Monday, May 7, 2012

Restaurant Review: Watercress at Bridge Street Town Centre (Huntsville, AL)

Watercress at Bridge Street on Urbanspoon

High-end prices, acceptable food, and haphazard service can summarize my recent dining experience at this comparatively new edition to the culinary landscape in Huntsville.

Now I a firm believer that good food can come from doesn't require high prices, fancy ambiance, or flashy service.  Food is an art-form.  It touches all of your senses; from the sizzle of a hot pan, to the gentle lingering aroma of truffle oil, to the salty-brineness of an exquisite olive, to the satisfying crunch of a well-fried piece of chicken.

It transcends time and space.  The dish can be a simple exploration of the moment, enhanced by your surroundings.  After a long night of dancing in Mexico a simple taco on a fresh tortilla can be just as satisfying as a well prepared ribeye from one of New York's finest establishments.  But food also encompasses all of your past experiences, whether consciously or not you will compare the dish in front you to everything else you've ever eaten.  It's human nature.

When I go to a new restaurant, I try to minimize my past experiences and observe the establishment as objectively as possible.  Unfortunately, even through an objective lens Watercress doesn't live up to its hype, yet. ( )

My party ordered an assortment of appetizers; the crab cakes (two cakes-$14) and the pimento cheese (approximately 1 cup of spread with grilled bread and pickled green tomatoes-$8).  The crab cakes were tasty, pan fried and crispy, though a little on the unpleasantly thick side.  The pimento cheese was delicious, well seasoned, and contrasted nicely with the pickled tomatoes.  Unfortunately, the grilled bread was less than enjoyable.  While nicely charred it was slightly soggy, as though it had been prepared in advance and held at temperature like a sweaty gym sock in a steamy locker room.

Our waiter strongly recommended the Soup du Jour, which on this day was a creamy interpretation of a classic french onion soup.  Unfortunately, possibly due to the season, the onions didn't demonstrate an aptitude for flavor.

For dinner, I ordered the pork chop ($24) in part to sample the intriguing components of "creole Worcestershire reduction" and the jalapeno white cheddar grits.  My pork chop arrived well grilled, and well seasoned.  The plating was impressive to say the least.  And the reduction was perfectly matched with the inherent sweetness of the chop.  Sadly the famed grits (which are a side for a number of dishes of the menu) were bland, under-seasoned,  and conveyed only the faintest essence of jalapenos.

From the other members of my dining party a rousing chorus of "where's the salt" echoed from plate to plate, especially from those who had ordered beef.

Overall our food was enjoyable, but it didn't leave us wanting seconds.

The beverage selection, especially the draft choices, left much to be desired.  While the wine menu did feature some excellent bottles, it was not very expansive.  The beer selection was downright discouraging.  For an upscale venue, that touts its penchant for local produce and food-stuffs, I expected to see a broader selection of local beers on tap.  Instead a single Lily Flagg Milk Stout (Straight to Ale, Huntsville, AL) languished in the kegerator.  

The ambiance was marred by the screeching tones of Jazz ensemble that would have been more at home in a suburban garage than in the echoing, open area of the restaurant.  At numerous occasions several managers stopped by our table to apologize (nothing changed), and for most of the meal we were forced to speak with elevated in-door voices.  Which didn't seem to bother the other guests, one of whom was wearing glorified fitness attire.

While attentive, the service was erratic and at several times throughout our meal befuddled servers arrived at out table carrying plates from other dining parties. 

I do have to offer my thanks and gratitude to the owners of this establishment for their sincere attempt to elevate dining in what is otherwise a "gastronomic wasteland." As with any restaurant critique, the heart of this piece is intended to further improve what could be an exciting addition to the area, and it is my hope that these observations are received in such a light.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

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