new Things I Ate in Cambodia: The Waterboy

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Waterboy

The Waterboy
2000 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 498-9891

The Waterboy reigns as Sacramento's food nerd temple of awesome, at least according to the people I talk to. Certainly it's got a reputation: the place is always crowded and the positive reviews keep coming in. And for good reason - the fresh and interesting California cuisine is definitely worth the visit and the expense.

I began with a salad of Pickled Beets with Roasted Almonds, Aged Goat Cheese, Pickled Onions & Citronette (9.50), which was very good, if a little over-deconstructed. Certainly all the individual components were fresh, tasty and slightly unusual, and my appreciation for beets is growing by leaps and bounds as they become more popular on the culinary scene. It's definitely a fresh and summery way to start a meal.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I also sampled the pork belly special with verde sauce, which was indeed as decadent as you might expect, the crackling pig skin richly caramelized. It's sort of like eating a big old chunk of bacon that's officially sanctioned by the culinary gods. Life is good.

Our entrees arrived next. I picked the Pan Roast Northern Halibut in Saffron Broth with Clams & Mussels,Leeks, Fennel, New Potatoes and Herb Butter (26.0), which was extremely impressive. The clam and mussel filled sauce was buttery and slightly lemony, and could have easily served as a soup if there were more of it. My fish was cooked perfectly and fell apart into tasty pieces in the rich sauce. Yum.

I chose to accompany my halibut with sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Chilis, (6.50) which was quite tasty and interesting, although it could have been a hair warmer. However, I am a noted Broccoli Whore so I was perfectly happy anyway.

I also sampled the Pan Seared Dayboat Scallops with Fava Bean-English Pea Risotto,
Baby Beets, Brown Butter and Truffle Oil (25), which were pretty incredible. The accompaniments and the perfectly cooked, meaty scallops came together amazingly well, producing a super-rich taste. It's a fabulous dish.

FInally, I had a bit of the Pan Roast Sonoma Duck Breast with Bacon Braised Endive, Brown Butter Gnocchi, Red Cabbage, Zinfandel-Black Pepper Sauce and Pickled Cherries, (26.0), a very rich dish infused with a lot of winey, maroon flavors. It was rich, decadent, and extremely delicious, and even the cabbage bedding was full of complex and fatty richness. This will definitely satisfy anyone's need for fatty, sure-to-kill-you duck.

Service was excellent, and our server was very attentive and friendly, even down-selling us on a bottle of wine he recommended. (Wow!) The atmosphere of the Waterboy is pleasantly casual for a place turning out such excellent food - there's definitely no aura of pretension wafting about the high-ceilinged and fresh feeling dining space. (As a unrepentant doodler, I loved the paper on all the tables.) Our entrees did take a bit longer to come out then we would have preferred, so don't be prepared for the kitchen to efficiently whip out dishes.

This was an excellent and memorable meal, and I was very happy to know this level of fine dining is available in the Sacramento area. The Waterboy is definitely worth a try if you want an excellent meal in a comfortable atmosphere downtown.

(Photos of everything I tried on my blog:

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