Restaurant: Water Grill [1, 2]
Location: 1401 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica. 310-394-5669
Date: July 27 & August 11, 2013
Rating: Nice upgrade, if a tad pricey
Years ago, Ocean Avenue Seafood was a staple on our “quick dinner” rotation, particularly before movies and the like. It served up classic San Francisco style seafood. But recently, was feeling a little long in the tooth, having not been updated in (as far as I know) nearly two decades. This year the owners rebooted it as a Westside branch of their downtown Water Grill, which itself has gotten drastic revamps in recent years (having once been very formal — albeit excellent — and now is much more casual).
The interior has the same layout, but got a new “hard surfaces” redo in keeping with the times.
They served up yummy hot bread quickly, although the staff kept us waiting for 20-25 minutes before visiting for either drinks or food orders (the waiter later made up for this by comping dessert).
The menu has been updated with a more contemporary flair.
2001 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 89. A lovely mix of green apple, melon and muscat notes are followed by relatively big and still quite tight and fresh middle weight, taut, muscular flavors of considerable tension and breed. The minerality is almost pungent it’s so strong and this finishes firm but with fine richness and palate coating sap.
Heirloom tomato salad. Avocado, watercress and blue poppy seed dressing.
A “custom” raw plate with a half-dozen oyster sampler, four wild jump mexican white shrimp and a whole uni (sea urchin). The sauces include classic cocktail, horseradish, lemon, and mignonette as well as a new slightly sweet Japanese-style sauce that is kin to sunomono marinade.
And a seafood tower (for 2 people) with an assortment of fresh raw bar seafood.
A softshell crab salad special.
Wild Alaskan Sablefish (black cod) with lobster and oyster mushrooms, port wine reduction.
Lobster roll, classic New England style. There is also an option for Connecticut style (with butter instead of mayo). This was a great lobster roll, and I’ve had plenty of ’em (being a favorite of mine).
And here it is, the Connecticut style! I liked the New England a bit better.
The dessert menu, in this case on the house as they took awhile to get to us at the beginning.
Banana Chocolate Sundae with chocolate covered corn flakes.
Coconut panna cotta with passionfruit and chili. This was right up my alley, very much like one of those weird (but I love them) Chinese custards. Nice rich coconut flavor and a little bit of kick.
Overall, while the delta between Ocean Avenue Seafood and Water Grill are at some level superficial, I’m pleased with the change. I could care less about the new louder interior, but the menu is larger with more of a fusion flare. This nicely updates it and elevates it over the fairly common (in Santa Monica) raw bar food. It remains pricey, as it was before, but the dishes were very tasty.