The Slanted Door and Out the Door
Directly following my trip to Peru, I left on a research trip to the West Coast for two weeks. What was I researching? Glad you asked: a book on Stadium Eats! Um, yeah, without a deal in sight currently (hint, hint, anyone reading this who is interested!), I went to preemptively scout out the 6 West Coast stadiums and eat my way up and down the West Coast at the same time, starting in San Francisco, working my way down to Los Angeles, then San Diego, back up to San Francisco and then to Seattle! Phew! Tune in at 4:15 EST (or 1:15 PST, lunchtime on the West Coast) for the next 6 weeks to see what I ate and where I ate it… and how I gained 10 lbs in two weeks!
DP had wisely made reservations but was running late so I spent my time taking photographs of the exterior of Slanted Door.
When she finally arrived, I told her how happy I was that she was late: I needed extra time to digest all that I’d eaten that day.
Having recently discovered an affinity towards gin, I ordered a cocktail from the menu: Indian Summer, which contained Tanqueray No. 10 gin, Nikolaihof biodynamic elderflower, and grapefruit juice (no, I didn’t remember this, I took shots of the menu so I’d have it available for reference). I don’t know what the deal is with biodynamic elderflower, but I also realized that I like elderflower quite a bit, and even more so when it’s mixed with gin. This was a yummy, yummy drink, and I was quite pleased with it – very summery and cooling. I felt like I should be sitting next to a pool and drinking it!
Though I’m used to these being called ‘summer rolls’ and ‘spring rolls’ being deep fried, these were listed on the menu as ‘Slanted Door spring rolls’ – with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce.
The pork was definitely present in each bite, and the peanut sauce was pretty tasty. However, DP and I both had trouble eating the “center piece” – if you’ll notice in my photo above, each roll is cut into three pieces, when I’ve always had it in two pieces. So as I bit into the center piece, with the other end open, stuff started falling out! I wasn’t happy about that, though that really is a pretty minor complaint.
Heger Farm sweet corn and wild dungeness crab soup – my appetizer
The corn brought such a nice sweetness to the light broth, I would have been happy with just a corn soup, I think. But it wasn’t just corn – dungeness crab meat populated the soup with its own sweet tenderness, and I happily gobbled this up. DP, being less than a huge fan of crab and seafood in general, only tried a spoonful before allowing me to scarf the rest down.
DP ordered an appetizer of Becker Lane pork shoulder with green garlic and wolfberries in banana leaf with pineapple-anchovy sauce. I wasn’t a huge fan; something about the taste put me off, and my research tells me that wolfberries and goji berries are indeed the same thing. I don’t find goji berries all that tasty, and the green garlic was a bit too pungent for me. DP, however, really liked this dish, and took her own turn giving me a bite before wolfing the rest down.
Because I have awesome friends, despite DP’s underwhelming appreciation for crab, she allowed me to order cellophane noodles with fresh dungeness crab meat. Look at those big chunks of crab meat *tears of joy* I adored this dish. It wasn’t just the lumps of crab meat scattered liberally throughout the noodles; they did things the right way here and cooked the noodles with the crab, or with the shells, or with something crab-related, because the entire essence, the entire flavor of the crab was steeped into the noodles. I was in heaven… though the noodles were clumped together, I didn’t even mind that, because it didn’t detract from the flavor at all. Somehow. Mmm, so, so, so good. (DP liked the noodles, too, but not quite as much as I did.)
Our next dish was chosen by me, because I’d heard so many people rave – I mean rave and go nuts over this dish. Grass fed Estancia shaking beef: cubed filet mignon, Sausalito Springs’ watercress, red onions and lime sauce; I suppose with so much hype surrounding it, it was almost guaranteed to fail, right? Well, fail it did. Understand that the meat was tender and tasty, and the lime vinaigrette on the side was also tasty; but did it warrant raves? No. I could have made that lime vinaigrette. Good beef is good beef. C’mon… why does everyone rave about this dish?
