These last three dishes all came from the menu section misnomered “Small Plates.” They were actually the size of entrées, most larger than a health-conscious home-cooked main course. That’s the good part, I guess. The not-so-good: had I known the size of these plates, and that they’d descend on us in large bunches, I’d have ordered just a few dishes to start with and then another round later, if by some miracle we were still hungry.
The other sections of the menu are devoted to flatbread pizzas, cheese plates, and skewers. “To me,” said Marcie, “a proper flatbread is as thin as a cracker.” “But a lot of restaurants use the term to mean focaccia,” I said. “Then they should call it focaccia,” she answered. Here, the flatbread proved thinner than focaccia, thicker than a cracker, something like a New York pizza crust. (In any case, I like that texture better than the original flatbread — matzo.) We ordered the shiitake version topped with fontina cheese and baby arugula. I wasn’t okay with the hard, chewy mushrooms, which even included some bites of the inedible stems. (They’re not poisonous, but are too tough for anything except a soup-flavoring condiment, to be removed before serving.)
We concluded with the most expensive ($18) of the small (ha!) plates, the Surf and Turf, with grilled flatiron steak and a skewer of tiger shrimp over avocado-corn relish. We ordered the steak rare; it came medium-rare. Now and again this cut can be tender, but not here. The shrimp? Well, affordable tiger shrimp are nearly all farm raised in Asia and arrive frozen, so are rarely better than “just okay,” as they were here.
Wine, you may ask? Well, you betcha! We each ordered by the glass. I can only speak to my own choices. After seeing raves for it online, I began with the house white sangria. It’s more a light cocktail than a wine — fruity and fairly sweet and evoking an alcoholic soft drink. I’ll leave this one for the Yelpers — until summer, anyway. I moved on to an Argentine Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza, with a tremendous tropical fruit aroma but a dry, rather simple taste. Around the table there were an Argentine Malbec (the sip I took was quite good), an Italian red, an Oregon white Müller-Thurgau, a Cal Cabernet, et al. Prices were restrained, choices were interesting, and the pours were big. (Don’t you hate wine bars that charge $12 and up for a miserly two ounces of Chateau de Nothing Special?). “A lot of wine bars here offer mainly California wines,” Sam said. “It’s good that these choices are more wide-ranging.” There were precious few Old World wines, which Marcie and I favor, but the list did well with the New World, especially apt given the South American tilt of some of the food.
Well, for all my moaning about the creature comforts (or lack of them) at Wet Stone, I do hope the restaurant flourishes enough to afford soundproofing on the ceilings someday, and maybe even some regular chairs. In the meantime, eating and drinking here is delightful enough to nearly overcome the insults to your ears and your tush. Taste something you don’t love? You can probably afford to gamble on something else. Your chances are a lot better than in a casino, because here, odds are, you’ll win. ■
Wet Stone Winebar & Café
★★★ (Very Good)
1927 Fourth Avenue (between Fern and Grape Streets), Banker’s Hill, 619-255-2856; wetstonewinebar.com
HOURS: Lunch Tuesday–Friday 11 a.m.–2:00 p.m.; Dinner Tuesday–Saturday, 5:00–10:00 p.m., Sunday 4:00–9:00 p.m.
CUISINE & BEVERAGES: Generously proportioned grazing dishes with flavors from South America and all over the Mediterranean. Globe-trotting wine list but mainly from the Americas, by the bottle or glass (large pours!) at modest prices.
PICK HITS: Country pâté, Quesadilla do Guayaba, anticuchos (special), grilled merguez sausage, gourmet mac & cheese.
NEED TO KNOW: Large, shareable portions of tasty food easily rate three stars, but comfort is no-star: unpadded wood or backless hassocks for seating; front room’s tall tables inaccessible to wheelchairs, plus other mobility limits; dim lighting (bring small flashlight to read menu and see food); very loud; too many dishes delivered at once; dull knives. Small premises, reservations advised. Plenty for lacto-vegetarians; vegans mainly SOL.