With spectacular interiors, an incredible view of the bay and some of the finest seafood I’ve ever eaten, the Waterbar is a new gem in San Francisco that represents all of the culinary greatness, creativity and passion this city’s food scene has to offer. Highly successful restaurateur Pat Kuleto has designed a place that has it all. Kuleto has now opened eight restaurants in the Bay Area that all do incredible business. And garner top reviews. It seems as though everything the man touches turns into gold and Waterbar is surely no exception.
The restaurant seats 275 diners in two dining rooms, a private dining area upstairs and an outside patio that can accommodate 50 patrons. Two 1,500 gallon aquariums containing assorted aquatic life are the focal point of Waterbar, especially when the moray eels come out of their underwater lairs. The swimming fish are fun to watch, but the real stars of this show are the fish coming out of the kitchen, many of them having been roasted in a wood-burning oven.
The foundation of Chef Parke Ulrich’s menu is built on seafood that is sustainable and local, with an emphasis on fish that has been harvested in an environmentally responsible manner. Ulrich, who was the executive chef at Farallon for more than a decade, is a veteran expert around seafood and it shows in every dish we had the pleasure of sampling the other night when we visited Waterbar.
To get the meal rolling, we had several delicious salads and appetizers, including Emma’s Favorite Salad (named after Ulrich’s daughter) featuring fuji apple, endive and aged gouda grilled cheese; a Dungeness Crab Gratin, with roasted bone marrow and truffle glacage; a Sweet Fennel Salad with green olives, orange and Pecorino Romano; and a Sea Scallop Ceviche, with sweet potato, smoked salt and paprika oil. The salads were so much better than the standard Caesar and garden salads you find at many restaurants. I am so tired of those types of salads. And the ceviche was so fresh I thought the scallops might still be alive.
For our entrees, two of our party of four had what the Waterbar calls The Rock Cod “Colbert”, which the menu describes as “our version of fish and chips.” It’s basically an entire fish that’s been deep-fried, slathered with a wonderful remoulade sauce and is served on a bed of citrus coleslaw. Accompanied by some of the best French fries I’ve ever encountered, I would have to say that this dish is one of the more memorable fish offerings I’ve ever had anywhere. They keep the head and the tail on the fish, but fillet the body, so you won’t have to worry about a bunch of bones while eating this gastronomical wonder. I wouldn’t want to get my cholesterol levels tested after eating “The Colbert”, but while I was eating it I didn’t care. It is crispy without being greasy and full of interesting flavors and textures.
Our friends ordered the Grilled Wreckfish with potato gnocchi, English peas, bacon and red wine; and the One Pound Petrale Sole. Both dishes were expertly prepared and artfully presented. Other interesting items on Waterbar’s menu include things for non-seafood lovers, such as a New York Steak, served with asparagus, sun choke hash and caramelized onions, and a Heritage Pork Chop, with butter beans, fennel, aged sherry and an olive relish. They also have a wide assortment of oysters, crab, and shrimp dishes.
The desserts we sampled at Waterbar, many of which were conceived by Executive Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti, were sensational. We had the Ice Cream Sandwiches with a milk chocolate sauce; a Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Cake with coffee ice cream; a Strawberry Cream Parfait with mascarpone and meringue; and a Champagne Sorbet. Waterbar also offers a wide range of specially selected cheeses from all over the world.
The bar/lounge at Waterbar features a wide selection of beers, wine and cocktails, including a mean daiquiri and some specialty cocktails created by the restaurants top mixologists. They also have a 23-page wine list, crafted by Steve Izzo that features current vintages and old classics.
Waterbar, 399 Embarcadero (near Folsom) San Francisco (415) 284-9922/www.waterbarsf.com
For more of my restaurant reviews, visit: www.bestofbayarea.com