I’ve waited quite some time to visit Watergrill. Between social media, and friends, I’ve been receiving feedback, both positive AND negative, so it is time I dine there, to establish an opinion of my own.
We are here during lunch, and I am immediately floored by the transformation of what used to be Scott’s Seafood. From the patio, to the dining room, and artworks on the walls, it is ravishing to say the least. It takes me 10 minutes before I close my gaping mouth, as I take in the exquisite artistry that is Watergrill.
Our server is remarkably well-trained, her professionalism never missing a beat throughout our meal. Impressive! We settle in and gather to decide in unison how our lunch should progress.
Before you start, a basket, of warm rolls, hits the table. Slather some butter on them, and watch it melt into the grooves of the soft rolls.
If you’re looking for a libation, try the “Bartender’s Special” — Essex Street ($14) comprising London dry gin, cucumber, dill, fresh lime juice and elderflower. It is refreshingly fragrant.
A couple of items jump out immediately including Uni Toast ($12) which sees toasted brioche topped with slivers of uni. Each toast slice is crowned with a different garnish including tobiko, and eel sauce. Strangely, even with the toppings, the uni is tasteless, devoid of any umami whatsoever.
Steamed Wild Massachusetts Razor Clams ($17), on the other hand, is the winning dish of the day. These plump razor clams are well-executed, firm, yet tender, and possess the perfect nuance of allowing the main ingredient to shine.
Our Crudo Sampler ($19) is a presentation of three variations: wild Maldives bigeye tuna; wild Eastern sea scallops; and Farmed Faroe Islands Atlantic salmon. I love the salmon best, followed by tuna. The sea scallops is lackluster when compared to the other two, its flavor overshadowed by the punchy umami of the tuna and salmon. I especially love the chopped red beet ‘tapenade’ on the tuna.
Moving on to entrées, we choose Roasted Halibut Tail ($16) which is presented as a platter of components to create your own tacos. Included are soft corn tortillas, a delectable roasted tomato salsa, pickled mango, and a roasted tail with moist flesh just waiting to be gently pried off with your fork. It is a fun dish to share with the table.
We want to try New England Lobster Roll ($26) and while there are two options: traditional or “Connecticut” style, we opt for the traditional roll served cold – the Connecticut is warm. A soft brioche bun stuffed with chunks of lobster is pretty standard. The lobster is not consistent in texture — a few pieces were rubbery — but overall, a straightforward, decent offering with few surprises. The accompanying French fries, though, need some work.
One of our dining companions is interested in trying Wild George’s Bank Atlantic Cod Fish & Chips ($23) and again, no surprises really. I love how thin the batter is – my friend, not so much – showcasing the thick cut of fish. Unfortunately, it is bland and requires a dousing of malt vinegar to liven it up. The same fries are served alongside — they’re so crisp that they’re dry.
Luckily, Wild Alaskan ‘Black Cod’ Miso Sablefish ($29) is exactly how it should be. The fish is melt-in-the-mouth tender, with just the right amount of miso glaze evenly distributed throughout. The bonito flakes add another level of umami to the dish.
Watergrill is visually impeccable with solid service to boot. The experience, as a whole, is worthwhile — if you haven’t been before — even if the food is hit and miss, with some dishes bordering on pedestrian at best.
3300 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626