Lunch at the Slanted Door, San Franciso

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After my visit to Vietnam a few months ago, my awareness of its cuisine grew considerably. I had dined at the Slanted Door several times prior to going to Vietnam and wondered if my new lens would alter my view of the restaurant.

Although Charles Phan is the Executive Chef, Michelle Mah heads the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine. She attended the California Culinary Academy and brings many years of experience with French and Pan-Asian cuisine with her.

When I visited for a late lunch with my daughter, it was completely full, inside and outside too, even though it was chilly. The high demand attests to Chef Charles Phan’s success in offering Vietnamese cuisine made with locally sourced fresh products. The spacious dining room’s floor-to-ceiling glass offers a view of the Bay, enhancing the experience.

Vegetarian Imperial Roll

Vegetarian Imperial Roll

Our appetizers were vegetarian imperial rolls and Daikon rice cakes. The rolls had taro root, cabbage, roasted peanuts and vermicelli noodles in rice paper dipped in honey, double fried to a crispy golden brown, the crunch moderated by the dipping sauce, letting all the flavors merge in the mouth. The rice cakes were made of grated Daikon (a radish) mixed with rice flour, shiitake mushrooms and shallots, then deep-fried and served in sweet chili soy, yielding a chewy, complex taste that lingers.

Daikon Rice Cakes

Daikon Rice Cakes

Chef Phan has experimented to perfect his recipe for banh xeo, a stuffed crepe better than any I had in Vietnam. He refrigerates the Mung bean and rice flour batter overnight to let the starches blend and fries it in a non-stick pan to retain its crispiness even after it’s filled with tofu, tree ear mushrooms, cabbage and a generous dollop of bean sprouts. The pieces of the crepe are then sandwiched in lettuce and mint leaves and dipped in a sweet and spicy sauce, a maneuver needing several napkins to wipe hands and face. The end mixture of flavors, sounds and smell is more than worth the trouble.

Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo

Our final dish was cellophane noodles with green onions and chunks of Dungeness crab stir-fried in oyster and fish sauces in sesame oil, served garnished with cilantro sprigs. The noodles absorb the sauces and oils, becoming golden-brown like the rolls. They simply melt in the mouth, releasing the composite mixture of flavors.

Dungeness Crab with Cellophane Noodles

Dungeness Crab with Cellophane Noodles

Preparations by Phan and Mah retain the cuisine’s Vietnamese roots, but are embellished by new procedures and adaptations to local products. Service was quick, despite the full dining room, and attentive—altogether a truly enjoyable dining experience.


The Slanted Door

1 Ferry Building, Ferry Building Marketplace

Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Telephone: 415-861-8032.


Reservations are highly recommended, as it’s not easy to get one. Even after our reservation was confirmed, I got calls and an email requesting re-confirmation. Street parking is available with a search.






4 Responses to Lunch at the Slanted Door, San Franciso

  • I had dinner there some time ago. It was excellent. Fresh ingredients put together in an elegant manner. Vietnamese cooking is very refined if one finds the right chef. The Slanted Door certainly has one. Compared to some of the popular restaurants in Hanoi, I would rate it highly. But authentic Vietnamese food comes in many varieties. Just like Indian cooking. The ingredients are even more diverse. Some are very unappetizing like restaurants specializing in dog meat.I enjoy a variety of exotic foods like escargot and grenouilles but draw a red line when it barks. Vietnamese sea food is truly excellent.That is why it is hard to replicate the experience in a Vietnamese restaurant in the USA. Ashok’s descriptions of the dishes makes one salivate. I hope he will entertain me there on my next visit to San Francisco.

  • You are on next time you visit.

  • I have heard this is an excellent restaurant and now after reading your descriptions of the dishes you sampled I am hungry!
    Let me know when you are going again-I may just join you!

  • OK, I will let you know when I next plan to visit.