Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SF Day Two: The Slanted Door

So if A16 only sort of met my expectations, then The Slanted Door fully delivered (and then some).

Situated in the Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Bayside, this restaurant takes full advantage of the setting with large windows and outside seating overlooking the water and the Bay Bridge. Balance this with a sleek, modern décor, exceptionally well trained staff, menus that taste better than they sound and a wine list that is specifically chosen for the food. No wonder then that the night I was there (a Tuesday) the restaurant did (I’m guessing) 500+ covers.

I don’t think that I have ever been in a restaurant with this much energy and motion going on. From the second you open the door the whole place is moving and alive, noisy and a bit chaotic but controlled and flowing. People were lined up 30 deep at the host stand begging for a table, waiters taking care of tables, runners with 4-5 plates on an arm, casually dressed sommeliers giving casually aloof answers to people’s drink questions, the flavors wafting from the open kitchen, bartenders properly shaking drinks over their shoulders, guests squatting around little tables in the waiting area sucking down huge plates of oysters, and people drinking lots of beer – that seems to be the thing here, but it is CA and they do have good beer here.

After being shown to our table by the hostess-who-does-not-smile (I think she had a whip in her pocket), we ran the menu, talked with the som and ordered. The wine menu is set up according to style and the food is served family style and in coordination with the wines.

We started with glasses of Chidaine Montlouis brut nv (chenin blanc), a sparkler from the Loire, and Grüner Veltliner, Schloss Gobelsburg, "Gobelsburger" 08, from the Kamptal region in Austria. The Montlouis was rich and balanced, but not heavy – quite pleasant alternative to the fuller style of Champagne, which would have been too heavy for my food. The Grüner was intense and powerful with loads of green herby flavors. Two distinct wines. We split plates of vegetarian spring rolls with tofu, shiitakes, cabbage, mint and peanut sauce (unique, flavorful take on an item that can be over done) and the grapefruit and jicama salad with red cabbage, pickled carrots and candied pecans (this was sooo good: crisp and crunchy cabbage, wet and cool jicama, sweet pecans). The wines worked well with each.

Next I had a bowl of the soup, sweet white corn and dungeness crab, which was not like anything I was expecting – clear broth and sweet corn, chives and large chunks of sweet crab. Yum.

For our entrees we took a glass (from the “Fruity German” section of the list) of Riesling, Hauth-Kerpen, Kabinett, Wehlener Sonnenuhr 07, which was a fruity German, peaches and tart acidity – quite good, and a ½ bottle of Chablis, Domaine Hervé Azo, "Aau de Vey" (1er cru) 07, which was light and delicate with a slight lactic creamy mid-palate and a subtle minerally finish. Food-wise we had the vegetarian glass noodles with tofu skin, fresh black trumpet mushrooms, and oyster mushrooms and the oven roasted Alaskan halibut with kaffir lime, thai basil and roasted wild mushrooms. Each dish delivering layers of flavors and savory sensations. The noodles were light and delicate, while the halibut was flakey, succulent, delicate and with a slight lime-infused crust that was unlike anything I have had before – quite delicious.

We were stuffed, but our waiter brought us a “lovely little something extra” to finish our meals – the Vanilla bean crème brûlée with almond financier. This kind of put us over the top, but it was really good. My only complaint about this dish is that the caramel tasted too strong of the torch used to burn it. The crème though was unbelievable. The waiter had taken it upon himself to comp us this dessert, which was a very nice gesture and (I’m guessing) his touch of hospitality (we had discussed the fact that we were visiting from the East Coast). Whatever the true intention it was well received. I did ask about the Grans-Fassian Eiswein (it was the 2002 Leiweiner Klostergarten) listed on the dessert menu, and was promptly served a taste. No offense, but no one can make Riesling like the Germans – this wine is so good: light, floral and completely unexpected delicate acidity – nothing cloying, just superb and understated, very typical of the wines from 02.

A lot of thought has gone into the Slanted Door. This is a restaurant that serves elegant, subtlety flavored food, puts out wines to compliment and has services that delivers. What more could you ask for? …well, I would start with some more crème brulee, then a bit more the corn soup, and that halibut was to die for….

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