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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eating through San Francisco - part 4 - The Slanted Door and Tu Lan

Eating across the spectrum in San Francisco can mean many things.  For us, that meant eating at hole in the wall cheap joints and also eating at fancy pants dining locations.  Of the many recommendations that we received for places in dine in San Francisco, the Slanted Door was by far recommended the most often. 

The Slanted Door is an upscale modern Vietnamese restaurant.  The dishes were creative, and the view across the water was amazing.  Additionally, they also carried Nikolaihof biodynamic elderflower, an elderflower syrup that is near impossible to get in the United States.  This particular syrup isn't from the United States, it is from Australia.  I asked my waitress for a sample to see how it compared to St. Germain Elderflower liqueur.  It seemed to be very similar for the most part, but slightly grassier and more citrus notes. 

We started off with mesquite grilled lamb sausage topped with Chinese black olive and preserved lemon relish and kusshi oysters . The mesquite grilled lamb sausage has great flavor however slightly tough.  The black olive relish was just a tad salty. 

The kusshi oysters on the other hand, were fantastic.  The oysters were incredibly fresh and smelled like the ocean.  The garnish on top was tangy, crunchy, citrusy, with a slow cool yet spicy burn at the end.  These were a sure winner. 

I ordered the Becker lane pork shoulder with green garlic and wolfberries in banana leaf with pineapple-anchovy sauce. The flavor combinations in this dish were well-balanced, savory yet sweet, and perfect with rice.  The meat was incredibly tender, and the pineapple-anchovy sauce was pretty fabulous.  Sweet and salty, with great depth of flavor.

As you can see, we didn't like it at all. 

For a soup, we ordered the asparagus and wild dungeness crab meat with white pepper and sesame oil.   It was pretty light and tasty.

And lastly, we ordered the grass-fed estancia shaking beef, cubed filet mignon, sausalito springs' watercress, red onions and lime sauce. The shaking beef is one of Slanted Door's more popular dishes, and the recipe is online here.  The dish was pretty tasty, but not something I'd order again.  This steak dish is available at other Vietnamese restaurants, and I can make it at home.  I was looking for something that isn't on the menu at other restaurants that really show cases Slanted Door's creativity. 

For dessert, we had the banana tapioca with sweet potato, avocado ice cream, and crisp lime meringue.  This dish probably sounds odd and gross.  You might think that banana tapioca, sweet potato, avocados, and lime have to be the a terrible combination.  You are wrong.  This was the most delicious and well-balanced dessert.  The tapioca is infused in pureed bananas.  The avocado ice cream was mild and creamy.  And the lime meringue (which was more like chunks of lime divinity) pulled everything perfectly together.  The textures and the flavors of this dish were amazing.  This is the type of dessert  that impresses.  The final bill with tax and tip was $125.74.

The other end of the dining spectrum was Tu Lan.  While Tu Lan wasn't the cheapest place we ate at in San Francisco (I paid two dollars for a dim sum meal), it certainly did qualify for hole in the wall.  I'm not sure if the clientele or the restaurant was dirtier, and I didn't care care.  I didn't care if the seats are duct taped together or that the counter was visibly grimy.  I didn't care if homeless people were engaging in trade at the counter. I was going for grungy hole in the wall, and I hereby declare Tu Lan to be the "Mother of All Hole-in-the-Walls."

Imperial Rolls at Tu Lan were perfectly crunchy.  Flavorful. Delicious.

Spicy beef noodle was an awesome soup.  It had reminded me of Chinese spicy beef noodle soup, and it was perfect on a cold night. 

Chicken curry with potatoes was pretty good, from what I got.  @windaddict ate most of it.  Total bill: $18.  And the food we got could have easily fed another person.  Now this place closes pretty early at 9:30 pm, and we saw an endless stream of people coming in wanting to be served even after closing.  I asked the chef  if they were always that busy, and he said nope.  Could have fooled me.  Wouldn't it be awesome to have an endless stream of people wanting to eat at your restaurant?

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