A week or two ago there was a rave report on Watercress (Valencia between 22nd and 23rd), and a couple of my friends who live in the Mission love it, too, so four of us went last night to test it out.
It's a funny place...used to be Watergate until, apparently, Watergate went more upscale and moved to some other neighborhood (I've never been to either Watergate). Now Watercress dispenses with tablecloths, matching chairs, obsequious service, and other accoutrements of fine dining, and concentrates on the food. Which is a good thing. For the price I really enjoyed my meal.
The prix fixe is $19.95 for an appetizer, entree, and dessert (+ $5 supplement if you choose the lamb shank or the steak as your entree). Appetizers on their own were around $5-6, and entrees ranged from $10 to $15. Desserts are an amazing $3.50 each, and all four we ordered were delicious and beautiful! I don't get how they can charge that little.
For starters we had "Housed" cured salmon (we speculated that it had once been homeless and they had taken on the task of housing the poor guy); crispy goat cheese-filled won ton (3 of 'em!); grilled tiger prawns; and oysters (5 of 'em! fewer than they used to offer, so I hear). The salmon (drizzled with some kind of mustard sauce) and the prawns were excellent (served with greens AND mashed potatoes); I didn't try the oysters but heard they were very good; and the won tons were fine but nothing really special. And the dressing on the diced cucumbers and tomatoes the won tons were served atop was odd - I couldn't put my finger on it, but I just didn't like the taste.
Entrees we ordered were the steak (HUGE and served with nicely done asparagus and long potato wedges); pork chop with red cabbage (delicious in that slow-cooked with bacon way) and mashed potatoes; wild mushroom risotto with grilled eggplant; and filet of sole. Everything was well-prepared - no revelations, but good.
Desserts were cheesecake (light and delicious with bruleed top, and served with some kind of muscat & something-or-other coulis, and a chocolate truffle); a "St. Honore" - coconut creme brulee with exotic fruits and a lacy sugar thingie (very tasty, very coconutty); a ginger creme brulee (intensely gingery, generously sized, served with a few raspberries); and profiteroles (each a different flavor of ice cream - chocolate, vanilla, and cappuccino - pastry was more like flaky phyllo than like puff pastry, but it was good).
I see where they make their profits, and I don't begrudge them that, since the food is so reasonably priced. Coffee is $2.50/cup + 50 cents for decaf! And there was no wine under $7-8/glass. We got a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Les Fumees Blanches, which I think was about $30. All told it came to about $35/person with tax and tip. You could definitely go the cheaper route by avoiding beverages!
A couple complaints: service was a little lukewarm. Relatively prompt, but just...not overly friendly. There are two types of chairs in the place, and both are hideous (ont type ochre nagahide diner-type chairs; the other shiny mahogany fancy chair). None of the entree descriptions really grabbed me - I chose salmon, then re-thought (assuming that it was farm-raised) and switched my order to the risotto. But I think appetizers and desserts there are better than entrees overall.
It's not very busy, which is a good thing for impromptu dining and/or heart-to-heart intimate discussions.
I'd definitely go back at those prices, and I'd also think about it when I want a dessert place, something that's hard to find in some neighborhoods.
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