Overall I'd give Slanted Door a 3.5. The ingredients are fresh, the presentation is pleasing and the view is nice, even on a foggy day.
I took my boss and his fiance to this place because they were visiting from Saigon. Yes, both are native Vietnamese and were interested in trying American Vietnamese dishes. The had already been to two other places on their own and were disappointed. (I can attest, while I do not have their discriminating palate - even I was a bit disappointed w/the food here after returning from Saigon). So I wanted to take them to Slanted Door, not only because it's famous and well thought of by San Franciscans, but also because I had gone there once before and enjoyed my meal.
We walked over on a Wednesday afternoon and were seated immediately. Afternoons during the week are apparently the best time to come. Not crowded at all. Our service was prompt and courteous. I enjoy being left alone more than most so to me it was just the right amount of attention.
I let my boss select the menu - he wanted to try the most traditional dishes he could find and perhaps some that were popular. We got
-pho bo, vietnamese beef soup, prather ranch london broil, brisket, wide rice noodle
-slanted door spring rolls, gulf shrimp, pork, mint, peanut sauce
-grass-fed estancia shaking beef, cubed filet mignon, watercress, red onion, lime sauce
-caramelized catfish claypot, cilantro, ginger, thai chili
The most authentic dish they had was the Pho Bo. The broth was pleasant and the beef had a nice texture to it. The noodles were...different. Not bad, but a bit unusual. Still, both my boss and his fiancee proclaimed that it was a well prepared dish and they enjoyed it a lot. The verdict on this dish, pretty authentic and great flavors. Must try!
Next we had the spring rolls and I was surprised to learn that they had added an unusual ingredient to it. Mayonnaise, or at least what tasted and looked like mayo. Our table was split on this dish. While we all agreed it was quite tasty, the mayo mixture was a give or take for some. Luckily it's not overwhelming so you could eat it and not be worried. My boss was so-so on it, but his fiancee liked this version of spring rolls better! She said it was creamier than usual. So there you go! The verdict on this dish, not as authentic, but possibly better than the original.
We moved onto the Shaking Beef with some jasmine rice. My boss told me the story behind this dish and then we dug in. While the quality of the beef is fantastic, he was not as impressed with the flavors. I have to stop here and say that all the flavors here, while delicious are very muted for a southeast asian palate so just keep that in mind when bringing friends from SE Asia here. I love beef so I was happy and his fiancee seemed to enjoy it as well. If you take this dish as just a beef dish with onions, etc - then it's great. If you're trying to compare it to Shaking Beef back in Saigon - certain flavors are missing and it doesn't stand out as much. The verdict, delicious on its on, but it doesn't hold up to the original.
Last was the catfish which had a hot and sweet taste to it. I had this dish in Saigon and I have to say, I was disappointed. I realize these flavors have to be toned down, but this does not compare at all to original. Hot is supposed to be HOT. I barely felt any heat and I think because they used a clay pot instead of a stone pot the catfish could sizzle as it should. Again, ingredients are top notch so it makes the dish taste very good. If you're comparing it to the original however, you'll be disappointed.
So we came away pleased with Slanted Door. The ingredients were very fresh. The servers were pleasant. The view was great. The drinks were good, but the pricing is a bit expensive.
It's definitely worth a visit and even if your friends are from Saigon, I'd say they'd still enjoy the food - just make sure to let them know this is a "Modern" spin on some of their classic dishes!
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