Chef Charles Phan’s ambitious third iteration of his popular Vietnamese restaurant, Slanted Door Napa debuts Tuesday, November 7, with the familiar modern sentiments that made his first restaurant famous. Opening at the former Kitchen Collective at 1650 Soscol Avenue, Phan’s transformed the space with frequent collaborator Lundberg Design. Together they’ve created a restaurant with an inner courtyard, whimsical, arching light details over the bar, slate flooring, and a building cloaked in dramatic black charred shou sugi ban wood. Paired with Phan’s signature Vietnamese dishes and cocktails, the team is looking to create an inviting space for the area. “Our roots have always been in serving the local community,” Phan says. “I feel like with this build, with this restaurant, I can do that. I can go back to my roots and build a restaurant for the locals.”
As such, Slanted Door Napa has plans in place to serve the community from lunch until the late-night hours with a late-night menu offered until 11 p.m. (Initially, the restaurant will open with dinner service only.) Diners can expect a familiar roster of Slanted Door classics: citrusy shaking beef, made with grass-fed tenderloin; cellophane noodles tossed with clusters of Dungeness and blue crab meat; chicken claypot featuring heritage loong kong chicken simmered in a fish sauce-punctuated caramel sauce will all be on the menu, in case diners have been missing their fix from the still-closed Ferry Building location and haven’t quite made it to Slanted Door San Ramon just yet.
Wild gulf shrimp- and pork-stuffed spring rolls will also grace the starter menu — Phan once wrote in his 2012 cookbook that the restaurant sold 80,000 spring rolls per year — as well as green papaya salad, Hokkaido scallop tartare, and banh nam (banana leaf-wrapped rice dumplings with ground pork and dried shrimp). Phan recognizes the strength of those dishes in luring customers back since the restaurant’s debut in 1995, but he is also looking to stretch his repertoire where he can. One element that might have been difficult to pull off in San Francisco is the inclusion of a wood-fired Texas smoker. In Napa, it’s used for the restaurant’s almond wood-smoked barbecue pork spareribs doused in honey-hoisin sauce and the roasted, dry-aged Bassian Farms duck dish.
Given the restaurant’s presence in Napa, there will be an extensive wine list at Slanted Door, which also gives some room for Phan to play around more with the food options to pair with the wines later down the line. In the past, Phan says at the Ferry Building the menu was “super concentrated” on Austrian rieslings, but with this location there will be an extensive selection of Napa and Oregon wines, with some European and French options, including some Burgundies — fitting, given his next restaurant foray in Beaune, France. Beyond indulging in a bottle for the table, expect about 20 wines to be available by the glass, a conscientious choice made by the team. “Our wine director Christina Stanley was really adamant about that,” Phan says. “It allows people to try different wines and not have to commit to the whole bottle.”
But Phan is also a fan of the harder stuff, so don’t expect Slanted Door to sleep on the cocktail program just because they’re in Napa. Thad Vogler, now owner of Bar Agricole, helped develop the bar years ago as bar manager at Slanted Door in San Francisco, Phan says, and together they “vetted out every single bottle of booze” and whittled the bar into a very tight menu of three options per spirit. The bar program has always been rooted in classic cocktails, and Phan says he’s most interested in a perfect mai tai or pina colada with, say, pressed pineapple juice, over a newfangled drink concoction. And now, although Phan’s known for his interest in whiskey, given his former whiskey-focused bar Hard Water, he’s dove into the world of mezcal so expect that to be explored on the cocktail menu, as well.
Slanted Door Napa is a project that’s been in the works for 10 years as Phan searched for the perfect home for it in wine country, and now he’s finally found it. “It just really speaks to me — the location, the building,” Phan says. After years of looking, “I just have the pulse, the rhythm of the town, and downtown was just more of my vibe,” he says.
Slanted Door Napa (1650 Soscol Avenue, Napa) debuts Tuesday, November 7, and is open 4 to 10 p.m., seven days a week, to start. Lunch and late-night hours will be added in upcoming months. Reservations are available via OpenTable.