Closed Captioned For The Thinking Impaired

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Restaurant Review: Waterbar Preliminary Report

Now, I know it's silly to post a review on a brand new high profile restaurant less than 3 weeks after it opened. BUT, today's Chronicle splashed Waterbar & it's land-locked brother, Epic RoastHouse all over it's front page (guess it was a slow news day), wasting no time in lambasting it for devastating the San Francisco waterfront with its atrocious footprint and architecturally grotesque proportions that, according to the articles author, would be better suited to the wine country than the city.

A blight on the San Francisco landscape would be perfectly suited to wine country? HUH?? Guess he doesn't think much of Sonoma County, either.

The author also snarked about the prices charged in this new venture by mega-restauranteur, Pat Kuleto, without, of course, ever entering the restaurants & eating there. Can't let the facts get in the way of a good slam. (Click on this post's title to read the original article.)

I was incensed & even though I know nobody but friends will read this I felt a need for a balance in the press. So here we are..... The hubby & I happen to go for lunch there this Sunday because it was a beautiful day, we were hungry & I wanted to see the latest greatest. While traffic along the Embarcadero is as congested as ever & we crawled along at a snail's pace, the sight of a valet ready & waiting for us once we got there was an incredibly welcome one as we pulled up to the curb.

Both restaurants are set well back from the street as well as the waterfront, so passing pedestrians need not ever feel as if they are being imposed upon. While the location of the front entrance was not immediately apparent to me, we found it quickly enough.

View of the saltwater tanks from our table in the Main Dining Room

We entered sans reservations and were immediately greeted & seated by warm, friendly hostesses. It's a handsome space with Kuleto's usual sense of style & whimsy. Two floor to ceiling, tubular aquariums filled with live coral reefs, wolf eel, lobster, perch, sea urchins & other aquatic wonders anchored the main dining room which is where we were seated in a comfy two top, adjacent to the first aquarium. The entire west wall is a large tank where Dungeness crabs swim and spend their last few remaining hours before becoming one of Chef/owner Mark Franz and Executive Chef Parke Ulrich's culinary creations. There's the now obligatory open kitchen where you can see the staff give each other back rubs as they churn out lunch. There are several bar areas (& outdoor patios) but the only one I saw this visit was the raw bar just off the main dining room where a few tables & counter seating are available.

A few of our dining companions

As I said, this a preliminary review posted as a response to the unfairly negative press this restaurant seems to have garnered, so I'll keep it brief because I intend to more fully review this in a month or two. I'll just post my notes:

Lunch was great.

Chopped Lobster salad with green goddess dressing

Professional yet personable, knowledgeable service; beautiful room, noise level surprisingly tolerable, carafes of free filtered tap water served still or sparking, yummy lychee iced tea, Izze sparkling drinks, fantastic wine list, fabulous cappuccinos.

The starters:

Pristinely fresh Kampachi sashimi (drizzle of olive oil) with julienne of radish served on beautiful slab of thickly cut Himalayan Rose salt. Salt slab definitely imparted saltiness but didn't overwhelm. Impressive! $12

A white bean soup pureed with red wine & truffle oil; too much, unreduced, oaky red wine ( a chianti maybe?) overwhelmed the bean & black truffle flavor. Someone will probably realize it soon. (Hopefully) $9

The entree:

An enormous chopped salad with at least 6 -7 oz. of sweet succulent lobster meat (lots of claws, yaay, my fave) perfectly steamed (did they poach it in butter, too?) good crisp veggies that taste like they've been mildly pickled, little gem lettuce, nice green goddess dressing but would like less of it. Still a good balanced dish. $25

Waterbar offers smaller format options. We each chose a larger salad, a smaller one could be had for $15. This was true of all the salad options for lunch.

Waterbar's mission statement is to serve the freshest, seasonal, sustainably raised seafood available with simple preparations that allow the main ingredient to shine. Can't wait to have a few dinners, maybe sit at the bar a few times & add some additional lunches so I can weigh in my opinion but so far so good!

Go and see for yourself; it's definitely not just for tourists!

399 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, Ca. 94105

No comments: