolls, unless I am having a noodle bowl from the afternoon tea menu:

grilled lemongrass pork over rice noodles with imperial rolls, cucumber and mint   

9.5

I really like the way they do this appetizer, but maybe it's only on the lunch menu:

Vietnamese crêpe  with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and onions           

9.5

Those clams looked awesome.

The thread may have been from 2003, but the gyst matched my perception of the place as well, which is one reason I resurrected it. Another is that this, surprisingly, appeared to be the closest thing to a thread strictly on The Slanted Door. Perhaps we might have ordered better things, but items like the Shaking Beef are supposed to be amongst their "signatures". None of the food was "bad", but none of it was particularly good or memorable, either.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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