Before I give you my impressions of this new Water Grill outpost that just opened in Santa Monica I need to underline the general slant of this blog. Most of the restaurants I review are establishments that are chef driven. This can be a casual restaurant but the key is that there is a passionate chef cooking the food. When I go out to eat I am looking for a dining experience that emphasizes top notch ingredients that are prepared with “finesse.” Great wine is also part of the experience and we often BYO though not at Vin Bar or The French Laundry. That being said Water Grill Santa Monica is what I would label “Water Grill Junior”. Unlike its counterpart downtown this not a chef-driven fine dining experience.
They have spared no expense with the ambiance and the facility itself is well-done and comfortable. One weird thing though is that the restrooms are located in the adjoining office building and you need a code to open the door – somewhat of a pain.
Our server, Lauren was delightful and couldn’t have been more accommodating.
Oyster Sampler – they choose the oysters for this dish – they weren’t the tastiest oysters I have had. Bouchon’s are far better. Oysters – Witch Duck, Stingray, Wianno, Laguna Bay, Skookum, Kumamoto
Uni Toast on toasted brioche – This suffered from the meager portion of uni – one small uni. The uni was lost in this dish. I would rather have uni at a first class sushi bar or the wonderful uni dish from Valentino.
Valentino’s uni dish – now that’s a hefty portion of uni
Crudo Sampler – Kona Kampachi, Wild Columbia River King Salmon and Alaskan Halibut – again a chef with a deft hand would have cut the fish to perfection instead of 3 chunks of fish. Two nights later we dined at Chinois that could be classified as casual but is a chef-driven restaurant. Just look at the tuna served at Chinois:
Chinois tuna cut beautifully with a fantastic sauce.
Chinois albacore also cut beautifully with another fantastic sauce.
Wild Maryland Soft Shell Crab Banh Mi, pickled red onions, daikon sprouts, cucumber salad, Maeploy Sauce served with Peruvian Bonito Sweet Potato Fries – the sauce plus the additional ingredients on the sandwich completely overwhelmed the soft shells – my husband had the better idea and just ate the soft shells. The Sweet Potato fries were delicious.
Chinois soft shells – perfectly cooked without a lot of extraneous ingredients just crispy spinach with a side of cilantro honey sauce on the side - I am not against casual dining just poorly executed food that has little or no regard for the ingredients or finesse with the saucing.
New England Clam Chowder – there were too many vegetables and not enough density to the broth plus a somewhat meager portion of clams.
Crispy Polenta with Melted Fontina – a nice dish but again not exactly a chef-driven dish – perfect for a casual bite
BYO Wines – what is extraordinary at Water Grill Santa Monica is that you can bring your own wines and there is no corkage.
Bottom line – don’t expect the quality and finesse of Water Grill downtown – this is geared more to the beach crowd with casual food that is not a chef driven restaurant. Bottom line – this is not our type of restaurant.