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Saturday, August 18, 2012

San Francisco Treats: The Slanted Door, Nopa, and Good Mong Kok

On a recent venture to San Francisco I couldn't help but to swing by the acclaimed Slanted Door.  Hidden in the back of the Ferry Building, it's sleek, refined, and got a killer view.

Often restaurants that are reallly hyped up end up wildly disappointing me, so I definitely entered with a bit of trepidation.  We had made reservations in advance, which is prudent, since by the time we finished our meal there was not a single table to be had in the entire place!
     On a cool day there is nothing better than a bowl of warm soup.  Subscribing to this philosophy we began with a bowl of piping hot Pho Bo. This Vietnamese beef soup come with Prather Ranch London Broil, brisket, and wide rice noodles.  It is every bit the hearty soup you would imagine, with giant hunks of tender meat.  You can even see the wispy tendrils of steam curling off the hot bowl below...Mmm...
We then decided to try the Vietnamese Crepe appetizer.  Unlike the typical French crepe, the Vietnamese version is more of an omelet, which is then filled with gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, bean sprouts, and yellow onions at the Slanted Door.  The "crepe" itself is deftly cooked, and also kind of crispy without being burned, which was a pleasant departure from the usual omelet.  We were also given massive leaves of lettuce to make little wraps, which I thought was only enhanced by the addition of the delicate fish sauce.
Since we hit up Slanted Door following a mini-vacation to Napa and Sonoma (in which we really indulged and gorged ourselves), we opted for some lighter salads.  Luckily, these were not your average garden salad.  A splendid visual and gustatory assault on the senses, the grapefruit and jicama salad is prepared with red cabbage, pickled carrot, and candied pecans.  It was crisp and really interesting, with the seemingly disparate flavors melding really well together.
The green papaya salad is to die for too with pickled carrot, rau ram, crispy shallot and roasted peanut.  It was refreshing, and really managed to tap into multiple flavor components...sweet, sour, salty, and crunchy.

Making our way to the entrees,we selected the grilled wild gulf shrimp from the "noodle" section of the menu.  Of the dishes we received this seemed the most traditional Vietnamese.  Accompanied by rice vermicelli noodle, vegetarian imperial roll, cucumber and mint it is served with a light broth.
Finally we came to the end of our meal, and with so many satisfying dishes we couldn't restrain ourselves from also indulging in dessert.  Although several sounded pretty creative, the chocolate croquettes with avocado ice cream and sweet chili jam really piqued our curiosity.  I'm glad it did because it was  unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The avocado ice cream was rich and smooth.  You could taste it was avocado, but the flavor wasn't so dominant as to make the dish savory.  Also the crunchy balls labeled as croquettes were filled with a tantalizing liquid bittersweet chocolate. Overall, both components worked quite well too with the sweet chili jam which was neither overly cloying, nor too spicy.
From start to finish we were completely enamored with every aspect of our meal at Slanted Door.  It was one of my favorite stops in San Francisco.  To find the restaurant for yourself, head to the back of the Ferry building at:

The Slanted Door
1 Harbor Bay Isle
San Francisco Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 861-8032
The Slanted Door on Urbanspoon
   
     Among other stops I thoroughly enjoyed in San Francisco, I'd also recommend a meal at Nopa (again make reservations in advance), and picking up some dim sum from Good Mong Kok.
     Nopa is a cool American Nouveau place that uses seasonal, local ingredients.  They also have a ridiculously phenomenal brunch.  The Ramos Gin Fizz was spot on and extremely well balanced.  Made with Hayman's Old Tom gin, cream, lime, lemon, and egg white, it tasted like a Key Lime Pie in a glass.  As for the cuisine, favorites included the custard french toast with lavender honey glazed strawberries and lemon butter, and the savory goat cheese breading pudding with blueberries and arugula.  Like I previously mentioned though, they use seasonal ingredients, so the menu is constantly changing depending on the chef's creativity and what's available.


Nopa
560 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 864-8643
Nopa on Urbanspoon


     Good Mong Kok Bakery is little more than an informal to-go kind of place where the menu isn't even listed in English.  It's often packed to the gills, and it is cash only.  Caveats aside, it is one of the best finds in the city, with some seriously rocking dumplings that are so cheap you feel like you're robbing them.  The shumai are juicy and flavorful, the pork buns are fluffy balls of dough stuffed with a tangy BBQ pork, and the shrimp and chive dumplings are umami bliss.   I think I actually walked away with about 8 dumplings plus a sesame ball for dessert and the whole thing only cost about $5. An exceptional hole-in-the-wall that I find myself gravitating towards on every visit to San Francisco.

Good Mong Kok
1039 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 397-2688
Good Mong Kok Bakery on Urbanspoon

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