The Slanted Door


(San Francisco, CA) — Over the years, we’ve flirted with the potential to dine at The Slanted Door, located in the Ferry Building, but never really pulled the trigger. After meeting Charles Phan at the Los Angeles Food & Wine event only a few days prior, we knew it was time to frequent his establishment. A quick walk on a mild, late summer day brought us from downtown to the wharf where the scent of Vietnamese cooking fills the air...

He Fed:

There is patio seating available, but the weather is shifting, occasionally bringing light sprinkles to the coastline so we deem it wiser to sit inside. Once we give our name, a host spirits us to one of the plush booths which look out onto the dining room and the beautiful bay area, but also affords us a view into the kitchen. It feels very VIP, though the host hasn’t said anything to make us think we’re anything except normal customers who booked on OpenTable.

I start with a Trumer Pils, cold and mild from the draught, perfectly suited for Asian cuisine. Our waiter is more than a little affected, and none too efficient as near as we can tell. It seems like it might be a new gig for him, at least initially; later, he begins to warm up and we realize he was probably just slammed with the lunch crowd. (Indeed, on a good day it’s tough to get any seat at the Ferry Building, it’s that popular.)

Although I had great intentions when I booked the restaurant, our week of too much food and alcohol has caught up with me. Enough with the extravaganzas! I just want something light for lunch. The menu is more than a little overwhelming. Should we get sushi? Pho? Claypot? Eventually we agree to keep it simple with two apps and an entree each.

It seems silly not to get the eponymous Slanted Door Spring Rolls. They’re thick wads of rice, pork, mint, and gulf shrimp swaddled in lettuce and rice paper with a small bowl of peanut sauce in the middle. Fresh and crisp, these rolls skirt the line between addictively sweet and earthen mint. They’re almost a meal unto themselves!

Yet, we can’t resist the Mesquite Grilled Prather Ranch Pork Belly. These are flattened shards of pork, stretched and grilled, served alongside mint leaves and red leaf lettuce, Thai basil, and lemongrass with a cup of spicy ginger tamarind sauce. My bites are alternating between zingy and sour-sweet, like the best tacos you’ve ever had.

The size of these apps have nearly defeated my appetite. Still, I manage to maul my Grapefruit and Jicama Salad, with red cabbage, pickled carrot, and candied pecan. It’s exactly that puckery pick-me-up that helps to wash away the richness of the pork belly.

Although this small sample of the menu had whetted our appetites, I am content to keep lunch at a minimum today. Some green tea ice cream or signature cotton candy (which we spy at another table) might have been fun, but lately excess has come too easy. Time to skip the sweets.

That’s not to say a nice bottle of Ayinger Jahrhundert doesn’t make a nice dessert. As we sip and sigh contentedly, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge, we both know we’ll be back to The Slanted Door again soon.

She Fed:

I’ve wanted to eat at the Slanted Door for over five years, but despite numerous trips to San Francisco, including a few stops at the Ferry Building where the eatery is located, my dining plans have been thwarted. But today’s the day! We arrive from Carmel-by-the-Sea to find downtown San Fran warm and sunny. Perfect weather for the one mile walk from our hotel to the restaurant.

No matter how many times we’ve been before, Jeremy and I like to stroll the entire footprint of the Ferry Building, checking out the eateries and stores. I’m always tempted by Far West Fungi, Hog Island Oyster Company, and the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. We’ve been known to graze our way through the building, but today we’re on a mission for Vietnamese food and will not be deterred.

In spite of our window shopping, we’re a few minutes early for our reservation. The hostess seats us in a large semi-circle booth with a fabulous view of Treasure Island. We’ve got a front row seat to all the ferries arriving and departing for Sausalito, Oakland, Alameda, Tiburon, and more.

Our waiter is friendly and quick to bring our drinks; I opt for a glass of Gruner Veltliner because I have no idea what I’m going to order and I like Gruner with just about anything. We decide to start with the Slanted Door Spring Rolls and the Mesquite Grilled Prather Ranch Pork Belly appetizer, two starters I would order again in a heartbeat. The spring rolls are loaded with sweet shrimp, thinly sliced pork, mint leaves, and rice noodles. They’re great on their own, but dunked in the peanut sauce that accompanies they’re absolutely divine. Even with the richness of that sauce, the spring rolls seem light and almost virtuous to eat.

The pork belly on the other hand is another story. Thin slabs of pork are piled next to red leaf lettuce, huge Thai basil leaves, mint, slivers of lemongrass, and a tamarind dipping sauce. We quickly figure out these are an elevated take on lettuce wraps. The flavor combination of the pork belly with the herbs and tamarind is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It smells good, tastes even better, and I find myself licking my fingers to get every last bit I can. Yowza!

Jeremy’s having a salad for his entree but I’m not sure what could surpass what I just ate. The waiter suggests the Dungeness Crab Cellophane Noodles and a wine refill. Who am I to object? I know I’ve made the right choice when the dish arrives with a sizeable crab claw positioned front and center just begging to be eaten. The noodles are studded with green onion and topped with lots of cilantro. It’s a generous portion and I give it my best shot, but can’t finish it all.

Amazing food, top-notch service, and stunning views. What’s not to love? The Slanted Door will be one of my San Fran go to places from now on!


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