Once upon a time, I found myself in San Francisco, by myself, looking for a place to eat dinner. After wandering around The Ferry Landing, I happened upon The Slanted Door. I had no idea it was famous, or that the chef, Charles Phan, had won awards. All I knew was that the scents wafting out of the door were amazing. I ended up eating appetizers at the bar, chatting with a young venture capitalist who was waiting for someone stuck in traffic. The crispy, savory appetizers were incredible, and I made a mental note to return. I was thrilled to see that Chef Phan had published a cookbook, and ordered it for review. His book The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food, like the restaurant and his food, is elegant, glamorous, and very, very beautiful. I’m excited that we were able to give away a copy of this book, worthy of any coffee table, to one of my readers in time for the holidays.
Layout and design:
It’s an oversized, hardcover book, and the cover is a combination of textured gray linen and photographs, evoking the decor of the restaurant. The book traces Phan’s path through his tiny restaurant at 584 Valencia Street (Act One, 1995-2002) Starters, 100 Brannan Street (Act Two, 2002-2004) Cocktails, Raw Bar, Salads, Soups, to 1 Ferry Building (Act Three, 2004-present) Mains, Desserts. The book includes both a table of contents and a list of recipes in the front, plus a Basics chapter in the back. The heavy coated paper and full color photographs make this as much a gift art book as a cookbook.
There is a full-page photograph on every spread, some gorgeous color and some beautiful black-and-white. The present-day photography is by Ed Anderson.
There are recipes to please everyone: Bo La Lot (grilled beef in betel leaves), Vegetarian Imperial Rolls, Royal Pimm’s Cup, Ginger Limeade, Halibut and Scallop Ceviche, Papaya Salad, Chicken Watercress Soup, Dungeness Crab with Cellophane Noodles, Seared Scallops in Vietnamese Beurre Blanc, No-Bake Cheesecake with Walnut Cookie-Brown Butter Crust, and Lemon Meringue Tarts. Basics include Chicken Stock, Peanut Sauce, and Pickled Carrots.
What I liked about the book:
Just gorgeous, plus I loved the stories about his early restaurants and the way the book is organized.
I wasn’t so keen on:
Recipes were not coded for special diets; nutritional analysis is not provided, which would be helpful for low-sodium eaters.
people who love Southeast Asian food, plenty of recipes for paleo, vegan, vegetarian, celiac, and gluten-free eaters (just use gluten-free soy sauce)
Not recommended for:
Migraine or low-sodium diets
A note about my cookbook reviews: In the past, I tested at least three recipes from each book, took photos, and described my experience. Due to my dietary limitations (extremely-low-sodium for my Meniere’s Disease and trigger-free foods for migraine relief), it is no longer possible for me to test the recipes and do them justice.