We used to eat out all the time, living in NYC does that
to you. It's one of Gotham's more effective ruses to ensure that when you and
the city finally part ways the city holds on to your money, while the credit
card debt is all yours. Like a sucker partnered with a well-rehearsed
show-girl, you don't get to go until you have nothing left to go with.
- E2's JohnnyGoodyear, in Food Writing.
Take a classic American restaurant with a seafood-heavy menu. Add a
delightful wine list that's not over-priced, particularly by New York City
standards. Mix with a comfortable bar with working fireplace. Add water.
Lots of water. Voila! You've got Manhattan's Water Club. A Manhattan
landmark for over twenty-five years, it's stood the test of time.
The restaurant is located not near the water, but on the water.
The main building is actually a retired motor yacht that now stands on cement
pylons — in the East River. The reception area, bar room and
built-on, and are the only parts of the structure on dry land. The view in the
dining room, no
matter where one is seated, is outstanding; and particularly dramatic at night.
Whomever designed the dining room placed the seats farthest away from the
windows (and the view) higher than the rest, on a platform running the length of
the dining room. This ensures that even if one is seated at a
less-than-desirable table, one can still see the view.
Pull up to the curb and a uniformed valet takes one's car. This is one of the
reasons this restaurant is such a good value. Just about any other location in
New York these days charges a lot for valet parking, if you can get it. And
garages cost even more. Moreover, if one's car is in a garage,
one might be left waiting for up to a half-hour whilst they go fetch it. Standing around in a parking garage for thirty minutes,
freezing in winter and boiling in summer, is no way to end a sparkling evening.
Upon entering the soaring front hall, guests are greeted by a cheerful
receptionist who'll relieve diners of coats etc. One can't help but notice the
gleaming brass and nautical touches. A lobster tank is featured in the front
hall; a reassuring sight for devotees of the delicious denizens of the deep.
Lounge with Fireplace
The bar, through which everyone must pass to reach the dining room, is
clubby-feeling, but a comfortable clubby feel. Not stuffy nor
pretentious. The same Chinese gentleman has been working behind that bar six-day
weeks, two shifts a day, for the past thirteen years. He's an amazing guy.
Mandarin speakers: although his English is impeccable, he'll be your best friend
for life if you ask him, in Mandarin, about his son's restaurant in Connecticut.
The cocktails are generous and fairly priced. The Water Club's wine list is
also quite fairly priced (as Manhattan wine lists go). In the evenings the house
pianist, Dom Salvador, holds court at the baby grand in a jazzy fashion,
his repertoire mostly standards. Salvador's piano, the utterly charming
surroundings, the view and the graciousness of it all brings to mind a scene
from a Woody Allen movie.
Starters of note include the crabcake remoulade, half-shell clams and
oysters, and the gargantuan chilled seafood platter (enough for four diners as
an appetizer). Quickly fried squid was not chewy but delightfully tender. The
see-through thin crispy coating reminded us of the Chinese "salt and pepper
The food is impeccably fresh, and elegant in its simplicity. Brand-new chef
Kevin Reilly has a curriculum vitae that's impressive. His menu is all
about elegance and comfort. For example, a salmon fillet was served leaning
against a whimsical potato "blintz." The accompanying mushrooms in sherry
vinegar sauce added sophistication. The filet mignon in wine reduction sauce is
accompanied by an amazing timbale of new potatoes. It's a downright shame
they don't offer them as a side dish.
Side dishes are simple and delightfully prepared. The creamed spinach is on
par with that of New York's renowned steak houses (and in some cases, better).
Mashed potatoes arrive buttery and hot, on their own warmer.
Caramelized sea scallops were just that; crispy outside and cooked
to-a-turn inside. The rich scallops were perfectly framed by a lightly-dressed mesclun
salad. The grilled orange and grapefruit sections that garnished this dish
paired well with the sweet scallops. Red Snapper, pan-seared, rested on
escarole in a soy dressing (this is the kitchen going overboard with its
creativity; but it works).
Yes, lobster is a pricey proposition at dinnertime. However, lunch guests can feast on lobster bisque, lobster any style, mashed potatoes, and a choice of desserts for a fixed price of $35.
Desserts are all homemade, and are humble and comforting. Best were the
sorbet and the double chocolate "cake" that comes with a decadent cream-caramel
sauce and peanut brittle pieces. An economical trick to ending the meal: make
sure the busboys don't take away the breadbasket. Inside are pecan scones and
yellow-raisin walnut bread. Slathered with Water Club's good butter, these make
a wonderful accompaniment to coffee should sugar (or dessert prices) be of
Customer feedback about the restaurant on New York's entertainment websites
is decidedly mixed. On no visit, however, have we been disappointed. The
servers and the captains are so professional, we'd hazard a guess they'd make
any wrongdoing right, and in a hurry. The New York Times' review was
lackluster but the place garnered two stars (Very Good). Although the Times
classified the prices as "$$$$" (Very) there are poor restaurants that get away
with charging far more. The value should be looked at, and the value here is