The Water Grill in Santa Monica
The menu looked good in every way - the graphics, the font, and the food itself looked very inviting.
The New England Clam chowder. Not the worse, but nothing I would consider having again. When it's good, I can crave it, and it just wasn't good enough to be good. It just didn't come together. Felt more deconstructed in the sense I was tasting the parts, but not the whole. Cream was like cream with a little clam flavor. And the clams had a kind of (forgive me) "fishy" taste. The stuff you get at Pavillions was better. This had clams in the shells - which is a good idea, which should've been great - but some of the clams tasted a little off. Like I said - fishy (vs ocean taste). A little bite of ham here and there (or was in pancetta?). For half the price the stuff at the fast food Seasalt Grill up the street was better, (though less elegant). New England Clam Chowder isn't healthy stuff - fat and carbs - but I love it. And if I'm going to fall off the wagon and have something that to me is a decadent guilty pleasure - it better be worth it. And this wasn't. I just used up a valuable chowder chit. Damn!
Second round - the Spanish Octopus. Not a hit, but the highlight of the meal. There's just better octopus at Mozza Osteria, or Osteria Piccolo, or Vicenti. A decent tomato sauce with a strong hint of black olives. The octopus - which is advertised as charcoal-grilled - didn't taste at all grilled, let along charcoal. (which I think flatters octopus). This seemed more like it was braised (and in that regard - braised very well - very tender). This is the dish I came for. And it too is going to be a one-shot deal.
Last was the crudo sampler. Looked good on the plate, but the fish was mediocre to good (the remaining choices would be very good and excellent on the plus side, poor to awful on the other). And all three were bland. After the first I dusted the other two with some badly needed salt. But really? Bland. Buh-land! In this regard it was the worst crudo I've ever had. My reference standard would be Il Grano (always good, always very tasty). But you're fantasizing about all the ways they could improve it - anything, yuzu, salt, soy, olive oil, pomegranate reduction, something for god's sake! This was shameful. I mean, haven't they had crudo before? Like...in someone else's restaurant? Maybe it was an off-night (I felt my inner Gordon Ramsay wanting to scream at someone in the back "What the fuck were you thinking?! Did you taste this?! This tasted GOOD to you?!").
Place was hopping! Nice energy in there. No problems with the service.
I think after a stellar evening at Connie & Ted's (which had 3 chowders - all quite crave-able) - this was quite a let down.
Doubtful I will return.
Thanks for the warning Foodie. No excuse for bad seafood. I like Connie and Teds too. But the traffic! I've discovered the Enterprise Fish Co. Has much improved for all things seafood. Can't beat there $1 oysters at happy hour. They were serving 2lb lobsters for$30 and I had about the best grilled salmon at lunch with sides for $15. Also, for the best clam chowder, try Taix on Fridays. A bottomless terrine.
Had dinner at Santa Monica Water Grill last night and it was actually very good. We started with their medium seafood tower, for entrees we had the Cod, wild salmon, sea bass and my son had the lobster roll & it had over 1/2 pounds of lobster in it. Ended the evening with their bread pudding. The restaurant was packed with good service. All in all a very nice meal.