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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

            1. I enjoyed the rich lamb, poor lamb quite a bit--slices of garlicky lamb loin paired with a very tasty shepherd's pie (a bit thick on the potato crust). Lots of interesting sounding items on the menu, nice beer list and good service even with the crowds.

              1. just went last Friday and am so glad another gastropub/restaurant bar has opened up on the Westside! Food was good, some standout dishes, one that I didn't care for. Service was excellant.

                Longer review and photos here: http://stuffycheaks.blogspot.com/2010...

                I thought it was a refined yet casual Westside bar offering an accomplished menu, good alcohol offering and exceptional service. The place was lively and bustling, and pretty crowded with every table filled on a Friday night. They have a bar overlooking the open kitchen and an outside patio which is perfect for a nice warm day. There is a nice selection of starters, salads, charcuterie and cheese plates, pastas, pizzas, entrees and sides on their menu. W&C also offers a good sized wine and beer menu. There are about 60 bottles of wine, about 12 by the glass, 10 beers on tap and over 20 on bottle. Wine by the glass was reasonably priced at about $7.

                1) Bread basket: Delicious and freshly baked. There was a warm garlic bread that wasn't too garlicky, and a 7-grain bread with sunflower and poppy seeds.

                2) Chicken liver and foie gras mousse was rich, velvety and absolutely decadent. The mousse was paired well with a sweet potato jam.

                3) Pig trotters, sweetbreads and salsa verde.
                Not what I expected. I was hoping for a piece of sweetbread and perhaps trotters that was breaded or braised. This tasted like regular head cheese and I couldn't really taste the sweetbreads. Perhaps I was expecting more distinct offal flavors.

                4) Manchester Quail and chopped liver on toast
                By far the best dish of the night. The liver was rich, the quail was seasoned well and cooked perfectly. The liver toast sat on a flavorful, creamy sauce made with tarragon, onions and balsamic. The plate was topped with a fried quail egg.

                5) Slow roasted Pork belly with tonnato sauce
                I was expecting a thick, fatty piece of pork belly but instead this was more of a carpaccio. Unfortunately the pork belly was drowned in the tonnato sauce which I didn't care for. The sauce was a bit too fishy.

                6) Murgh Makhni Pizza with Greek yogurt and cucumber
                $12 for this large pizza and we even had a couple slices left over. The pieces of chicken were tender and the makhni flavors were delicious. Really enjoyed this spin on a pizza.

                Waterloo & City is casual enough but yet service was like what you would expect from a fine dining establishment. It was friendly and attentive. Our waitress was knowledgeable and knew the ingredients that weren't listed on the menu. Prices were reasonable for the quality of ingredients and execution of the dishes.

                1. Thanks for the review. We live within walking distance and have been watching the going ons. We were planning to hit it soon after the initial shake out of opening jitters.

                  1. Went May 18. No reservation, no problem. Parking lot full, good sign.Great service.
                    Food amazing. Love that they kept the old skool sign from the Crest House but I don't like the typeface.

                    We had the:
                    manchester quail, chopped liver on toast (wowsa seriously this was amazing)
                    arugula, grilled figs, coppa, fried shallot salad
                    braised beef short ribs, stilton, arugula, malt vinegar pizza (heavy but dreamy)

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

                    1. We got a seat at the bar around 6:15. It was pretty packed when we left.
                      There is also a dining room and a few communal tables.
                      Great beer and wine selection. Had the pate/mousse which was delicious. Nice fresh baked bread basket brought promptly. Shared the caesar salad and a parpardelle with chicken meatballs and livers. Rich and very yummy. Available in 1/2 portion though the full sized is pretty small and enough for 1. Hot Choc Pudding with carmelized bananas was decadent and my husband might just get lucky for ordering it! Very friendly and efficient service. Be forewarned that the menu is a work in progress. It's a real bonus to our neighborhood and can't wait to go back. Great job for only 1 week out the gate.