UC Berkeley’s Wurster Hall is now temporarily home to restaurateur Charles Phan’s Slanted Door pop-up, featuring cuisine from his award-winning restaurant.
The pop-up will be open for a limited time through July 1. Located in Wurster Hall as a dinner service component of Phan’s Rice and Bones restaurant of five years, the pop-up features a prefixed menu with four courses — showcasing never-before-seen dishes from the acclaimed chef, according to Phan.
The crown jewel of Phan’s restaurant empire is the Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, which the pop-up is based on. The restaurant has been closed for more than two years but is expected to reopen following renovations, according to Phan.
“Slanted Door is our flagship restaurant, serving Vietnamese food with full service,” Phan said. “Rice and Bones is a simpler version, a different version, with Vietnamese food catered for fast service at lunch. Now we’re doing the pop-up which is something different to those two things.”
The pop-up has a 21st-century feel, with plenty of open space, large tables and a semi-open kitchen. Spotlighted against the cement backdrop of Wurster Hall, the pop-up is highly visible when looking out onto the Ong & Ong Plaza.
There is also an extensive array of wines, with each one specifically selected to pair alongside the dishes being served throughout each course.
“I thought the space was lovely,” said Stephen Walsh, a longtime Berkeley resident and Slanted Door guest. “It felt natural to me, like a fine dining restaurant. I love the combination of the wood and the bare concrete; it was very sophisticated and modern.”
At the same time, the pop-up’s traits produce a more “casual” setting than its San Francisco counterpart, according to some pop-up guests. A balance of younger and older patrons could be seen, and guests added that the faster pop-up format was perfect after a long day of work.
James Schaffer, who has been eating at Phan’s restaurants since he first opened in the Mission District more than 30 years ago, said he was quite impressed with the food and ambiance. He added that the pop-up could help establish new long-term customers for the Slanted Door.
“At least in the SF area, people have missed that Slanted Door has been closed for over two years, and it’s a big loss,” Schaffer said. “But I understand why. That’s a very expensive location to be in.”
Phan said the pop-up was also an opportunity to train new waitstaff for dinner service. Guests responded with praise for the waiters’ knowledge of the food and amicable service.
Due to the tremendous success of the pop-up, with bookings filled up within 24 hours of opening, Phan has decided to extend the venture through July, featuring even more culinary creations.
“For June, we have been trying experimental dishes that will possibly go on our future Slanted Door menu,” said Anh Duong, Slanted Door spokesperson. “The first week of July we’re going to have one menu and then the following weeks of July, we’ll have a different menu.”