Executive Chef-Owner Charles Phan revolutionized elevated modern Vietnamese cooking in San Francisco when he opened the original Slanted Door in the Mission in 1995 providing fresh ingredient-driven food. Not at all the “gourmet ghetto” it is today back then, The Slanted Door was the original destination restaurant in the Mission.
Named after the door that slanted in towards the restaurant, an expansion permit was turned down forcing Phan to look elsewhere to accommodate the growing number of diners. After 2 moves, he settled in the Ferry Building Marketplace as a permanent home for the acclaimed restaurant. Wo Hing General Store now takes the place of the original location, complete with the original slanted door.
After doing some shopping and running errands around the Ferry Plaza, we peeked through the glass doors of Slanted Door to see if there was room for us at the bar. Tourist season must definitely be over since there was plenty of space to have a great lunch at the bar.
We drank Leitz Riesling since the slight sweetness of the varietal is always a perfect pairing for Asian food:
It was rainy and cold that day in San Francisco, so we thought that bowls of soup would help warm us up from the inside-out. The soups here are served in individual size portions, larger than a typical bowl, but not large enough to be considered an entrée. It is a great way to be able to eat soup and try out some other dishes on the menu.
Chef Phan’s Phở Bo, Vietnamese beef noodle soup, is truly the best in the Bay Area. It came with rare thin slices of Prather Ranch London broil, cooked beef brisket and wide rice noodles. The beef broth was delicate and meaty tasting:
The other soup bowl was a gulf shrimp and pork wonton soup which included slices of five-spiced roast pork, bits of crackling and thin egg noodles. This soup was also very tasty with a pork-based broth:
Our bartender noticed that our entrée dish was taking a long time to come out of the kitchen, so he provided us a small order of vegetarian Vietnamese spring rolls stuffed with tofu, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage and mint leaves. We appreciated the gesture, and the roll bites dipped in the peanut sauce were quite delicious and sated our appetites as we waited for our main dish:
As our entrée we selected the caramelized catfish cooked in a claypot spiced with ginger and a little bit of thai chili. The sweetness of the tender and perfectly cooked fish really complemented the Riesling wine perfectly:
As a side to eat with our fish, we shared a bowl of fluffy brown rice:
One of the funny reasons to sit at the bar here is to overhear how many patrons order a “glass of Chardonnay” only to be told that they do not have any, a stance that we highly applaud, since their selection of white wines is more Asian food friendly. We asked the bartender how many times he actually had to tell people that they “do not have Chardonnay.” His response was that it was literally 50% of his time — not 50% of the wine orders, but 50% of ALL of his time, counting everything he does at the bar including making cocktails, taking orders, cutting fruit garnish and restocking. That’s a lot of disappointed white wine drinkers, but the bartenders are very good at steering them towards new wines that they may never have tried.
The Slanted Door is an institution and one of the most successful restaurants in San Francisco. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls providing beautiful bay views at the Ferry Plaza makes it worth visiting for dinner or lunch. Just don’t look for an actual slanted door: you have to go to the Mission to view that.