Charles Phan moved to San Francisco in 1977 after his family fled from Saigon via Guam in 1975, in the closing days of the Vietnam War. He briefly studied architecture and worked as a salesman in the software industry before deciding to become a restaurateur. He opened The Slanted Door in the Mission district of San Francisco in 1995, and its success has now spawned a mini-empire of six other restaurants. After relocating to Embarcadero, The Slanted Door has for about a decade been located in the Ferry Building, having a large 175 seat dining room with views over the bay, with floor to ceiling windows. The dining room has a tiled floor and no tablecloths, with muzak playing. The restaurant offers complimentary wifi, which was a nice touch. Even at lunch the place was packed out, and the hard surfaces result in a quite noisy environment.
The eight page wine list ranged in price from $32 to $1500, organised by style, with a nice selection of 28 German Rieslings. Example wines were Donnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Kabinett 2011 at $54 for a wine that you can find in a shop for $21, Leflaive Clavoillon Puligny Montrachet at $200 for a wine that will set you back around $120 in a wine shop, and there was one high end bargain for those with the means. Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 2002 was listed at $1,500 for a wine that costs around $2,674 retail at the time of writing.
Chilled shrimp, spicy cocktail sauce and a garlic dip was pleasant enough, the shrimps fridge cold but tender, the dips having plenty of flavour (12/20). Papaya salad had julienne of green papaya, shredded fine using a mandoline, along with fried tofu, a little shredded cucumber and celery, rau ram (a herb rather like a minty coriander) and a nicely judged spicy dressing.
Pork belly was served in small pieces so it could be wrapped up in lettuce leaves, served with a spicy dip and a little mint and cucumber. The pork belly was not too fatty, the combination with the mint and leaves giving a lighter effect to the dish (13/20).
I was less taken with the signature Shaking Beef ("shaking" refers to the shaking of the wok when the dish is cooked), which comprised pieces of fillet steak on a bed of watercress, red onions and scallion, served with a lime sauce. The beef is marinated with seasoning, sugar and oil before being stir-fried in a wok with garlic, soy and mirin. It was pleasant enough, but the large cubes of beef were cooked rather longer than ideal, and the marinade had not really tenderised the beef, which had a little chewiness remaining despite being fillet steak (12/20). "Cellophane" noodles as they were called here (better known as glass noodles) were made from mung beans and were garnished with Dungeness crab; the noodles were delicate and well seasoned (13/20).
The bill, with jasmine tea to drink, came to $88 before tip. I had an excellent waitress who helpfully suggested half-orders of several dishes so that I could try a few things, and thoughtfully inquired about my flight time when I mentioned that I was catching a plane after this meal. Overall this was a very pleasant experience, the cooking of a reasonable standard despite the considerable size of the operation, the service very good.
Further reviews: 01st Apr 2003