Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the Road Eats: The Slanted Door

For just about as long as I've been interested in food and restaurants, I've associated San Francisco with The Slanted Door. The upscale Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Plaza building has established its reputation quite well over the past 16 years and, from my experience, it seems that the reservations for dinner in the large dining room are still being easily filled.

Unable to get a table, I thought I might try my luck as a walk-in at the bar. But as it turns out, my dining companion and I ended up here at lunchtime just as the restaurant was opening. A line was already forming at the door. We tried our luck and were able to get in and were seated at a lovely table with a view of the water.

The long, overwhelmingly intriguing menu nearly guarantees that your eyes will be bigger than your stomach. But by ordering several appetizers, we were able to several things.

The spicy vermicelli rice noodles with chicken, green cabbage, cucumber, mint, peanut sauce and lime was a nice first plate. The tangy mixture was flavorful, though I did wish the chicken had been marinated longer so it tasted less of meat and exuded more freshness.

The Hue rice dumplings filled with mung bean were amazing. I like the chewy, glutinous texture of the rice flour and the mung bean filling also made these new and different from other dumplings I've tried. They came in a scallion oil and spicy soy sauce that just topped it all off.

The Vietnamese crepe with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and onions was also new to me, but one bite convinced me it was delicious, despite the inherent messiness. To eat it, you cradle a portion of the crepe in a large lettuce leaf, top it with a piece of mint, drizzle fish sauce over it and just try to get a little of everything into your mouth. The crispness of the lettuce is perfect against the crunchiness of the brittle crepe and though the fish sauce makes your fingers sticky, it was so addictive I practically drowned my bites in it.

I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed my (unplanned) meal at The Slanted Door. And I even contemplated trying to make a return stop during my short stay in San Francisco, but, alas, it wasn't doable. But next time, I'll be sure to make time for it.

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