Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Out the Door for Breakfast

On our last day in San Francisco, we got out the door uncharacteristically early, no doubt to the vast relief of our hosts, and had a busy schedule before heading to the airport for the long trip home.

Since we are big fans of the food at Slanted Door, although not the ambiance, we were eager to see what Charles Phan, the owner, had cooked up in this more casual, less touristy venue. We had a delicious, very non-traditional breakfast there.

We started with a steamed chicken and steamed pork bun, which we shared. I thought the chicken bun was a little bland and a bit more doughy than ideal, although Michael disagreed. We both felt the pork bun was delicious, with the meatier and juicier filling being just right for the slightly sweet wrapping. I do prefer the baked buns to the steamed ones, I think, but I wouldn’t turn down one of these at any time. We also had a coconut pull-apart bun (one each) which was along the same model but delicious in a sweet rather than savory way. On first bite it was tasty but not exceptional, with a slightly sweet dough complemented by toasted coconut on the top, but further exploration yielded a treasure of sweet coconut paste in the center which was just the right amount. Delicious!

For main courses, Michael had the slow cooked eggs, the most expensive item on the menu by a significant margin ($13) which was paired with slow-cooked brisket and crispy potatoes. I am not sure what was slow cooked about the egg…barely cooked seemed to be a better description, along the lines of a very runny poached egg. It was a tad underdone for Michael’s taste (mine too, really, although I only got a small bite of it) but the beef was delicious.

I decided to go in a non-traditional way and had beef pho soup. The first spoon yielded some of the richest and most savory broth I have ever had. It was stuffed with thin white noodles and a modest amount of very tender beef, both fully cooked brisket with fat attached (even the fat was good, meltingly tender although normally I would have cut it off) and a couple of slices of very thin, almost raw, tenderloin which cooked in the hot broth. It was also served with traditional pho accompaniments of basil leaves, bean sprouts, lime, and sriracha sauce but I passed on all but the last two. What a delicious and filling dish!

With the meal we passed on juices but did have a large French-pressed pot of coffee which seemed rather weak and which wasn’t a good pairing with the pho in any case, although I think Michael liked it.

The room was empty when we walked in although eventually we were joined by two other couples. Service, being unstressed, was pleasant and professional. The room is very cold…literally…with the door open on a chilly San Francisco morning and me sitting on an uncushioned metal bench, it was quite definitely nippy. Like the Slanted Door there seems to be absolutely no consideration of acoustics as every surface is hard so I can imagine there being quite a racket when the room is full.

Great breakfast; I will be thinking about that pho on the cold winter mornings that are sure to be coming up in Washington.

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