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Slanted Door Review


Slanted Door served us very good Vietnamese-inspired food. Most dishes were solid: some were excellent and there were few disappointments other than the desserts (which were fine but didn't measure up to the rest of the meal). During the meal someone remarked, "it's rare to have that many hits."


The atmosphere was rather different than most restaurants we've been to in the price range: while most high-end restaurants have an obviously upper class clientele, this crowd seemed to be middle class (and rather white, especially surprising given this is nominally an Asian restaurant). Perhaps this type of the crowd was because the decor made the place feel homey and informal and in fact much like a cantina. Indeed, the high noise level reflected that fact. (I also suppose the unisex bathrooms reflect the informal atmosphere.)


Additionally, Slanted Door has the best view of any restaurant we've been too -- a very wide and picturesque view of the bay bridge, especially pretty with the lights at night.


Service was good. Notably, when placing our order the waiter suggested we add another item, preferably a vegetable to get the right amount of food and to balance the meal. This suggestion was entirely on the mark. In addition, dishes and plates were efficiently placed and picked up. The distinguished utensil service was more noticeable when they replaced our place settings between the appetizers and the main courses. Not only did they place new pairs of chopsticks at a nice angle on the plates, they also gave us warm plates for the warm food (as opposed to the cold plates we were using for the cold appetizers).


As for the details of the food, we ordered two appetizers and salad to start: 

  • Imperial Rolls. Excellent. These are in essence fried spring rolls that they chop up into slices and ask you to grab a slice, a few noodles, wrap the whole thing in lettuce, and eat! The first person to take a bite blurted out "pretty awesome." One attendee described these as a cross between spring rolls and mu shu, because the imperial rolls were strongly flavored of pork. A little mint came that could be wrapped with the lettuce; I'm told it further distinguished this item.
  • Spring Rolls. Okay; many places serve better. These were filled with meat and (too many) noodles; we had hoped for traditional spring rolls with some spring items, like vegetables. However, the peanut sauce that came with them for dipping was quality.
  • Grapefruit and Jicama Salad. Everyone but me said this dish was very good. At first, some people were inclined to agree with me but then the dish grew on them. It turned out to be a salad of sharp contrasts: the tartness of the grapefruit, the crispness of the jicama, and the sweetness of the candied pecans. The dressing was really good. One person devoured the remains of the salad. Another said he normally dislikes red cabbage -the item that served as the base of this dish- but he liked the salad and believes that contrast is a significant endorsement of the it.


We got three entrees, two very good and one decent, and one vegetable dish: 

  • Shaking Beef. Excellent. A stir fry mainly consisting of beef and onions, made extraordinary by the quality of the steak (according to the menu, filet mignon): tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked medium rare with redness in the center. Everyone loved this dish.
  • Caramelized Prawns. I loved this as well, but most people weren't as enthusiastic. I was simply impressed by the fact that the prawns really did seem caramelized, more so than any seafood I've ever seen, and this was a good thing.
  • Catfish Clay Pot. The majority of us thought this was very good. Spicy (of ginger and thai chilies) and piping hot, it was served with bones and all (and that probably lent it more flavor).
  • Snap Peas. Fine / standard; certainly nothing special. The mushrooms in this dish (maitake), however, a few of us independently concluded stood out.


Still hungry after our entrees, we decided to order dessert. Some attendees were hungry enough and persuasive enough that we ordered four desserts! All paled in comparison to the quality of the rest of the meal. The desserts weren't bad enough that we were upset we ordered them -three were reasonable/decent- but none were special. That is, we'd be proud to make any of them ourselves, but we'd have self-criticism on what we'd change for next time we cooked them. 

  • Dark chocolate pot de creme. Decent chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream and something strongly flavored of rum. Unequivocally, we've had better. Served with an unexciting densely chocolaty bar more like a cookie made entirely of chocolate than a chocolate bar itself. Eh.
  • Candied kumquat butter cake. Decent. A small circular dense cake hard to cut without a knife with too much lime sauce. The best feature of the dish was its presentation: the cake was covered with an ethereal cobweb of crystallized sugar.
  • Rhubarb meringue tart and strawberry sorbet. Decent. A crumbly pie with another dense hard to cut outer crust. The rhubarb center was good though extremely sweet and without much texture (because it had been pureed). The rhubarb and strawberry flavors matched well. Served with tiny chunks of lime jello.
  • Fried sesame dumplings. Nasty to bad. Similar to the Chinese sesame balls (which most of us don't appreciate much) but these tasted wrong even compared to them, like stale but not dry. Served with tiny mango chunks.


We ordered drinks with the desserts: one latte and and two orders of Hong Kong milk tea (from the restaurant's wide tea selection). The latte I'm told was quality and the Hong Kong tea was exquisite. (I tried it.) They made the tea at the table, starting with some (sweetened) condensed milk in a large glass, poured teat over it, mixed thoroughly, and then poured the whole mixture into the teapot. The end result was wonderfully balanced: a strong black tea flavor (which some believed came from a mix of darjeeling and oolong tea -- the restaurant simply says it is its own special tea blend) with a sweetness and a creaminess from the milk. (Unlike most tea-with-milk mixtures, the milk didn't drown out the flavors in the tea.) This tea made us happy and we probably would've been more happy with the dessert course if we had just ordered drinks without any desserts. But to conclude about the tea: Yum.


We also ordered a number of drinks during the meal, including two rieslings. One ("nikolaihof, federspiel, 'vom stein', wachau, austria, 2004"), from the "floral" category, was dry and soft and a bit acidic, though it (or our taste buds) mellowed during the meal. The other ("jacoby-mathy, kabinett, kinheimer rosenberg, mosel, 2004"), from the "fruity" category, was, well, quite sweet and fruity. We enjoyed them both and, for many of us, our preferences for them changed throughout the meal as the tastes on our tongues changed and the wines matured. (I still think a mixture of the two might be better than either.) We also tried a reasonable quite grapey red wine in their "spicy reds" category, as well as some orange juice.


Conversations included dating life updates, what-we-did-on-the-weekend briefs (i.e., film festival movies), and even more food conversation than usual. We debated mung beans and cellophane noodles and spent a lot of time digesting at the end of this good meal reminiscing about some of the other quality restaurants we've been to.


The total was $42/person including tax and tip but without drinks.


Original Announcement


This Wednesday at 8:00pm we'll discover Vietnamese-inspired food at the Slanted Door.



Please tell me if you want to come!


Comments from Other Attendees


Cellophane noodles with crab was a dish we didn't get to try but seemed very popular from my research.


Feel free to add remarks here.

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