The second location of James Beard Award-winning restaurant the Slanted Door will open Wednesday, January 9, bringing restaurateur Charles Phan’s vibrant Vietnamese flavors to San Ramon.
The new 7,500-square-foot, 200-seat restaurant is located in San Ramon’s swanky new shopping center, City Center Bishop Ranch, joining Boba Guys, Fieldwork Brewing, a future Delarosa, and more. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the unusual space is essentially a big glass box. “It was a little scary to have all glass, like a fish tank. You can’t hide,” Phan says.
Lundberg Design, which is also behind the Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, took on the interior with marble and charcoal-stained wood panels to offset the glass. But the most striking design feature is the kitchen, which sits center stage with 48 bar seats wrapping around it. With the mix of French and Chinese influences in Vietnamese cooking, the restaurant essentially holds a traditional French kitchen and a traditional Chinese kitchen. “It’s crazy — we have 90 feet of hood here,” Phan says. “For design, it’s always about the kitchen relating to the dining room, but this is a little out of control.”
The San Ramon kitchen is also stocked with some different equipment, which means Phan is having fun playing around with new dishes and preparations. While Phan serves pork spareribs at the Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, he slowly smokes them Texas-style at the San Ramon restaurant thanks to a smoker. The wood-burning hearth is also much bigger.
“We’re going to try to do a lot of new dishes. It’s hard to change things in San Francisco,” Phan says. “I’m hoping to have 75 percent new stuff, 25 percent old stuff.”
For now, though, the San Ramon menu reads almost the same as the San Francisco menu. Staples like the cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab, shaking beef, crispy imperial rolls, and grapefruit and jicama salad are all on the lineup, joining some different raw bar items (including live scallop crudo with pomelo and trout tartare with shiso), banana blossom salad, and banh nam, a Hue-style rice cake with pork and dried shrimp in banana leaves. Expect to see a take on Peking duck in the future — Phan is toying around with smoked duck.
The first Slanted Door opened in the Mission in 1995, eventually moving to the Ferry Building. Beyond that, Phan also operates two San Francisco locations of Out the Door, his more casual Vietnamese restaurant; Hard Water, a whiskey bar on Pier 3; and Rice and Bones, a Vietnamese cafeteria on the UC Berkeley campus. A Slanted Door in Las Vegas is currently in the works.
Phan was partially drawn to City Center Bishop Ranch for the intriguing design but also the idea of serving more of the Bay Area. (“There are seven million people in the Bay Area but only 900,000 in San Francisco,” he says.) Plus, it might be easier to attract and retain staff in San Ramon.
“After 23 years in SF, not only customers are different but also my staff,” he says. “For a lot of people, San Francisco housing is very expensive. Workers don’t get paid very much compared to other industries and the housing is cheaper out here.”
Slanted Door is located at 6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, Suite 1300, in San Ramon.