Whoever was wondering if they should keep their reservations for Slanted Door...I hope you do. I had lunch there today and I'm content and happy and ready for an afternoon nap.
The outstanding dish for me was the caramelized catfish in a clay pot with shallots, ginger and garlic($13.50). The clay pot had a lovely pink flowered top. Nice presentation. The catfish was served in chunks with the skin and bones. I always heard that fish and meat cooked with bones have more flavor and that was really true here. Lovely plump moist catfish with an outstanding caramelized sauce. A nice spicy-hot after zing. I'm not sure if you are supposed to eat the skin, but I did. I almost did an Auggie Doggie (an old cartoon character that given a bone would go mmmmmmm, float in the air in ecstasy and land on his back with a sigh of contentment).
That said, I was never at the old location. I also suspect that Slanted Door has as much to do with Vietnamese food as Alice Water's food has to do with a good meatloaf or macaroni and cheese.
This is my neighborhood and I hope Slanted Door stays. I suffered through all the abysmal overpriced restaurants that formerly occupied that location and it's nice to have a restaurant worthy of the spot.
The inside is light, airy and spacious with some view of the bay. Parking is abundant(except on ball game days). There's a big old parking lot next door. But there's plenty of public transportation in the area anyway. And there's takeout (good for me).
Service for me was great. My waitperson, Elsa, really knew how to pair wine and tea with food. However, reading through old reviews and doing a quick eyeball of the other servers, I'm guessing the service isn't going to be that much different from what I heard about the old place.
I also had a half order of sweet, crispy sugar snap peas with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms($4). Since I had never been there before and wasn't sure of portion size, Elsa said there was the option of a half a order. I was lunching alone and no one ever raised an eye which is nice. Some restaurants give you the feeling that they are inconvenienced that there will be less of a bill for that table. I can eat alot, buy pricy wines and tip very well when given good service. So my single table bill is probably going to ace a two-fer anyway.
For desert I had the apricot almond pudding with fresh mango and white tree mushrooms ($6) mainly because I had never had mushrooms for a desert. The pudding had a yogurt like consistency, but a little lighter. The mango complemented it very well. There was some other sort of tasty green spice/herb with this. The mushrooms didn't have a distinct flavor, but were frilly and crunchy and, well, white. So that was interesting. More of a nice almond than apricot flavor to the pudding. I enjoyed the desert for it's uniqueness, but probably wouldn't order again.
I really like that the deserts have suggested desert wines. Speaking of which, that is my big gripe with Slanted Door. The wines per glass are WAY overpriced (average $9). Also the by glass selection is very limited. Elsa suggested some wines, the variety which I don't like. I asked about the tea and she suggested an excellent Ben Shan Oolong ($6 for the pot). It had a wonderful Jasmine like flavor and was wonderful with the catfish. For desert, I went with a black tea, Pu-erb, ($4) which was smoky and strong. I see myself stopping by after a walk, sitting at the bar gazing out at the bay and working through the tea menu. I'm guessing this is pricy even for top-notch tea, however, I don't have expertice in this area. I'm just learning.
The only thing that didn't do much for me were the spring rolls with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce. Very pretty. Nice sauce. Just didn't do it for me.
If walking over from the financial district, be sure that you let the server know that you need to be back to the office since service can be, well, leisurely. Attention Schwabbies (and you know who you are) this is walking distance and there's take-out.
Yeah it's expensive, but I didn't feel cheated. Also, there's alot in each dish, so if you had a single dish ($7 - $15) for lunch and coffee or tea ($2 - $6) you can have a top notch lunch in lovely surroundings with tip for about $12 - $25.
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