DP decided there was enough seafood and meat dishes on the table, and added on the chicken claypot with caramel sauce, chilies and fresh ginger. I wasn’t paying attention and just let her order whatever she wanted because ummm I’m not that bossy right? Plus I’d basically picked the majority of the rest of the menu. (I’ve written these words a number of times, that I agree to whatever other people want because I’ve picked everything else we ordered already, and each time… I regret it. Oops. Foreshadowing!) Well, don’t get me wrong, this dish tasted fine, but teriyaki by any other name is still teriyaki. Someone out there who loves Slanted Door to a fault is going to come here and blast me and say that I’m not being open minded or something, but soy sauce + sugar/honey + ginger (optionally also garlic) is TERIYAKI. Like I said, while this was tasty enough, I just was disappointed that we’d come to this Vietnamese restaurant and inadvertently ordered a not-that-unique dish. (DP tried to apologize, but I wouldn’t have it. It wasn’t her fault, and I don’t blame her at all! She enjoyed it anyway and ate all of it while I glared at my choice of shaking beef.)
I’d also heard that if I couldn’t get over to try Slanted Door, I should try Out the Door, their ‘takeout counter.’ I’d tried last time, but been unable to make the time to eat here.
Specifically, I’d been told that the banh mi was really good – though expensive or rather, not as cheap as other places at “normal” banh mi prices. I am pretty sure Pim of Chez Pim mentioned this when I got a chance to chill with her (and some other very cool food bloggers) my last trip out to SF for the Foodbuzz Fest, so I definitely wanted to check it out.
Gratuitous shots of the menu so you can see the prices.
I can’t say it’s cheap but it’s not horrific either.
They also sell ‘kits’ so you can make some of their more famous/popular dishes. I glanced into the refrigerator unit and the kits were made up already, waiting for people to buy them, and they included everything, which is pretty cool. I wonder if they use the kits by the end of the night if no one buys them? Probably, right?
Some of the Slanted Door spring rolls pre-made and waiting for people to order.
I gritted my teeth and ordered the Saigon roast pork sandwich for $8.50. It came out to a little over $9 with tax. To their credit, they don’t actually call it a banh mi on the menu. The above is what I received after waiting briefly; I watched the people at the counter and saw some people eating what looked like pho, which interested me. Not too small or understuffed, my sandwich.
The sandwich was about the length of my hand, so about 7″ long, and was generously stuffed with meats, veggies, cilantro. The bread was a good texture – not too hard, not too soft, just right to bite into without everything shooting out all over me.
The sandwich itself actually tasted just like a very good banh mi: balanced flavors, not too spicy; pickled veggies playing their part with the savory meats, and the lovely verdant cilantro making its presence known but not overwhelming, either. I actually really liked the sandwich quite a lot, which wasn’t surprising, because it tasted… just… like… a… very… good… banh… mi.
This is where you can throw your shoe at me (and I’ll dodge). You can argue “Well, that’s what you wanted; you have a very good banh mi! What would have made you happy then?” when I voice my next opinion. I honestly don’t know the answer to that. It’s an excellent banh mi. It’s delicious. But I can get an excellent, delicious banh mi for $3.50 just a short drive (or slightly longer walk, even) away. So I can’t fairly say this is something I’d get again, unless I really wanted banh mi and I was stuck at the Ferry Building. Which, I guess, is the whole reason it’s so popular: it’s an excellent banh mi, and the price can be justified by the quality of ingredients used in the sandwich… and a captive audience will definitely love that this sandwich tastes as good as it should, with high quality ingredients…
Yvo says: I enjoyed my meal at Slanted Door, despite the displeasure with our two main dishes. The food was good, even if I disagreed with some of it. On the pricey side? Sure, but using local sources (and I think also organic) of course comes with it an extra cost. I understand that. I’m not sure if I need to (or can afford to) go back, but I wouldn’t hesitate to tell people that this is a great place for a good meal. The giant windows afford great views of the bay, too, if you’re into that. As for the banh mi at Out the Door, again, delicious, and enjoyable, certainly. You pay a premium for better ingredients. If you care about that, or if you’re stuck in the area for lunch, then this is an amazing alternative to many of the other options you could find nearby. It’s different from what else is offered. And it’s good. No question about that.