Last night we were lucky enough to snag a reservation to new restaurant, Heaven's Dog, with some friends. Charles Phan's other restaurant, The Slanted Door, is a favorite of mine, so I was eager to taste his Chinese dishes. All far exceeded my expectations and I'm already trying to figure out when I can get back there. But let's start at the beginning....
Right off the bat, I noticed that it was smaller than I thought it would be. The Slanted Door is such a large space, and this is much more intimate, with a great bar, and a hip vibe that would be over the top if it weren't for the huge paintings of dogs on all the walls. Which beings us to the name: I had to know where "Heaven's Dog" came from, so I asked our server. He claims the story is that Charlie was tossing around names with his Cantonese chef de cuisine and one idea was Heaven's Nine, after a Chinese card game. Well, the word for nine and the word for dog sound very much alike, and though Charlie botched the pronunciation, he loved the result. And, no, there is no dog on the menu, thank you very much. There are, however, some of the most delicious vegan dishes to be had in the city.
We ordered almost every veggie dish on the menu (avoiding the one or two that weren't vegan) to split among the four of us, and all were outstanding. Of particular note were the Tofu Skin "Pork Belly" clam shells and the edamame salad:
These came out first and complimented each other perfectly - the first being savory, fried, and decadent bites, accompanied by a sweet and tangy sauce which one of my companions threatened to drink straight, and the second being light, crisp, and refreshing.
We were then brought all the greens. The kale with fermented bean paste and the spicy string beans were my favorites (and are pictured above), but the pea shoots with caramelized shallots were also great. You'll just have to see those for yourself.
The non-green dishes, and my two favorites for the evening (which is saying something because you know how I love my greens) were the Kung Pao Tofu with Cashews and the cauliflower side dish. Both were seasoned and cooked perfectly. Not too spicy, but not shy on flavor either. Everyone at the table loved them. In fact, it was agreed that the veggie dishes were far superior to the meat dishes (my friends ordered the duck, the shrimp, and the squid).
The number of vegan offerings and the high caliber of preparation make Heaven's Dog a clear winner. While all dogs go to heaven, your taste buds can experience a little slice over on Mission Street any time. Make yourself, and your others, a reservation today!