Watercress Vietnamese Bistro Serving Up More Than Pho

When Vietnamese food first arrived on the scene, it seemed Vietnamese food primarily consisted of it’s popular noodle dish Phở.
Now with several new Vietnamese restaurants opening in Palm Springs, the options have greatly expanded. One of the newest, Watercress Vietnamese Bistro that just opened( in the space formerly occupied by Serious Food & Drink and Hamburger Mary’s), offers one of the greatest variety of Vietnamese dishes in the Valley.
Phở is offered three different ways on the menu, but with more than 50 different items on the menu, Watercress offers so much more. And for vegetarians, it offers a huge selection for a non-vegetarian restaurant.
Greeted by Dr. Phong Nguyen, the owner, we were seated in the main dining room that abuts the wonderful outdoor patio. A bit overwhelmed by all of the possibilities, Phong suggested we try two different appetizers: Thịt Nương (Brochette) and Chả Giò (Crispy Spring Rolls).
The three Brochettes were marinated in chili lemongrass and grilled, and were served in shot glasses filled with sweet fish sauce, pickled carrots and daikon radish.  In addition four different sauces were provided for dipping: Serrano, Seracha, Hot Pepper and Soy. They were tender and picked up a different flavor with each of the sauces.
The three Crispy Spring Rolls with minced pork, carrots, glass noodles, and wood ear mushrooms were served over a lovely bed of fresh Bib lettuce, mint and basil. Rolling the rolls in a lettuce leaf, and dipping them in the nuróc chấm dipping sauce made from nuoc mam, chilies, garlic, sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar they were delicious.
For my main course I had Salmon, one of three different fish that can be prepared three different ways. I chose Teriyaki Glaze that came with steamed rice, pineapple, teriyaki glaze, baby bok choy and mushrooms. With wonderful crispy skin on the bottom, the vegetables and pineapple were great with the rice with a hint of Jasmine.
My husband loves duck, and something he never makes at home, so had the Vịt Dòn (Crispy Duck Confit). The crispy marinated duck leg with oyster mushrooms, ginger, bok choy and hoisin-plum glaze was served over a bed of herb-mashed sweet potato. The skin was really crisp just like I like it, the meat flavorful, and the sweet potato flavored with some fresh thyme absolutely amazing.
Finishing off the hot summer evening called for some cool desserts:
Khao Niao Mamuang (Sticky Rice with Mango) and Cạo Ice Cream (Shaved Ice Cream). Three different flavors of ice cream, Strawberry, Mango and Toasted Peanut were offered. We tried the Mango and Toasted Peanut that came together on a plate and looked like layers of rippling waves. The Mango with Coconut Rum sauce was creamy and lightly flavored, while the Toasted Peanut had a more granular texture and stronger flavor.
But to me the real delight was the Sticky Rice with Mango. It too had Coconut sauce, and fantastic mango; so soft, ripe and flavorful. Phong told us that this was the season for these mangos and they were the best I’ve ever tasted. I loved this dessert and can’t wait to go back and have some more.