We Now Bring You Episode 4 of the Slanted Door Saga (Slanted Door -- San Francisco, CA)
Just when I think I'm out, I get pulled right back in...
So the food is as great as it ever was at my good old SD. When the Ferry Building location first opened, I found it to have slipped a bit, but now the rolls and soups and claypots and fishes and delishes are all back to their previously hailed glory.
But I'm still stuck in my limbo of VIP and commoner. I never really know what I'm going to get when I go in now. Depends on who's working and if they know us. Or it depends on me using the direct lines I have and calling in favors. To date, I've done this four times. In seven years. I really, really loathe pulling out that card (despite their protestations that I *should* do it) because I don't want to abuse the relationship. It would be nice, however, to count on my girl being there for me when I need her.
Jon worked from home yesterday and I finished teaching early, so we decided to lunch at Slanted Door. We walked in, saw it was packed, waved to the bartenders we knew and approached the hostess. She was new, she didn't know us, we didn't tell her and she couldn't seat us. We just left and went to Out the Door for some painless take-out.
While the cashier was ringing up our order, Jon was muttering his battle cry under his breath ("If I had a nickel for every time someone told us we would always get in..."). It was then that I got touched on the arm and we turned and were greeted with a "Hey guys!"
It was Charles.
As in Charles Phan.
As in Chef/owner Charles Phan.
He said "Long time no see!," and asked what we were doing. We said grabbing lunch since SD seems too busy for us to get in anymore. His response? "Oh, that's not good!" We know, Charles, we know.
We stepped out of the long ass line to wait for our order and he came to chat with us. We grabbed our order, and Charles grabbed two desserts and gave them to us. We had already purchased two desserts (You know how I love Mutsumi and her magic), which he got a kick out of. We just said we'd have more for later. Charles said "Let's go outside, there are tables out there." And he came outside and sat with us while we ate our lunch.
We talked about Thailand (his wife, Angkana, is Thai and gave us advice for our trip), his kids (who have grown so much since we first met them, and have gone up in numbers in that time as well), his moving plans, the new deli he's going to open in the Fillmore, what's happening with Valencia Street (the plans are outrageously expensive and finding the time and money to get it done is difficult; he swears it's coming, but it's a matter of time; plus, the new Fillmore thing has now put a wrench in the works), and our favorite items on the Out the Door menu.
And it was lovely. And he is lovely. He seemed happy and grateful but also weary. And I realized that while we may have suffered through the restaurant's growing pains, so has he. Here is a man whose family went to hell and back to get where they are and now he has an immensely successful, popular and celebrated business. Wonderful, yes, but that also comes with a great deal of responsibility to a fuckload of people -- his family, his staff, his colleagues, his customers. Not a job I'd want, I can tell you that much. And no matter how bi-polar our relationship with the restaurant has been, the man who runs the whole shebang still takes time out of his crazy ass schedule to sit down with a few regulars and spend some time with them.
It made me realize why I fell in love with Slanted Door in the first place.
When I looked at the restaurant as we left, I realized a few things. We may not know the entire staff anymore, but that's mostly because we've been around longer than they have. We may not get seated on the spur of the moment anymore but that's because they have the immense success that we always wished for them. So while, at times, my ego gets in my way when it comes to eating there, I know that I need to stop being such a fucking princess. I'm workin' on it.
When Charles said goodbye to us and walked away, I turned to Jon and asked him how to get off this roller coaster. Sometimes I think Charles is wondering the same thing.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."