While non-local foodies probably equate our little hamlet with Tim Love, locals know that Mr. Love Shack is far from the only game in town. Since 2001 Jon Bonnell has been wowing palates across the globe with his gourmet rusticity via Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine in southwest Fort Worth and has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and BBQ with Bobby Flay, among other national TV shows. The author of two popular cookbooks, Bonnell also co-owns Buffalo Bros. near TCU and recently opened Waters: Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine, a glamorous, all-things-fresh restaurant in the trendy West 7th development. Featuring sustainably raised seafood –– and some items from Bonnell’s original restaurant –– Waters is a gourmet seafood oasis in burger-and-burrito-heavy West 7th.
At lunch recently, the service was impeccable, but you’d expect that at a Bonnell-run establishment. Waters’ main attraction is oysters, and the theme reverberates throughout the restaurant, from the ice-laden oyster bar to the bleached oyster shells serving as décor. The oyster choices come from all over and have their own one-page menu. Sold individually, the shellfish are described much like wine, except the adjectives include “briny” and “mineral.” My table of four considered the Naked Cowboy oyster, but we weren’t in a naked or cowboy kind of mood.
Instead, we started with an order of fried calamari and crab cakes. The calamari were separated into rings and steaks and were battered differently: the rings coated in a cornmeal crust, the steaks in a panko breading. Both tasted good and were prepared well, without any grease. The appetizer came with a side of ancho ketchup, which made us wish for traditional aioli or a few slices of lemon. The crab cakes were mostly crab, with very little breading, but were heavy on the red pepper, which obscured the delicate flavor of the shellfish. The accompanying lime aioli might have matched a little better with the calamari.
Along with the regular lunch and dinner menus, Waters also serves up lots of daily specials. Working at a restaurant where the catch of the day arrives maybe 12 hours before it’s going to be served must be like living an episode of Iron Chef every day. One of the daily specials was coconut-and-panko-crusted mahi mahi atop whipped cauliflower. The coconut and crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs perfectly augmented the sweet, meaty fish, and the cauliflower was every bit as good as mashed potatoes. The other fish of the day was a fennel-roasted trout, which was poached perfectly and came out on a bed of puréed peas and dainty baby carrots. We also tried the yellowfin tuna tacos: three mini-tacos similar in presentation to the elk mini-tacos at Bonnell’s. However, the tuna and spicy salsa mix, along with the wasabi cream sauce, just made for a confusing mélange of tastes crowded into three tiny corn shells. The caesar salad, ordered entrée-size with a serving of chilled large shrimp, was also a bit of a disappointment. The shrimp were delicious, but the whole package wasn’t worth $23.
Although it wasn’t absolutely necessary to beef up the specials with some family-sized sides, we opted for a couple. The lobster mac ’n’ cheese was a fancy, scrumptious twist on the simple classic, and there was plenty of lobster to share. The preparation on the sweet potato grits sounded insane –– sweet potatoes are roasted, puréed, then whipped into old-fashioned stone-ground grits. If the purée goes in too soon, the whole dish becomes mushy. The balance of whipped sweet potatoes and slightly chewy grits was tasty, but it was neither as sweet as traditional sweet potatoes nor as delightfully salty as Bonnell’s traditional cheese grits.
For dessert, the chocolate ganache tart with Grand Marnier-and-rum-infused berries was a rich, delicious, creamy treat. And the bourbon-laced bread pudding was just as good.
If you don’t like seafood and shellfish, the kitchen also serves up beef, pork, and veggie options. Located in the old Bailey’s Prime spot, with walls of windows drenching you in light during the day, Waters is truly transportive.
Waters: Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine
2901 Crockett St, FW. 817-984-1110.
10:30am-2:30pm & 5:30-10pm Sun, closed Mon, 11am-2:30pm & 5:30-10pm Tue-Sat.
All major credit cards accepted.
Lobster mac ’n’ cheese ……………….. $14
Fennel-roasted trout …………………… $17
Panko-crusted mahi mahi …………….. $18
Chocolate ganache tart ……………….. $ 8