Sherman's Food Adventures: Water Street Cafe

Water Street Cafe

Believe it or not, for as long as I can remember, I've never dined at Water Street Cafe.  I know this might be extremely strange because it has been around for 30+ years and is a fixture in Gastown (right across from the famed steam clock).  Well, I'm not alone in this as Mijune hasn't been there either.  Maybe we get so caught up in trying the newest and most ritzy spots in town, we forget about the classics.  So our first real taste of the place happened because we were invited to try their Crabfest menu (until July 1st) as well as some other items from the regular menu.

Naturally, we started with everything crab including the BC Dungeness Crab Bisque with creme fraiche and chive oil.  From my initial observations, I could tell this was more tomatoey than creamy.  Personally, I prefer this as it ate more tangy and lighter.  There was plenty of crab aroma and sweetness.  Texturally, this was chunkier with plenty of fluffy crab which was also fine by me.  In terms of overall seasoning, the bisque was not salty which meant I could taste the crab.  Flanked by half of crab, the BC Dungeness Crab Club Salad was a meal in itself.  It consisted of a iceberg lettuce wedge topped with buttermilk dressing, avocado and bacon lardons.  Beyond the fluffy crab, the lettuce was fresh and crisp while the avocado was soft and ripe.  There was just enough creamy dressing for effect without drowning everything.  I enjoyed the aromatic lardons, but wished they were just a bit more cooked down.

Beautifully plated, the Crab Napoleon featured handpicked BC dungeness crab and whipped avocado in between layers of puff pastry.  This was finished off with an Asian soy ginger vinegar dressing.  The concept of the dish was sound as crispy puffed pastry would be a good textural contrast to the fluffy crab.  However, we felt the pastry could've been crispier.  Loved the combination of creamy avocado and the plethora of crab.  As much as I enjoyed the dressing on its own, it was probably a bit too sweet for the crab.  From here, we moved onto a classic dish from their regular menu being the West Coast Crab Cakes made with pacific rock crab and baby shrimp atop a saffron aioli.  On the side, we found a fennel and arugula salad with preserved citrus.  These were really good crab cakes that contained no filler as it was full of fluffy crab.  It was fried up perfectly where the breading was crunchy and relatively thin.  It was tasty on its own even without the aioli.

When the Surf & Surf hit the table, we marveled at the portion size, it was massive!  Sporting the same 1/2 crab as the salad, we were treated to even more fluffy meat.  The other half of the dish consisted of a large piece of halibut that couldn't have been prepared any better.  Beyond the charred exterior, the fish was flaky and super moist.  It was nicely seasoned and ate well on its own.  We felt the limoncello gel was a bit too sweet for the dish and could've used some added acidity.  However, the dish as a whole was spectacular.  We also got the Surf & Turf featuring a crab thermidor served in a crab shell and a 16 oz. AAA ribeye steak with salsa verde.  Loved this dish as the thermidor was rustic and downright delicious.  Lots of crab in a creamy cheesy sauce combined with perfectly cooked root veggies and peppers.  The steak itself was a perfect medium rare and well-rested.

Moving onto the regular menu, we went for the Burrata Caprese Salad with heirloom and roma tomato, basil, salsa verde, white balsamic glaze, sun dried tomato pesto, chive oil and Himalayan pink salt.  At first, we thought this was a burrata dish and wondered why there was so much stuff in it.  Upon looking a the description, it was indeed a salad and the burrata was just taking the place of fresh mozzarella.  Nothing wrong with that as it added a creaminess to an already tart and sweet concoction.  The sundried tomato pesto was the dominant flavour in the dish being tangy and salty.  From here we went for their pasta staples with their most popular being the Rigatoni with Italian Sausage, roasted fennel, plum tomato and cracked chilis.  This was a pretty textbook version of this dish where the pasta was a softer al dente while the sauce was tangy and aromatic from the fennel.  I would've liked to see more sausage as it was meaty and tender.

My favourite pasta was the Linguine alle Vongole with Manila clams, garlic, white wine, cherry tomato and fresh herbs.  Yes, if you know me, this is my favourite pasta on any menu, but this was actually a very good version.  There was much more in the way of fresh clams than pasta (as evidenced by the picture).  Therefore, the brininess and sweetness of the clams really came through in the buttery and garlicky sauce.  The addition of canned baby clams further amped the brininess.  Pops of tang from the tomatoes really helped brighten up the dish as well.  Our last pasta was the House-made Gnocchi with mushrooms, truffle butter and chèvre.  To say this was rich and creamy would be an understatement.  Earthy and cheesy, this was decadent and full of umami.  I found the gnocchi to be pillowy soft with a nice sear on the outside.

For dessert, we went for 4 of them including the Baked Apple Crumble topped with vanilla gelato.  Yes, this dessert is a bit standard and relatively simple.  However, that is what makes it hard to be good too.  Well this version on point with cooked through apple slices that still retained a bite while being tangy.  This balanced off the sweetness quite well.  The crumble on top was crunchy and buttery.  Another classic dessert came next in the Tiramisu.  I would say this was pretty textbook with moist soaked lady-fingers layered within rich and creamy mascarpone.  This was actually not overly sweet which was nice.  I would've liked a bit more espresso, but at the same time, this was enjoyable nevertheless.

Our last 2 desserts consisted of the Raspberry Lavender Creme Brulee and Flourless Double Chocolate Espresso Cake.  Normally, most creme brulee desserts I've had feature a weak torched sugar topping.  Not this one as it was thick and smoky.  There needed to be effort to crack into it.  Once past the topping, the custard was creamy and not too heavy while mildy sweet.  I found that the raspberry was more evident than the lavender which was fine by me.  Onto the cake, it was rich and plenty chocolaty with a bitter finish.  Hence it wasn't overly sweet while the espresso did come through, yet not too strong.  These were some solid desserts to end a generally well-executed dinner.  We noticed that the dishes we had were pretty classic except for a few Crabfest items.  Considering the awesome location right in the heart of Gastown across from the steam clock, the menu offers up a little of everything that most people will be familiar with.  With that in mind, Water Street Cafe does a great job in providing good value with more-than-adequate portions of well-prepared food.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Well executed dishes
- Reasonable pricing especially for its location
- Well-portioned

The Bad:
- Some dishes were a bit too sweet


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