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Restaurants & Bars 1


Juniper | Aug 14, 200205:34 PM

We had a fabulous birthday meal at Watergate last night. It's been described as French-Chinese fusion, but the food is really Cal-French with some Asian ingredients and presentation. Not that this is bad. Au contraire. Here's what we ate:

1 - Dungeness crab with pea shoots, tomatoes, crispy fennel strips and fennel in vinaigrette. The crisps were a nice touch.

2 - Seared scallops over goat cheese mashed potatoes with a saffron sauce and purple potato chip. Nice balance of sweet and salty.

3 - Lobster martini: rich, creamy, warm, flecked with orange zest and prettily presented with the lobster tail in a martini glass. Very good with a Montrachet chardonnay.

4 - Seared foie gras on crispy polenta stuffed with apple compote and topped with applewood bacon. My favorite. Especially delicious with sauternes.

5 - Pecan crusted rack of lamb with root vegetable and baby spinach ragout. Sort of wintry, but nice on a misty SF summer night. The lamb was juicily pink. Paired with a 1995 Chateau la Rose merlot.

6 - Dessert: Japonaise of chocolate-coated meringue filled with pudding; napoleon with berries and white chocolate-orange sauce; profiteroles with vanilla ice cream.

7 - Tea. Jasmine pearl tea and monkey-picked tikuanyin oolong. Tea is served in YiXing teapots -- beautiful and porous ware in which only one type of tea is brewed. Supposedly you can just put water in old pots and you'll still get tea, but we didn't have to worry about that.

The wine list is long and well-chosen, with affordable drinkables side-by-side with Chateau d'Yquem and a long selection of grand crus. We asked the chef to suggest wine -- sauternes with the fois gras was a really good choice.

Service was warm and knowledgeable. The groups on either side of me were regulars, which always bodes well. I like the decor, which is classic and stately, but a companion thought it was too hotel-lobby-like (unfortunate given the name of the restaurant).

Small plates are mostly $7 each (lobster martini is $12 and foie gras is $14); large plates are mostly $17 (lamb is $22). They also have a $25 prix fixe menu: one small plate, one large plate and dessert -- a fabulous deal, and the restaurant is a good value all around. It's in the Mission on 1152 Valencia at 23rd.

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