The Slanted Door

January 1, 2006

UPDATE (March 27, 2007): We’ve written an additional review on The Slanted Door, which you can read here. Below is our first review of this restaurant.


This restaurant seems to be perpetually crowded and bustling, and it’s not difficult to see why. Located in an open and airy space at a prime location in the Ferry Building, the casual elegance of The Slanted Door and the attentive service welcomes hundreds of eager diners daily. They are always crowded, despite being open for both lunch and dinner everyday of the week, and reservations are strongly recommended.

Most important in explaining the appeal of The Slanted Door is, of course, the culinary experience it offers. The restaurant was launched and continues to be run by the Phan family. The location and surroundings of this restaurant may have changed considerably over the years (the upscale Ferry Building, replete as it is now with a gourmet establishments, is, after all, seemingly a whole world away from the old digs on Valencia Street), but what has not changed is the Phan family’s resilient commitment to using always fresh, local ingredients in an innovative way. One glance at the entrees on their menu (and the corresponding prices) make it clear that the Phans have actively pursued the path less traveled (when compared to typical Vietnamese fare), but with often delightful results. The grilled ahi tuna


and oven-roasted halibut


were both pristinely fresh, and both were very well complemented by thoughtful salad garnishes. The halibut was served with a ginger-based fish sauce that wonderfully highlighted the flavor of the fish, and the ahi was served with a soy-ginger base well-suited to it. One of the cornerstone principles of Vietnamese cooking is establishing a balance between highly contrasting flavors (such as spiciness and sweetness). Even though there is nothing especially unique about ahi tuna served with a soy-ginger sauce, what makes the dish stand out is the close attention paid to the balancing of diverse flavors. Although this dish cannot be called Vietnamese, it is nevertheless true that when this dish is served at a purely Western restaurant, it is much less imaginative. The subtle flavoring makes all the difference in the world. Although The Slanted Door functions in a different plane of existence from the typical Vietnamese restaurant, it pays homage to long-abiding characteristics of Vietnamese cuisine.

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that Slanted Door is not a “real” Vietnamese restaurant. It isn’t fusion cuisine, and one can only really say that the flavors here are Vietnamese-inspired. The food here is pure and well-prepared, but the flavors aren’t quite as deep as what one encounters at a really good authentic restaurant, which we believe justifies giving it only 3.5 stars, rather than a full 4 stars. Nonetheless, authenticity isn’t really in the mission statement. Don’t come here expecting it to be authentic, because you’ll be disappointed, and probably bitter at the fact that you paid a lot more than you would’ve had you gone elsewhere.

But if you’re willing to open your mind (and your wallet) to look beyond pure authenticity, we think you’ll enjoy what The Slanted Door has to offer: interesting flavors, quality ingredients, and a generally refreshing approach.



1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.861.8032
Hours: Everyday 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, Sun-Thurs 5:30 – 10:00 pm, Fri-Sat 5:30 – 10:30 pm.

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Neighborhood: Financial District

How to get there: The Slanted Door is within easy walking distance of Muni lines 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 21, 31, 38, 41, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N, T, and the California Street cable car line. BART and Muni Metro riders should use Embarcadero Station.

One comment

  1. […] Slanted Door: Photo Edition March 27th, 2007 You might recall that awhile back we wrote up a little report on The Slanted Door. As it turns out, The Slanted Door is actually remarkably consistent in terms […]

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