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May 12, 2010 01:16 AM

Waterloo and City: Luscious First Night

We got back a little while ago from a satisfying and amazing dinner at Waterloo and City. Amazing because you don't expect near-perfection on the first public night at any restaurant. Amazing because the advance description of Waterloo and City as a "gastropub" does not begin to do justice to its high culinary level. (No, Dorothy, we are not in BJ's any more.) We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and made reservations for a return visit.

The restaurant is in a large former coffee shop that had stood empty for at least a decade, maybe two. From personal knowledge it had been a coffee shop for at least two decades before it closed. We have been watching and waiting for the rebirth of this restaurant from the moment we saw stirrings within and have been dropping by to ask about its opening as the expected date approached. That's how we got there tonight; we have no business or personal relationship with anyone at the restaurant and we paid full menu prices for every bite.

Waterloo and City is not about comfort food, though steak (for two), roast chicken (for two), pot roast, and salmon (well, arctic char) are on the menu. It took us awhile to study and select from the menu's two long pages of detailed description plus two recited pasta specials. Even with our server's willing assistance we were surprised by one entree, but the surprise was OK.

We did not want wine tonight but noted that the page-long wine list includes six or seven by-the-glass choices between $6 and $9. Forty-some microbrews were on the reverse side of the page.

An ample basket of three types of warm bread--crisp-edged dense white, seven-grain, and French baguette--arrived promptly after we ordered. The bread, prepared and baked daily in the restaurant, was indeed fresh and delicious.

We shared appetizer portions of a salad from the menu [$11] and a pasta special [$12]. The salad of English peas, fava beans, caramelized walnuts, and fresh mozzarella arrived in a small crock. It was altogether wonderful. A little mint augmented the semi-liquid mozzarella. The pasta, fresh, handmade orecchiette, was in a parmesan sauce with broccoli rabe and slivers of red bell pepper. It seemed a little lonely in the expanse of its bowl but tasted so good that we considered licking out the bowl.

Our entrees were arctic char [$24] and "local" halibut [$22]. (It turned out that the halibut was not local--that's unlikely off Marina del Rey--but was wild-caught from northern waters as one would expect.) My wife's arctic char, which was like salmon in appearance, texture, and flavor, was in a large bowl atop a bed of spring vegetables--peas, pearl onions, and artichoke chunks in a cream sauce with a light cheese flavor. A small crock contained more of the spring vegetables and its sauce. The sauce paired well with the salmon and did not overwhelm it.

My halibut likewise arrived in a large bowl, but I was surprised to find a large sausage nestling next to it! The sausage was about one inch in diameter and four inches long. Frankly, I had expected halibut to be where the sausage was. The entree description had included "merguez sausage"; its spicing revealed that was indeed what it was. Under the halibut and sausage were black lentils in a savory sauce. More of the lentils and sauce were in another small crock. Taken together, the small black lentils, sauce, and chubby sausage were like a grown-up version--or maybe a parody--of hot-dogs-and-beans. It all worked together, though it was not exactly what I thought I had ordered.

Service throughout the meal was exemplary. Water and coffee were refilled as if by reading our minds, flatware was replaced as appropriate, and our server brought extra flatware--without our even asking!--so that we could share things. Little details showed that even the busboys had been trained. Both the kitchen and the serving staff were speedy. Waterloo and City has many tables, so possibly things could slow down when it is full and everyone is busy (which wasn't the case on this first, unadvertised open night), but this is clearly a heads-up, first-class operation. I think they will be ready.

The "official" opening night is this Friday, May 14, 2010.

Waterloo and City
12517 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066

large free parking lot, no valet
location is a little west of Centinela Blvd.

Waterloo and City
12517 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066

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  1. Oh wow! I had no idea it was near opening. Maybe I will go there for dinner tonight instead of Cache. What other menu items did you notice? I was hoping for lighter fare tonight. That arctic char sounds good (without the cream sauce). Was the restaurant pretty full or empty? Are they serving wine yet?

    3 Replies
    1. re: bruinike

      The closest folks to us, two tables away, had two appetizers--an ahi tuna tartare appetizer that had something stuffed with the tartare and tempura-fried atop something else with a base of more ahi tuna tartare, and almost-deboned quail appetizer topped with a quail egg. (Almost-deboned means one large bone is left in the quail.) I didn't write down anything else from the menu before it was taken away, there were no copies available, and I didn't take photos. (Someone should, as all the food was beautifully presented and tends toward the vertical.) My recollection is that the menu has five or six items under each of these headings: appetizers, salads, cured meats and pat├ęs, pasta, pizza, mains. The pastas and mains can be had as half-sizes (small plates-appetizers) or as full plates. There were also the items for two that I mentioned. It is not an easy menu to summarize (or remember) because items are named by ingredient lists.

      What we had was not what I'd call heavy but I'm sure you could make a lighter (and somewhat less expensive) meal. The char was not swimming in cream sauce; it was more like sitting atop a loose vegetable layer with the vegetables having been sauced. A spoonful of the vegetable crock was mostly vegetables, likewise for the lentils.

      When we came in at 7 pm the restaurant was nearly empty--maybe four couples. When we left at 8:30 (we took our time) it was maybe 25 percent full. It's a big room. The parking lot was less than half full when we left. From the conversation at the table with the tuna, I think many who were there were friends and business associates of the owners, sprinkled with a few locals. We were told that on Monday only staff had been there, tasting their way through a good part of the menu.

      I'm quite sure that the full wine and microbrew list is available. I saw bottles being poured. (Corkage is $10--we asked.)

    2. Finally! Been waiting for this one to open. Bread basket and quail sounds great. Thanks for sharing!

      1. I'm assuming the 40-some microbrews were bottles? Or were they on tap?

        1 Reply
        1. re: mdpilam

          I think they have some tap and mostly bottles. Nothing is brewed there. I didn't explore that in detail because I'm not much of a beer drinker.

          1. We went to Waterloo and City Friday night. Did not realize it was the official opening night. I drive by it going to work everyday, needed a restaurant for dinner with friends, so asked my wife to make a reservation. There were a few bumps on their first busy night, but the manager stepped in right away when our mains were taking a while, and the food itself was really really good.

            Had the same halibut and sausage dish along with a side of chile broccoli. My friend had a mushroom pizza which while a bit heavy was also heavenly. Our wives ordered two different steaks - both awesome. Appetizers included scallops, shrimp, and fries - all good. Desserts including two chocolate things and two tarts were nice as well (forget exactly what they were - check the menu).

            Overall I was surprised at how good it was and cannot wait to go back since this is very close to my work.

            Waterloo and City
            12517 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066