In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, you’ll discover one of the best seafood restaurants in California. For over 20 years, Water Grill Los Angeles has impressed fish lovers from all over. Acknowledged as “the best seafood in Southern California” by the internationally recognized Zagat Guide, Water Grill has consistently offered dazzling fish preparations of superior quality and freshness.
The kitchen is run by Justin Albertson, under the guidance of executive chef Damon Gordon, who also oversees the Water Grill Santa Monica location. Over the years, other prominent chefs such as Michael Cimarusti (Providence) and David LeFevre (M.B. Post, Fishing With Dynamite) have supervised the kitchen as well.
Water Grill has long dominated the Los Angeles restaurant scene. From the moment it opened, this leading downtown restaurant from King’s Seafood Company has satisfied the need for a world-class fish eatery in the City of Angels. But this is not just any seafood place; the upscale menu and décor have transitioned to a more fun, democratic approach. The room is pretty spacious and the central bar now sports ten beer taps and flat-screen TVs, while the comfortable booths offer more privacy. There is an awesome market-style raw bar on display, and you can choose from more than a dozen oyster varieties or indulge in one of the iced shellfish platters.
This was my second time at the Water Grill on West Grand Ave and I have to say I was wildly impressed all over again! This is the type of restaurant that will continue to surprise and not let down.
Water Grill Location(s) & Reservation Info
Water Grill is proud to have 3 different branches in California, located in Santa Monica, San Diego, and downtown Los Angeles. From what I understand they are all more or less the same, but I have to say that the one in downtown Los Angeles is my favorite.
You can make a reservation online or by phone. Walk-ins are always welcome. However, reservations are recommended due to the popularity of the restaurant. They are open Monday- Thursday from 11:30 AM-10:00 PM, Friday 11:30 AM-11 PM, Saturday 5-11 PM and Sunday 4-10 PM.
Downtown LA is the prime location for the restaurant. It’s surrounded by hundreds of tourist attractions like parks, theaters, and all kinds of shopping. Downtown Los Angeles is a busy city of towering buildings, bustling streets, and industrial warehouses. Many call the evolution of downtown over recent years “gentrification”. New lofts, bars, hotels and restaurants are popping up every day. Downtown leads the LA foodie scene and is home to some of the very best restaurants in the city, plus it is the location of cultural and sports venues including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Staples Center, and the Coliseum at the University of Southern California.
Being that the city is as popular as it is, when it comes to parking I would say go with the valet. It’s $5 and makes your life just a bit easier. If you choose to attempt to find parking yourself, I suggest going at least 35 minutes in advance because traffic and trying to find parking together can be time consuming.
This restaurant may be hard to find, just know it’s on your left hand side of Grand Ave and stop in front of the valet parking.
Gotta Love The Chef: Damon Gordon
Damon Gordon is the current executive chef at Water Grill Los Angeles. An Englishman with a background in French, Italian, and Japanese cuisine, Damon Gordon has established himself as one of the great culinary talents on both sides of the Atlantic.
He served as head chef and opened Asia de Cuba, Seabar, and STM restaurants at the Saint Martin’s Lane hotel, where the cuisine ranged from Japanese seafood to French brasserie. He was also chef at London’s Quo Vadis and the Waterside Inn in Berkshire, and worked twice with acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse.
Chef Damon Gordon came to the United States and expanded his establishments with his own Quarter Kitchen at the Ivy Hotel in San Diego. The restaurant earned an “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator and several more honors in San Diego magazine’s “Best Restaurants 2008.” He also worked at Ono at the Hotel Gansevoort and at Mix, both in New York; Blue Door in Miami; and the Delano Hotel in Miami Beach. In addition, he served as executive chef at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., which gained membership into Relais et Chateaux within six months of opening.
Gordon is now executive chef of the Water Grill in Los Angeles, and he has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today, ABC News, and others.
Taking a Look Around
I have been to Water Grill LA twice and each time the atmosphere felt very different. When it was earlier in the day, it was quieter, felt more roomy, and close to home. When I went at night, I still had a great time but I felt that it was a bit noisier due to the sport games playing in the background at the bar.
The decor has a lot of gray, neutral and blue colors. Circular lights hanging from the ceiling resemble the steering wheel at the helm of a ship. There are lots of wine bottle displays giving the restaurant a classier look.
When it comes to seating there are several options. In the middle of the room you’ll find a few tables surrounded by retro looking cushioned chairs. In the corner of the room there are little booths with couches to sit on for a more intimate feeling. There are also seats at the bar close to the counter where you can watch whatever spots game is going on.
Both times that I ate at Water Grill the same person served me. Our server’s name was Flavvio! He gave us lots of recommendations without pressuring us. He was able to give us attention when we needed it and was overall just so pleasant to speak with. I honestly think being a good server is like art and not easily mastered so I’m definitely impressed. I also noticed that whoever was managing the place knew exactly how to run a fast and high-class restaurant. The manager circled his way around the room making sure everyone had everything that they needed and more.
