Girls Night Out last month found us at Watermark Grill, the sister restaurant of Pavil Restaurant and Bar. Not only is Watermark in the old Reggiano’s site, at the corner of 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway, its interior décor is very similar to Reggiano’s, retaining much of the old furniture and fixtures. Those are where the similarities end. Along with a more fresh and bright atmosphere (if memory serves Reggiano’s was quite a bit darker), Watermark offers some of the freshest, most high-quality seafood in town. Pair this with expert service and reasonable wine prices, and you have a sure bet for an exceptional evening with great friends.
On this night, we thought we had the good fortune of in season soft-shell crab (a personal favorite). The dish came with two crabs on a bed of haricot verts with a butter cream sauce. The haricot verts were well-seasoned and cooked just through, preserving a nice snap. However, the soft shell crab was in my opinion lacking. The crab, quite obviously very fresh, had good color, with a wonderful, firm texture. Unfortunately, they were over-salted. This is a common mistake for the average person given crab’s already salty nature, but for professional chefs at this level – and price – it is disappointing. In addition, given the choice of sautéed and tempura, I ordered the crab tempura style. For me, tempura suggests a light and airy, crunchy breading. The barely there breading on the crabs in this dish did not fit at all into what I think of as tempura. Rather, it was soggy and strange. I probably would have faired better with the sautéed soft shell crab.
Although my main dish did not meet my expectation, our appetizer of Judith Point Crispy Calamari (with lotus chips and scallions) in a Chile Coconut Milk Sauce far exceeded all expectations. The fiery spice of the sriracha (a Thai chile sauce) and cool sweetness of the coconut milk was beyond fantastic. The calamari rings were fried to perfection, not in the least rubbery, with exceptional flavor. The incredibly thin lotus chips were a nice surprise, adding to the exoticism of the dish and lending a fun, flavorful, crunch which I enjoyed immensely. Then there was the sauce…a sauce in which I could have dipped my fingers and licked them off…one by one…over and over again.
But of course I was not alone at home, rather I was at a fine dining establishment with friends, so bread had to suffice. Watermark happens to have its own bakery next door which supplies bread to seven other restaurants in town, including Pavil, as our kind waiter explained. So this was not a terrible second option. And suffice it to say that when the calamari and bread were gone, we requested that bowl of sauce remain at our table and more bread be provided. When that bread was finished off, one friend then went to dipping some of her seafood from her seafood platter (which she thought was excellent) in the sauce. Delicious!
While I actually had a wonderful time at Watermark and look forward to trying other dishes, including those from its remarkable raw bar, it is the memory of our amazing appetizer that assures my return to Watermark Grill.