My long time buddy GB and his wife, AB took L and I out for my bday lunch. As AB is preggers, I thought it would be best to avoid my favourite Sunday watering holes. The consensus from my ever growing group of pregnant friends is that being around other people who drink is not so fun. I opted for Watercress Express because John Manzo raved so much about it on Urbanspoon and no alcohol is served. My posse and I were all impressed with the food. In fact, I plan on bringing my meat hating friend Jaime to Watercress, as I know she’ll like the creative vegetarian offerings.
Watercress Express is set up like a fast food joint as you order and pay at the till. However, the food and plating would surpass any Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been to in Calgary. GB went crazy and ordered a bunch of appies. L tried to pay for the bill, but GB insisted on picking up the tab. I felt bad, as GB is finishing his PhD and expecting a baby. To ease my guilty conscience, I made it up a week later with two awesome bottles of vino and dinner at my house. To start, I ordered the Poached Shrimp Salad Roll ($6.00). I received a salad roll cut up in eight bite size pieces. I loved the sauce, which was a mix of hoisin, peanut butter, and hot sauce. The combination of the fresh herbs, the flavorful grilled shrimp and the salty, creamy and spicy dipping sauce wowed my taste buds. GB shared his order of Crispy Char Siu Wontons ($5.50) with the table. The sous vide char siu pork shoulder with served with a ginger scallion sauce. The crunchy shell was a good contrast to the soft, meat filling. Char siu looks unnaturally red and taste sweet, salty and a bit like charred BBQ. Growing up, my grandfather would buy my siblings and I a piece of char sui to nibble on while we shopped in Chinatown. I enjoy it much more now than I did as a kid. AB shared her order of Pork Spring rolls ($5.50). The creamy filling was all meat, served piping hot. The spring rolls are small in size, so if you are sharing, order at least two appetizers.
I opted for the Sate Pho ($9.75), which contained a generous portion of beef, anito seed oil, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and herbs. Oh my – there are few places in Calgary that can rival Watercress’ version. The noodles were al dente, which I prefer as I hate overcooked noodles. I really appreciated the richness of the beef broth. L ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Fried Rice ($11.00). I can honestly say this is the best version of fried rice I have ever tried. The flavours of the tobkio, corn, and scallion added a lightness to the dish. The chicken consisted of tender white pieces of chicken and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. My buddy AC would adore the smokey wok flavours of this rice.
The next time I visit, I want to try the Tamarind Beef Roll ($7.75), Nuoc Cham Braised Pork Check Bao ($10.75), Kimchi Rice ($11.00) and the Lemon Grass Vermicelli ($10.00). Fei Po gives Watercress Express two fat thumbs up.