Monday, May 31, 2010

May 23 - Slanted Door, San Francisco - Haute Vietnamese, a Local Fave

We rushed.  I mean Rushed back from Monterey.  After my so-so day in Monterey, D knew he would not have heard the end of it if we missed our reservations at the Slanted Door.  The computer and camera gadgets he would have had to buy me to make up for it just were not going to be worth it.  O was being her regular cheerful self, tell me that at least we got to hang out and chat.  I see that now but in that car after hanging out sleepy Monterey eating terrible food at Paradiso Trattoria, all I saw was red. If you do not want overpriced souvenirs or the icey cold diving, do not go to Monterey.  Oh yes, there is the aquarium.

It could not have been closer.  We called the restaurant to see if there was any wiggle room on the reservation.  When I first made the booking, I thought to myself, it's sunday night, really, how full could it be?  I only saw three openings but I assumed it was only because alot of places do no use OpenTable for all their tables.  Anyhoo, Slanted Door told us that they could only hold our table for 15 minutes.  As we trucked along, I had O's GPS in my lap screaming, 'you're not gonna make it.'. We ran a few scenarios where we dropped N off at home first, or we changed first. Then we ran out of gas.  D said he'd been running on fumes for at least 20k.  We got off and I thought that was it.  Though at this point we were aiming for 7h15 not 7.

It was decided for us that N had to be dropped of in Portrero first and we had to go in our grubbies to the top rated restaurant in San Francisco.  I was horrified.  It was that or miss it. We came to a skidding stop in front of the Ferry Building at 7h10.  O and I ran in to get our table and D went to park.  We were seated almost right away and the hostess made no comment about how close we were.  Some snooty places do that, like I don't have a watch or hadn't been clutching, white knuckled to the GPS.

We had a lovely middle table in front of the water.  Normally, I have a strong aversion to middle of the room tables.  An odd thing that D has grown accustomed to dealing with.  We were in the middle of the middle but we were there!

We started with drinks.  I had a Tangerine Mojito, O a Pisco Sour and D an Indian Summer.  My Mojito was a nice salve to the stressed out arrival though far too much ice for the tall glass.  O's Pisco Sour had a nice head of the traditional Egg White.  The strange thing was that the lovely Fron that was drawn in the foam, morphed into, without coaxing, into a smiley face.  How funny?

Slanted door is a high end, slightly fusion Vietnamese restaurant.  The food is served family style and meant for sharing.  The whole menu highlights the various farms and local butchers from whence the ingredients were procured.

Our appetisers were Seared Dayboat Scallops with Spicy Red Curry with Pink lady Apples, Jicama Slaw and Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls  with taro root, cabbage, glass noodles and peanuts. The Scallops were really nicely cooked, tender but cooked through.  The sauce was so good I could have tipped the remnants into my mouth or on my rice had it arrived on time.  It was not Spicy at all though. 

The lightly deep fried Imperial Roll is served with large Cabbage leaves and sauce and shredded Daikon.  D was the one to tell us that we were meant to wrap the pieces of roll in the Cabbage with the Salad, fresh Mint and Sauce.  I really liked this dish.  Be aware if you order the Spring Rolls that do not say Crispy, you are getting the soft cold rolls which I love as well but are not the Chinese variety.

Our server did not tell us how to eat the rolls.  Actually, I found him rather aloof.  The sommelier was nice but our server was not very attentive nor welcoming.  Admittedly, after the rushed arrival, I pretty much tried to order my drink as soon as we sat down and from then on I became invisible to him. There is also the chance I smelled of the Monterey and a rental car.  I was not rude about just quickly blurted out my drink order with a please at the end. It did not matter. He would answer my questions through my sister or D for the rest of the evening.  He never topped off my wine glass unless O and D were already full.  Thankfully, I was picking up the tab ;^) and had the final word.

We also ordered a Grapefruit and Jicama Salad which we waited until the main to come.  Actually, it was dominated by shredded Red Cabbage in volume and flavour.  I did not really care for it and it came nearly at the end of the meal. Our snooty bearded waiter told us it was coming from a different area.  Excuse me?

Wood oven roasted whole Branzino with pickled Green Mango and spicy Gingered Fish sauce.  The fish was lovely.  It was well cooked the sauce was well balanced and on the side!  It was rather disappointing that the servers do not help break up the fish and remove the spine.  I guess that's the dichotomy of it being a family style Asian restaurant while trying to be upscale.  They chose the best parts of both: high prices and low service and high suggest tips ranges.  Nice.

Then came the Hodo Soy Beanery Yuba with Glass Noodles, Parsnips and Pioppini Mushrooms.  The Yuba is the brown bean curd skin you may have seen in pouch form on Sushi.  These were cut in strips for this dish.  It was a great vegetarian light yet 'meaty' add to the dinner.  After all the fried food at lunch, this was what we needed.  The there was an abundance of the Parsnips and Mushrooms so that every serving was evenly meted with Yuba and Veggie goodness.   

I quite enjoyed the food but did not necessarily feel as dazzled as I expected.  D and O like this place but they are essentially locals and as a local remember the more modest yet just as yummo days of Slanted Door or hear the constant buzz about it from which I am immune.  I would concede it is difficult to see Asian food served to it's full potential and Slanted Door does give you that.  I greatly appreciated the use of local ingredients and the freshness was undeniable.  The one minor suggestion I would make is to order the rice for one less person than is in your party.  It was a lot of rice and we had two Asians at our table.  Also, avoid the whole fish if you do not want to mess with the bones.  Volume-wise, it would count as 1 to 1.5 mains if you are assessing what to order.

Book ahead.  It was packed with the bar service full as well on a Sunday evening!  They are on OpenTable. I booked 2 weeks ahead.

Cost: $$$-$$$$
Location: Ferry Building on the Water!
Staff: Inconsistent. Sommelier was lovely. Waiter was aloof and not terribly helpful.  Food arrival was sporadic.
Wine: Great selection and variety

Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 861-8032

(if I factor in  the lack lustre service given the $$$ range)

Slanted Door on Urbanspoon

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