Last night, I took Sergio out for a fancy pants dinner at the Water Grill. (Sergio wore jeans not fancy pants. But hey, it was his birthday. He got to wear whatever he wanted!)
Yelpers seem to love this place. But I really wouldn't have made the reservation if it wasn't part of the current DineLA Restaurant promotion.
We both selected from the DineLA menu but had a few extras added. First off, we each had a cocktail. Sergio ordered the Gin Fizz and I tried to order the LA River Martini I read about. But apparently it's no longer served. I was directed to a similar martini. I don't remember the name but it was dirty with jalapeno olives, and smoke salt rimmed the glass. It was a really interesting drink that I recommend to any martini lover. The smoke salt made the entire thing so...smokey flavored. Like a campfire. I liked it a lot but traded Sergio because the gin fizz was too sweet for his taste. And he really liked the Smokey Martini. Since it was his night, I happily made the swap. Still, the Gin Fizz was nice. Fizzy and sweet.
We each were served a roll from our choice of three bread types. We chose olive. It was served very warm and was nice. Then, the chef sent out a couple of tasters on the house! I really don't know what they were called. The waiter who was explaining the dish went on for a very long time -- there were so many different ingredients. It had fish (raw) and citrus. And other stuff. I can't remember. It was so, so, so good. The flavor was layered and complex. Each note distinct yet blended well in the bite. Perfect.
Next up, was the 1/2 dozen oyster sampler. We ordered oysters last year for Sergio's birthday and these were much better. Not that they were bad last year -- they weren't bad at all. Very tasty. But these were VERY, VERY, VERY extremely fresh and delicious. Served with 3 types of sauce but I only used the vinegar with onion vinegrette. Our favorites were the Kumamoto (Crassostrea Sikamea), Puget Sound, Washington and Raspberry Point Oyster, Prince Edward Island, Canada. At least, I hope that's what they were. The guy clearing the table told us not the waiter. He seemed quite sure.
Then, came the prix fixe three courses from the DineLA menu. The portions seemed like normal sized portions, which we were glad. I've heard some restaurants will size their DineLA menu items down. We also ordered a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. It's an award winning wine list so there was lots to choose from. The wine went well with our dishes.
Sergio: Big Eye Tuna Sashimi - Yuzu, Red Radish, Asian Pear and Shiso. Verdict: The sashimi was fresh (which is all it ever needs to be) and the sauces were interesting and tasty.
Mine: White Chowder with Manila Clams - Weiser Farm Potatoes, Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon. Verdict: Maybe the best clam chowder I've ever had? possibly?
Sergio: Alaskan Halibut - Sautéed and Basted, with Lavender, Meyer lemon, and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Oil. Verdict: Wow. Perfectly cooked. The lemon and vanilla flavors were delicate. Just a tiny, tiny whiff of lavender aroma.
Mine: South Pacific Ridgeback Swordfish - Grilled, with Heirloom Squash and Brown Butter Balsamic Vinaigrette. Verdict: Very good. And also perfectly cooked! A lot of places overcook swordfish, but not Water Grill. A lot more substantial tasting than the halibut. It definitely felt like I was eating an autumnal dish.
Sergio: Fromage Blanc Cheesecake - Ginger Poached Pears, Raspberries, Guava and Graham Cracker Streusel. Verdict: I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake. BUT, this was absolutely divine. I was a bit disappointed Sergio didn't have a chocolate based dessert to choose from, but we didn't even miss it!
Mine: Carrot Cake - Passion Fruit Cream, Candied Walnuts and Coconut Cream Cheese Ice Cream. Verdict: Nice. There were actual carrot shavings in the cake.
When the dessert dishes were cleared and we were sipping on the last of our wine, the waiter brought out a plate of petit fours, on the house again! We didn't care for the jelly-like middle one. But the other two were good. One was a minature mocha macaron that to us, was shaped like a little hamburger.
And then, we were done. Very full and very happy. I'm not going to lie -- it was expensive. But worth every penny. Looking around, we saw many other guests who were ordering off the regular menu, drinking cocktails AND whole bottles of wine. Despite us ordering from the DineLA menu, we were treated with the same great service.
The service was impeccable. IMPECCABLE. All the wait staff was attentive without being overbearing. The waiter asked us if it was our first time there and then why it took so long for us to try the restaurant. I half exclaimed, "because it's expensive!" I quickly added, "for us" in case he thought it wasn't. He smiled and didn't seem put off at all by my explanation. Early on, right after our cocktail orders, Sergio got up to head to the facilities and two waitstaff people pointed him in the right direction without having to be asked. While he was gone, the waiter popped in to confirm it was Sergio's birthday, the spelling of his name and double-checked to make sure it was ok to put happy 39th on the plate. The two taster dishes they gave us made the night just that much more special. I took pictures all night of EVERY dish and they didn't care. When I got up to visit the facilities, every staff person who happened to be crossing my path stopped and waited for me to pass, smiled and said excuse me, before they continued. And they said thank you and good night when we left.
After dinner, we strolled back up to our street parking spot in front of the Water Court on Bunker Hill. Tom Tom gave us a wrong turn for some reason. I didn't realize we were three long blocks from the restaurant until we had parked, put four dollars in the meter and called the restaurant. It ended up working out perfectly though. On the way back, we took a detour through the Biltmore hotel and admired the architecture inside. The moon is currently waning but still big and bright. So we hung out at the Water Court a bit and checked out the fountains before heading home.
So. Malibu Seafood is definitely more our speed in terms of price. But this? This was wondeful. During dinner, Sergio asked, "If we were rich, would you want to come here all the time?"
Um. Yes, please.