Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bay Area Cocktail Spots: The Slanted Door

One of our goals is to try all the hot bay area cocktail spots (and write them up).

For my 51rst birthday, O organized a 'research trip' to The Slanted Door. Unfortunately, some idiot (which would be me) left the camera in our car. Art saved the day - Thank you so much Art!

The Slanted Door is in the San Francisco Ferry Building. If you haven't been to the Ferry building, go! It's your basic "run-down-historic-building-redeveloped-into-an-incredibly-chic-collection-of-trendy-food-spots" - kind of like a "Food Court of the Gods of San Francisco."

One of the great things about the Ferry Building is that you can take a Ferry to get there. Remember we are very very careful about drinking and driving, so having BART or Alameda Ferry driving us is great!

From Jack London Square its about a half hour ride, and its very pretty - especially after dark. Unfortunately the last ferry back on a weekday is at 8:20 pm. The Ferry building is an easy walk to the BART if you miss the last ferry.

After many a low-light dive bar, or the semi-darkness of Bourbon & Branch, The Slanted Door is bright! You can easily read the menu - what a concept!

Stylistically, sort of a contemporary version of "the Jetsons." Importantly for us, the bar area is large, seating 24 at the bar and 30 in the cocktail lounge area. There is a bunch more seating to the left of the benches in this photo.

We arrived around 6pm on a Tuesday night and had no trouble getting seating for our party of seven, the bar was full twice during the next two hours, but never that crowded. The service was excellent, our handsome wait person was very friendly, although each round he brought us a drink we hadn't ordered. (Hey, we like you, you are fun, could you write our order down next time?*)

The team:
A few of the 'hard core' members of the cocktail research team - The Polynesian Princess, her consort Ivan, and Gregoire. O is, of course, a founding member of the team - in fact the inspiration for this entire effort. Also present old friends Z and Art and myself.

It really was Gregoire's "fault" we went. He pinged me on Facebook asking where we were going for my birthday - last year we reserved a room at Bourbon & Branch .... Thanks for getting us into gear, Gregoire!

The cocktail menu is a reasonable length - 15 drinks - so among the seven of us we covered what seemed to be the most interesting drinks in two rounds, but stayed for three.

The evening featured serious discussions ....


Lots of laughter,

lots of love ...

So what did we think?
  • Rye Bee: a dry, elegant drink, as good as it sounds
  • Pisco Sour: fine, but not much character
  • Corpse Reviver #2: O loved these, I thought them too dry and not that flavorful. You can find this at many bars now, so they are a great point of comparison. We serve them every Halloween.
  • Zora: excellent. I'm not a big tequila fan, and I recommend these - the last note of the drink (as you swallow) is tequila.
  • Sidecar: let's go off the menu and order a standard - O said "a solid sidecar, but didn't blow me away"
  • Shanghai Buck - very fun ginger / ginger ale, made me want to learn about this archaic class of drinks
  • Summer on the Danube - ???? (no notes taken. oops!)
  • Hotel Nationale - rum with a spicy cayenne-like note in the middle, 3 levels of taste. A winner.
  • Indian Summer - I love grapefruit, and this melds well with elderflower
  • Royal Pimms Cup - bitter elegance. "An elegant drink from a more civilized age." Art's comment (below)  pointed out that this was the drink that arrived with a forest of basil, not the Rhum punch.
  • Phantasm - Oceana thought it was one of the more elegant drinks
  • Pisqu - the most unremarkable drink of the evening
  • Agricole Rhum Punch - nah!
The food:

We ordered a bunch of appetizers - the wood oven roasted becker lane tea smoked pork belly was "out of this world" (and its a heart attack worth of cholesterol in every bite, melt-in-your-mouth tender), the ribs (not on the menu?) more like Chinese than bbq, they were great and went fast, and the spring rolls - veg and non-veg - they were good, but unremarkable

The Verdict

We had a great time, the bar service was reasonably fast, for us the location is great. In most parts of the world, $10 a drink is a lot, not here in the bay area.

I have to say that I thought the drinks were, on the balance, quite good. However, this is San Francisco, so the competition is fierce.

Most of the drinks were very good but not great, and I didn't have that "how did they do this?" / "Oh my god" reaction I've had in some places. The one recipe I wanted is the Hotel Nationale Special - here is a recipe on Small Hands Foods.

Overall, by SF Snob standards, we are talking "B+". Would we go back? Absolutely!

The Ride Home (ie the after-party)

* This is an example of using what we call 'the training cycle.' It's a method of telling people what you want in such a way that they can "win" every step of the way. It's yet another thing I learned in a class called Basic Sensuality.

1 comment:

Art Rogers said...


I'm pretty much a novice in the cocktail area but I believe the Royal Pimm was the one that "arrived with a forest of basil" garnish. A little research seems to confirm that. From an SF Gate article on the Bay Area Pimm revival:

"At the Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco, bar manager Erik Adkins... attempts to make the quencher as aromatic as possible, zesting orange and lime peel onto the finished drink, nesting a large slice of cucumber inside the rim of the glass, and topping it with a sprig of Thai basil. He suggests people sip the drink instead of using a straw to get a noseful of flavor."

I would take issue with reference to a "sprig" of basil; I think your description is much more accurate. It was more like a shrubbery.

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