First Taste

Slanted Rice Falls Short in North Scottsdale

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Slanted Rice Location: 6149 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale Open: Over two weeks Eats: Vietnamese Price: $11 to $30 per person

If you have been to Rice Paper, the stylish Vietnamese restaurant in Central Phoenix, and couldn't help thinking you might have been happier with a better bowl of pho at a place where sticky eating surfaces and fluorescent lights took the place of lacquered-wood tables and miniature chandeliers, then your impression of Slanted Rice probably will be the same.

The new North Scottsdale restaurant is the project of Hue Tran and her fiancé, Tyrone Chu. Tran, along with her sister, operate Rice Paper (Tran also operates Bonjour Vietnam in downtown Phoenix), and her family owns Saigon Kitchen in Surprise.

See also: The Clever Koi in Midtown Opens With a Splash

Located in the same shopping mall complex as restaurants such as Houston's, Veneto Trattoria Italiana, and Kevin Binkley's new Bink's Scottsdale, Slanted Rice offers a menu of classic and non-traditional Vietnamese cuisine priced for the North Scottsdale wallet.

The Slanted Rice Pho appetizer ($6) is a better idea in theory than in practice. Served as a starter-size offering of the Vietnamese noodle soup typically served in big hearty bowls, its light and sweet broth lacks any depth of flavor, with the condiments and garnishes doing little to elevate it. After a few dull spoonfuls, you're relieved you passed on the full-size version.

The rice paper-wrapped spring rolls fare better. There is an acceptable creation called the Dragon Lady Roll with Miso Sauce ($6) featuring shrimp tempura, jalapeños, and avocado. On my visit, however, the jalapeños, stuffed into the ends of the roll, weren't discovered until the final bite.

Like Rice Paper, Slanted Rice offers caramelized salmon, a dish your server will probably recommend. They are satisfying, two thick and meaty pieces of fish cooked in a nicely salty and sweet sauce. But the rice, a forgettable side salad, and a bowl of soup that's as sluggish as the pho make it an entree that falls far short of its $19 price.

The brightest thing in Slanted Rice's polished atmosphere of muted tones, dark wood, and cloth-covered chairs, are the shiny and colorful tunics worn by its servers, who are as capable as they are welcoming.

Like Rice Paper, Slanted Rice isn't out to compete with the bare-bones Vietnamese favorites in the Valley. But what the restaurant suffers from, at least for now, is an unfortunate case of scene over cuisine. I'm crossing my fingers it finds the antidote soon.

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