The Slanted Door
Some may say this modern Vietnamese eatery, which opened in 1995 and relocated to the Ferry Building in 2004, has become too mainstream and lost some of its authenticity. Well, I’m glad I didn’t let any of the naysayers deter me from revisiting The Slanted Door because James Beard Best Chef Winner, Charles Phan, is still making magic in the kitchen. Sure, the drinks are undeniably trendy and the kitchen often takes a Westernized approach, but the food with its exotic Vietnamese flavors is as exciting as ever. Not to mention the amazing view of the bay (via floor-to-ceiling windows) from just about every table in the restaurant.
While Slanted Door is technically not a seafood restaurant, they happen to have a terrific raw bar with locally plucked, California Yellowtail Sashimi and a beautiful dish of wondrously fresh Wild California Uni, topped with black tobiko, avocado and cucumber, so you might want to start the evening there, then segue into their Crispy Imperial Rolls, stuffed with a tasty mix of Shrimp, Pork, Mint, and Roasted Peanuts, accompanied by a tangle of cellophane noodles and crisp lettuce leaves for wrapping it all up. Weirdly, one of the best things on the menu is the Daikon Rice Cakes, mingled with Shitake Mushrooms, Shallots and a Sweet Chili Soy Sauce to add a bit of heat to these gloriously comforting and chewy cakes. There’s a refreshing Grapefruit and Jicama Salad, tossed with Red Cabbage, Candied Pecans and Pickled Carrots that makes a good partner for some of the bigger dishes, like the Chicken cooked in a claypot with caramel sauce, fresh ginger and Thai chiles, Scallops with Lemongrass in a Coconut Broth, or a Whole Branzino steamed in a Banana Leaf, the result fantastically moist, and seasoned with a fistful of cilantro, lime, green garlic and spring onions. And don’t neglect the vegetables, like Eggplant basking in Coconut Milk and Roasted Chili Paste or Spicy Broccoli with Braised Tofu and Mushrooms.
For a Vietnamese joint, this spot has surprisingly sophisticated and satisfying desserts, like the Strawberry and Pistachio Tart with a Vanilla Fromage Fraiche as well as a Coconut Banana Lime Sorbet.