Review: The Slanted Door

Sometimes you go to a restaurant in SF and suddenly feel that you’ve been inducted into some sort of exclusive group of people. There are a variety of these restaurants, which, incidentally, you typically can’t get a table at without rigorous and meticulous preparation, or, alternatively, without waiting for two-plus hours on a given night. As I’m not typically inclined toward the latter, the former is my chosen option for such places.

Inside The Slanted Door... image from their website: http://www.slanteddoor.com/images

Inside The Slanted Door… image from their website: http://www.slanteddoor.com/images

The Slanted Door is one of those places. You want a reservation for 7pm for two people? It’s February 21 today, and Open Table tells me that you’ll need to wait until at least March 3 to get a table before 8pm, and even then, that table is for 5:30. Let’s just say we’re dealing with high, though not thoroughly hopeless, demand.

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Sylantro

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Surely
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SylantroSan Leandro in the house, what, what! I don’t know why I type things like that sometimes. This is my first San Leandro post, I guess I’m excited. And Sylantro is definitely something to get excited about — do you like Vietnamese food? It’s not my favorite, but it hits the spot sometimes. And fortunately, Sylantro did not disappoint.

I would not have guessed that such a nice place would be hidden away in a dilapidated strip mall on Manor Boulevard in San Leandro. Even pictures of the place on Yelp were hard pressed to convince me that it was ok. But, Boyfriend’s mom was in the mood for Vietnamese, so that’s where we went.

Sylantro interior

Sylantro as you walk in.

Sylantro Restaurant

Sylantro Restaurant view from the very back table.

This place was great. Aside from aforementioned crappy strip mall surroundings, this restaurant was spacious, nicely decorated and well-lit, and had really nice service. The people who worked there were kind and helpful and answered all of our ridiculous white people questions about pronunciations and food preparation.They really went above and beyond when our server actually demonstrated how to prepare our spring rolls using the materials given (dry rice paper, a rice-paper-shaped bowl of hot water to dip the rice paper in, filler for the spring rolls, and sauce; it was far more complex that I would have imagined).

Spring Roll Fixings

Spring roll fixings including dry rice paper and water bowl in the back.

Chicken

Close-up of the chicken in the spring roll dish.

The menu was extremely extensive and is listed on their website, a fact which automatically warms my heart and puts a smile on my face. Ah, a website. For a small local business. Who would have thought?

Sylantro offers a variety of spring rolls for appetizers (they are quite fun to put together at the table), a handful of crazy types of salads, noodle soups (including the Vietnamese specialty, Pho — pronounced “fuh” like in the word fun), rice bowls, rice plates, and a whole lot of a la carte dinner dishes like at a Chinese place, but not Chinese. Dishes ranged from around $7-$10 each and there is a large section on the menu for vegetarian meals.

Pho

Pho from Sylantro

The rest of the food we ordered was great and, again, the service really sticks out in my mind. Apparently they’re doing well; this is the second location they’ve opened, said our server who may also have been the owner. Definitely highly recommended for local Vietnamese food in the East Bay; a great find!

Vietnamese food

Chicken dish from Sylantro.

Tofu noodles

Tofu Noodle dish from Sylantro.

Sylantro on Urbanspoon

Red Chili

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Maybe
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Red ChiliThis Thai and Vietnamese restaurant has been sitting in wait at the corner of Mission and Industrial in Hayward.  It sees us every few days as we pass by and watches intently as we frequent the gyro place next door.  It finally caught us; we gave the Red Chili a try.

The inside is very nice and totally isn’t what I expected seeing the outside (just like the gyro place).  It’s spacious and nicely decorated and has a nice feel to it.  And, surprisingly, it seems to draw a crowd, which is refreshing and reassuring at the same time.

Red Chili Restaurant

The inside of the Red Chili in Hayward.

The menu is a mix of Thai and Vietnamese just as the sign outside suggests.  There are Thai curries, Thai soups, Vietnamese soups called pho, Vietnamese vermicelli dishes, and standard Thai noodle dishes (ex: Pad Thai), fried rice and a variety of combo dishes including BBQ meat and rice dishes.  On many dishes you can choose the level of spiciness to suit your preferences.

During our visit, we ordered shrimp spring rolls as an appetizer, Pad Thai, the Yellow Curry lunch special, and BBQ Onion Beef Skewer over rice.  The appetizer was a little bit of a disaster; we thought it was only shrimp and no other meat, but in fact there was a slab of pork in each one.  This could be removed relatively easily for us half-veggos, but I think we were all envisioning the kind of spring rolls that are crispy and deep fried, not the fresh, cold ones.  I’ve made this mistake before and clearly not learned.  They were all right, but we weren’t exactly gobbling them up.  This was more of a personal preference though, they were made well enough.

Spring Rolls

Cold spring rolls appetizer at Red Chili, Hayward.

The Pad Thai was good (as it should be); sweet and yummy with bits of tofu and egg scattered throughout.  The Yellow Curry lunch was quite good but is always hard to eat as it’s a million degrees upon arrival.  I ended up dumping the cute little square bowl of food onto my plate to let everything cool off for a while.  I ordered the tofu version which added a nice texture to the accompanying potatoes and onions.  The BBQ Beef skewer looked pretty good and got decent reviews.

Pad Thai

Can't go wrong with Pad Thai noodles.

Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry Lunch Combo with tofu at Red Chili, Hayward.

BBQ Beef Skewers

BBQ Beef Skewers meal at Red Chili, Hayward.

My only complaint about the main meals (BBQ Beef and Curry Lunch special) was the way the included soup and salad were served.  I typically expect soup and salad to come before the meal and for them to come one at a time.  Some deviation from this is ok, but the salad was a very tiny plop of greens sharing the plate with our meals and the soup was actually brought after the meal.  Not way after, but still, I was already started on the main food and wasn’t really feeling soupish anymore.  Plus the tomato based, somewhat spicy soup that they serve isn’t something I really like–is it vinegar they put in it?  I’m not sure but I’m not a fan.

Thai soup

The soup looks good, but isn't my favorite at Red Chili.

Ok, now, the service.  This is really my only main complaint, but it’s a big one.  They were clearly understaffed for how many customers were there, which may or may not be a habitual occurrence.  It’s hard to judge that from one meal.  But the waiters and bus-people who were present were not very friendly, were inattentive, and were generally not very good at their jobs as far as I experienced.  When a good waitress walks down an aisle of tables, they are typically looking around to see if any of the customers are trying to catch their eye, seeing who’s ready to order, taking away finished plates, or checking drink levels. These folks were just walking around looking at the ceiling.

We were seated promptly, but the prompt-ness stopped there.  We had to flag down a woman to order from, we waited a while for our food, and each interaction with the wait staff was wholly unimpressive.  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but they made it very difficult here.  Overall, I’d try this place again, but if the service wasn’t any better I’d say it’s not worth the frustration.

Red Chile on Urbanspoon