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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dining Notes: The Slanted Door

Ever since the The Slanted Door moved into its current location in the San Francisco Ferry Building, I seem to dine at the restaurant much less frequently.   Reservations are virtually impossible to get without significant advance planning, service is sometimes less than fully attentive, and the host staff frequently gives off the impression that they're doing diners a personal favor.   Now, don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge Chef-Owner Charles Phan the enormous success that he has achieved, and it's been fascinating to watch the restaurant evolve from its humble beginnings on Valencia Street to the juggernaut that it is today.   But any notion I have of dining at the restaurant is immediately accompanied by thoughts of the sheer hassle of it all, and that is usually enough to dissuade me from actually doing so.
The Slanted Door:
At A Glance
ChefCharles Phan
Pastry ChefMutsumi Takehara
Address1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
ParkingAdjacent Lot
Restaurant Website

Yet, there's one time each year when I work up the motivation to "brave the elements," and that's when my parents come to town each Thanksgiving.   The first time I took them to The Slanted Door was back when it was still in the Mission, and they have been hooked ever since.   Indeed, it now goes without saying that this is the one restaurant sure to be on their "must-visit" list whenever they make the trek from Michigan to San Francisco.   This year was no different, and so it was that we found ourselves at The Slanted Door for an early lunch last Saturday.

Notwithstanding whatever other critiques I may have about the current incarnation of the restaurant, the one thing that has always been beyond reproach is the quality of the food.   The ingredients are consistently fresh, the preparations well-executed, and the flavor combinations excellent.   Yet, even against this backdrop, the meal that we had on Saturday just blew me away.   Put simply, every dish we ordered seemed to be a cut above the usual, whether it was an old familiar standard or an entree that we were trying for the first time.

We began with the Slanted Door Spring Rolls and the Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls, both of which were tasty and satisfying.   But it was the entrees that made the greatest impression.   The Shaking Beef and the Chicken Claypot, dishes that I have ordered on every visit I have ever made to the restaurant, were even more delicious than I remembered.   The former consists of tender cubes of filet mignon sparked alive with a peppery lime juice, while the latter offers an incredible caramel sauce that can hardly be described in words.   We also enjoyed the Cellophane Noodles with Dungeness Crab, the simplicity of which conceals its remarkable flavor, along with an order of a "new" entree for us -- the Lemongrass Chicken.   Sauteed with onions, jalapenos and chili paste, this spectacular chicken was quickly declared by several at the table to be their new favorite.   Rounding out our lunch were Spicy Japanese Eggplant, nicely cooked with coconut milk and green onions, and Stir-Fried Alaskan Black Cod -- with delicate fish that, though mildly flavored when compared to the other dishes, was very tasty nonetheless.

As the plates were being cleared, I found myself marveling at what we had just experienced.   When I wondered out loud whether I had merely imagined an uptick since our last visit, both my sister and Rhonda confirmed that they shared in that assessment.   Even the aspects that I have found to be wanting on other occasions were not an issue;   the host staff were pleasant and welcoming, the service was generally attentive, and the noise level in the restaurant was actually pleasant (although this was likely due to the restaurant being only half full, since we were dining relatively early).   So, has the restaurant actually stepped things up?   I'm not sure, but for the first time in a long time, I suspect that I'll be returning well before my parents come back to town.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this meal sounded really good! will put it on my list of places in SF to eat at :)

December 01, 2006 4:38 PM  
Blogger Carter Lusher said...

Great post. I have not been to Slanted Door for a few years so looks like I have to make a return visit. BTW, I posted a link to this on Food Notebook:


December 02, 2006 5:52 AM  
Blogger NS said...

Kat: Let me know what you think if you get a chance to visit!

Carter: Thanks for the comment and the link!

December 07, 2006 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

will do!

December 07, 2006 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm . . . the Slanted Door. I'm now sitting here at work with my mouth watering thinking about the Shaking Beef. I have not yet been to the new location, but hope that maybe I'll get the chance on my next trip up there.


December 08, 2006 4:13 PM  

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