Dinner at Freshwaters in Plainfield

After I came home from my traditional Friday Power Yoga class at the Westfield YMCA, that put me in a very relaxed, centered and a bit mellow frame of mind, we weren't in the mood for home cooking. One reason: It was a pretty hot and humid day and we don't have central air in our house. So the idea of working in the hot kitchen wasn't particularly appealing.
We initially contemplated to go to Gaucho's again to check out the Friday live music. However, we both did not feel like large portions of meat. After weighing our options we decided to try Freshwaters in Plainfield for the first time. Fellow blogger sivyaleah had recently recommended Freshwaters on Chowhound and she even has it listed as one of her Top 5 restaurants.
My wife is a big fan of Southern food, in particular seafood, whereas for me it is not typically top of my list (but I still enjoy it) and tonight my wife was the decision maker.
Freshwaters is certainly an interesting place. The service is very friendly, welcoming and warm. Nevertheless it is also attentive, efficient and professional, a combination you rarely find. They must have developed a very effective way of hiring the right personalities for their wait staff and to motivate and train them properly.
The interior is an amazing and eclectic balance between kitch and style. By themselves some of the decoration would be a weird or cheesy but in combination it actually works quite well and creates an open and warm atmosphere. You almost feel like you are in somebody's living room. The only thing I personally didn't like (and a lot of people disagree with me on this) are the glass panes on the tables. IMHO, food just tastes better with table cloth. The glass on the table somehow alters you mental frame towards food, at least for me.
The menu has classic Cajun/Southern food, not much fusion or creativity. Which is perfectly OK, as we weren't looking for fusion but for traditional well-made Southern home cooking. And that is what you get.

I had the corn chowder which was well composed and intensely (but not overbearingly) seasoned and had the right thick creamy texture that you expect. Then I had the Cajun Chicken Pasta. An interesting combination of sauteed chicken, spaghetti type pasta and a Cajun Alfredo sauce. The sauce is really what makes that dish work. It seemingly consists of heavy cream, some cheeses and a variety of Cajun spices. This creates a heavy (but pleasant) full-bodied flavor that fills your mouth and sticks to your palate for a long time. Voluptuous is a good term to describe the sauce. But don't ask for the calories. And there are lots of sauteed pieces of chicken in and on top of the pasta. I also liked the very tasty, slightly spicy interestingly seasoned okra -tomato side that I selected from a long list of side dishes.
My wife had the crab cakes and the pecan-crusted catfish. I'm not really into fish, so I don't want to comment on these items. My wife liked them and felt they were well made, very tasty and certainly above average but - to quote her - "The cat fish at Mojave Grill is better." But then Mojave Grill is southwestern fusion and not Cajun.
In summary, Freshwaters is probably as close as you can get to authentic Southern cooking in this area. It is a pleasant and satisfying dining experience if you like Cajun food. However, it is not upscale dining and it does not claim to be. A lot of restaurants would benefit quite a bit if they learned from and adopted Freshwaters' notion of customer service.

Prices are just about still reasonable, it is not a bargain dining experience but I wouldn't consider it overpriced either. The place is BYOB. If you like Southern cooking it is almost a must to try it. On Saturdays they have live piano/jazz music.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Freshwaters is really a special place and you are absolutely right about the service.
I disagree on the price level. For the quality and portion size I believe you get a very good deal.