Already a fan of Equinox for its great "local" cuisine in DC, I went to Todd Gray's new Watershed in the "Hilton Garden" (huh?) in NoMa (North of Massachusetts) not quite sure what to really expect.
The area is very commercial but the hotel, as you enter and ascend the stairs to the restaurant was relaxed and modern. We entered the open bar area and from the moment we were greeted by the hostess we felt welcome and we were intrigued.
The dining space is informal and the wait staff, all young and clearly eager to please, provided service that made us smile. Over the next hour the room filled completely and worried about the increasing din, found we never had to talk "loudly" to be heard.
At first the wine list struck me as anemic and a bit limited but as the evening progressed I appreciated that it was more than enough to pair with the cuisine.The Jermann Red Angel worked from beginning to end.
The menu was intriguing and we picked two different apetizers and two main courses so we could share. We started with the "East Coast Gumbo" which was perfectly spiced and not overpoweing as many gumbos are, filled with local oysters, a light sausage and shrimp. What did I really think? I could have had just a giant bowl of this gumbo for dinner and gone home a very happy person!
The crabcake was classic Todd Gray and served at exactly the right temperature. Our first main course was the barbecue shrimp with grits, and once again we were struck by how it was not overpowered by the barbecue sauce, lighter than we expected, and married to the grits with andouille butter and green onions.
Oops, forgot to mention the hush puppies, which is a food I generally steer clear of...but they looked so good I had to try one. Then I had to try another just to make sure that it was not the wine impacting my judgement. Very light.
Then came the marinated "slow cooked" ribs. They were elegant - and I know elegant is an odd word to use with "barbecue" but it was just that. The spiced meat fell away from the bone and the barbecue sauce - much heavier than the barbecue shrimp, was a great dipping sauce.
We saved room, barely, for the rhubarb cobbler - and it was crusty, crunchy and thick with rhubarb and the vanilla ice cream melted slowly...loved it!
Throughout, the restuarant was filled with a lot of (young) people and the energy level and laughter - clearly a fun place. We also loved the bill - Great food and a moderate price. We have already made plans to go back. Great addition to the DC dining scene.