Water Grill (Los Angeles, CA)

Water Grill
544 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 10/12/11

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Water Grill has been around for two decades, an old staple in the upscale dining segment of downtown LA. Catering largely to the business crowd dressed in suits, I remember being fairly intimidated when I first dined here as an 18-year-old college freshman (according to my OpenTable history, it was the third OT reservation I’ve ever made, after Aqua and Gramercy Tavern). The food was delicious though, and I instantly became a fan of then-chef Michael Cimarusti’s food.

Just a few months later, Cimarusti would leave to open Providence and David Lefevre continued executing Water Grill’s seafood-centric menu. After about 6 years he, like Cimarusti, moved on to open up his own popular, more casual eatery MB Post. Amanda Baumgarten (“Top Chef” season 7) took over for a few months, but I’m not sure who exactly is helming the kitchen nowadays.

When my coworkers and I were looking to try something new for DineLA, Water Grill came up. Although recent kitchen turnover would typically steer me away, the price was right. The DineLA lunch, at 3 courses for $28 (3 options for each course), was a pretty good deal considering the regular price of lunch entrees start in the mid-$20s.

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Water Grill Clam Chowder Weiser Farm potatoes and Niman Ranch bacon

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A constant on the menu as far as I know, this was a great clam chowder. I remembered it from my first trip during Cimarusti’s reign. The chowder was creamy yet not overly rich and I loved having the clams in the shell. Really tasty with the essence of the clams clearly coming through, but I was missing the bacon flavor.

Wild Magdalena Bay Scallop Sashimi birds eye chili sauce, ruby grapefruit and mint

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Not as successful was the scallop sashimi. I really didn’t like the overly soft texture of the scallop and I thought the grapefruit was too tart.

Line Caught Pacific Swordfish peppadew hummus, pomegranate cous cous and mint yogurt sauce

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Although there was an option of three entrees, all five of us ordered this one. As expected, the fish was cooked perfectly; the dense, meaty fish was still quite moist. The cous cous and yogurt added some starch and tart acidity, respectively, completing the dish.

Red Velvet Pudding Cake raspberries and mascarpone ice cream

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A simple dessert, the pudding cake seemed to be somewhere between a cake and a brownie. The mascarpone ice cream was delicious, and a nice variation on the traditional cream cheese frosting.

Meyer Lemon Tart candied macadamias, blueberries, and white chocolate ice cream

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A solid lemon tart, but more of a highlight for me was the white chocolate ice cream. It was pretty tasty, and its sweetness nicely countered the tart Meyer lemon flavor.

Water Grill was a solid meal and definitely worthy of its $28 promotional price tag, however I wouldn’t say it inspired me to return for a regular dinner (which would easily run into the triple-digits). I’m not sure if it was just the DineLA menu (although, each item we ordered was on the regular menu too), but I didn’t find the food to be that interesting. It seemed very predictable at times, and the execution was not always on-point. In my mind, a $40-per-entree price point demands something more.