Just steps away from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the South Coast Plaza, Water Grill, the famed Los Angeles-based seafood restaurant just opened up its first Orange County location, and I’m thrilled. I had the opportunity to check it out before it opened to the public at its media event and boy, am I excited it’s here.
Established in 1989 in Downtown LA, Water Grill has since opened up a second LA location in Santa Monica and one in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. As part of the King’s Seafood Company’s legacy, co-founder and CEO, Sam King is happy to bring Water Grill to Orange County, the region of origin of its parent company.
First of all, the restaurant is beautiful. The architectural style of the exterior of the building is very modern with straight lines and concrete siding, while the interior exudes an old-world nautical charm with dark wooden beams and oyster shell accents. I am first escorted onto the outdoor patio which opens up nicely to the surrounding theater district and features a copper-topped bar at the center of this 2,000 sq ft space. This was when I realized just the sheer size of the restaurant. At one point I thought I was looking at a mirrored image of the room only to find out that no, that was, in fact, another dining area. It’s no wonder with its 17,500 sq ft of total space that the restaurant has primed itself to be a major event location.
The Main Dining area opens up into a raw bar with both the Eastern and Pacific oyster varieties that go oh so well with a bit of mignonette, cocktail sauce, and/or fresh horseradish. The raw bar overlooks the exhibition kitchen in which you can watch the chefs, including Executive Chef Oscar Ledesma, work their magic. It’s not only the chefs that are on display, three tanks feature live shellfish, including rather large king crabs, as part of the performance.
As I walk past the mahogany walls and leather-bound chairs of the restaurant corridors, I sip my aperitif cocktail to open my palate and enliven my senses. Okay, this is seriously a delicious drink. It’s aptly named, The Spritz, and is an Aperol and Cocchi Americano Rosa with fresh sliced oranges, charged with prosecco and served long. It’s a citrusy treat that was the product of Water Grill’s practice of bringing new cocktails of the month, and The Spritz was one that stuck — and for good reason! After a fresh plate of raw oysters, a plate of Wild Spanish Octopus was served in the private dining room as the appetizer. The octopus was charcoal grilled with tomato, feta and niçoise olives that had a slightly charred, smoky taste and was cooked to perfection, no chewiness here. The entree of the evening was a Wild Pacific Halibut with fire roasted yellow corn, jalapeños and cotija cheese that provided a little bit of heat with the buttery, flaky texture of the fish.
The evening was closed with a caramel bread pudding and homemade caramel ice cream with Alaea Red sea salt dessert. The sponginess of the pudding combined with the salty sweet smoothness of the ice cream offered a melt in your mouth treat that had just the right amount of sweetness. The Kunin Late Harvest Viognier dessert wine pairing was also a delightful treat as the late harvest provides a dessert wine that is not too sweet and even has a bit of dryness.
The whole evening I was swept up by the elegance of Water Grill’s ambience and the mouthwatering cuisine. From fresh oysters to crisp wines, my palate wanted for nothing in this meal. With its opening just in time for the start of the theater season, you can bet where I’ll be headed for dinner after my viewing of Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, and any other shows I happen to attend.