Ordering from the Extensive Water Grill Menu
The menu has the most diverse options of seafood I’ve ever seen. Each dish looks and tastes better than the next. Each time that I’ve been there I tried different things and I have to say I was not expecting to like everything as much as I did. Below you’ll find some of the top Water Grill specialties:
Wild Tahitian Bigeye Tuna Poke – chile paste, sesame seeds, orange and wontons
Atlantic Cod Fish Tacos – beer battered
Uni Toast – toasted brioche
Farmed Penn Cove Mussels Garbanzo – pancetta, harissa, parsley & lemon, with crispy french baguette
Willapa Bay Manila Clams with Chorizo – steamed in saffron broth with crispy french baguett
Raw Crudos Appetizers
Wild Eastern Sea Scallops – togarashi rub, japanese mustard aioli, pickled vegetable, golden raisins
Wild Tahitian Bigeye Tuna- red beet jam, horseradish cream, mizuna, red beet chips, olive oil
Wild Skeena River White King Salmon – pink grapefruit togarashi jelly, sour cream, granny smith apples, olive oil
Crudo Sampler – wild tahitian bigeye tuna, eastern sea scallops, wild skeena river white king salmon
Wild Spanish Octopus – charcoal grilled with tomato, feta and olives
Salad & Sandwichs
Heirloom Tomato Salad – avocado, watercress and blue poppy seed dressing
Bitter Greens Caesar – salt cured anchovies and garlic vinaigrette
Mixed Organic Greens – golden balsamic vinaigrette
Wedge Salad – bacon and blue goat cheese
Roasted Beets with Organic Apples – grilled gala apples and shaved manchego cheese
Wild Skeena River White King Salmon – pan roasted with English peas, heirloom tomatoes and lemon nage
Wild Crisfield, Maryland Jumbo Soft-shell Blue Crab – pan sautéed with brown butter, ginger, cucumber and watermelon salad
Wild Alaskan Halibut – pan seared with succotash
Wild George’s Bank Atlantic Cod Fish & Chips – from the gloucester auction
Wild Morrow Bay Black Cod “Miso” (Sablefish) – szechuan glazed yams, pork belly, red miso sauce
Wild Tahitian Bigeye Tuna – served raw with candied lemon, tomato concasse, fennel salad, and spicy oil
Wild Costa Rican Mahi Mahi Caponata – pan seared with sherry gastrique and Maldon salt
Live Wild North American Hard Shell Lobster – steamed with homemade coleslaw and drawn butter
Wild Alaskan Red King Crab Legs – steamed with homemade coleslaw and drawn butter
* Farmed Evropean Seabass Lovp De Mer
* New Zealand Pink Brean
* Brittany Dover Sole
* Farmed Greek Black Brean
Braised Kale with Greek Yogurt and Hazelnuts
Fire Roasted Mexican Street Corn
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
Mac & Cheese
Grilled Broccolini with Chinese Sausage
Crispy Polenta with Melted Fontina
Caramel Bread Pudding – with alaea red sea salt
Orange Blossom Cake – with honey milk sorbet, rose water syrup, fresh raspberries and watermelon
Maple Cheesecake – sour cream ice cream
Banana Chocolate Sundae – with chocolate covered corn flakes
Key Lime Pie – with milk sorbet and pomegranate seeds
Rice Pudding – with cherry griottines, cocoa nibs, grated dark chocolate
Daily Homemade Ice Creams and Sorbets
Strawberry Sable Cake – local strawberries with lemon curd
Pot De Crème – chocolate creme, chocolate sorbet, chocolate biscotti, house made whipped creme and cocoa nibs
The Food Overview
My appetizer – I knew I wanted to try something different, so I chose the octopus and I found it to be fantastic! Sometime octopus can be rubbery but it wasn’t like that here. I didn’t care too much for the flavor profile as it was lacking a little more spice in my opinion., but for $16, I definitely got a little more than I expected. The dish really let the whole “seafood” idea speak for itself.
I also made sure to get the Wild Tahitian Bigeye Tuna, as I’ve heard so many amazing things from the reviews of this dish I needed to taste it myself. It 100% lived up to all the hype. Definitely recommend this!
Salad- when it comes to salads I’m pretty picky. I decided to go with the Caesar salad. I usually think that every Caesar salad tastes the same (can’t go wrong with it, can’t make it that amazing either), but the one here is pretty amazing. It’s not too creamy ( it has the right amount of dressing) and I think they have sea salt sprinkled in it, because there is a nice salt aftertaste which makes it perfect.
Entrée – This was a no brainer. I went with the Wild Alaskan Halibut. It was served roasted and was plated with Mexican corn, sliced jalapeno and cotija cheese. The entree was fresh and heavenly and by far the most tender fish I ever tasted.
Desserts – I think that dessert was my favorite part of the whole meal.
3 words. Strawberry. Sable. Cake!! You have to order this! This dish was by far one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten. The cake was soft and flaky and went great with the fresh organic strawberries and lemon curd.
Wrapping it Up
Water Grill has become my favorite lunch place in the entire Los Angeles area. The location is great, the service is amazing, and the food is fresh and top quality. It seems that the restaurant has brought seafood to a whole new level, leaving its competitors far behind.
I love the way that the restaurant makes me feel while I’m dining. It’s important to feel that money has been spent well and that you’ve gotten everything you wanted. A great restaurant should consist of good service, great food, reasonable prices, and a peaceful atmosphere. I strongly feel that Water Grill has all of those components wrapped up into one great seafood place. I can’t wait to come back next week and experience this all over again.
For seafood with an Asian-fusion twist, check out Wokcano Asian Restaurant & Lounge!