The Slanted Door is unequivocally two things: a San Francisco icon, and a "Keep Gettin' Dem Checks" all-star.
When an average restaurant's lifespan can be measured in months, you have to applaud a place that's managed to persevere for nearly two decades. They're clearly doing something right here. And, given that they're able to make it rain harder than any other restaurant in California, without serving $500 Goose bottles or $100 steaks, it must be something to do with the food.
Or the view, which is admittedly pretty awesome. The Golden Gate Bridge is still the Giants to the Bay Bridge's A's, but we've got a soft spot for the latter (and the A's). It makes up for its pedestrian color palette with sheer magnitude. The Slanted Door makes liberal use of glass to remind you that you're right on the water, under this bridgey behemoth, and we approve.
So what's the key to The Slanted Door hanging around? We have a few ideas. The first is that back in 1995, upscale Asian food in a shiny setting was a new and exciting concept, and these guys jumped on the opportunity. The second is that while the transported-from-1995 food is not balls-out amazing, it's not strictly bad, and they know how to put it out with relentless operational efficiency. (Some of it is even good!) The third is that the cocktails are strong as sh*t and damned tasty, so everyone walks away sloshed and satiated. We don't disapprove of this strategy.
Some restaurants that have been around a long time feel like ageless classics. (See Zuni Cafe.) The Slanted Door feels more like an aged classic. We can see how decent papaya salads and spring rolls with fancy ingredients were exciting stuff back in the day. But the world of food has moved forward, and The Slanted Door seems like it stood still.
Food RundownSlanted Door Spring Rolls
Our least favorite dish of the night. We actually left two on the table. It's not that they were bad, but they were just a tiny bit better than the version at our neighborhood pho joint, which are one-third the price. Just not that exciting.Papaya Salad
Same problem as the spring rolls - this is a reasonable paypaya salad, but there are probably 10-20 better versions in town.Daikon Rice Cakes
This, on the other hand, was pretty good! The sweet chili soy sauce was delicious, and we can't resist a good dippin' sauce. These are "cakes" in the Asian style, by the way - basically savory glutinous gel that ends up tasting good.Shaking Beef
A pretty well-cooked steak, cubed, without enough seasoning. It's a nice piece of meat but wasn't really packed with much flavor beyond steakiness.Cellophane Noodles
The most iconic dish, for good reason. Somehow the noodles end up tasting like they were smoked on a charcoal grill (they weren't). The semi-intoxicated treasure hunt for tasty crab bits makes the end of the meal a real pleasure.