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Jan 18, 2014 02:37 AM

Water Grill vs The Lobster, Santa Monica

During the last 6 months I have had the (qualified) pleasure of comparing the raw bar offerings of these two bastions of seafood. No contest - The Lobster wins fins down.
At the Water Grill $75 bought the Deluxe Platter: 3 x 3 native oysters, 4 scallops, 4 clams, 10 black mussels, 12 Mexican shrimp, 1/2 crab and 1/2 lobster. At The Lobster $62 furnished 6 oysters, 4 huge Mexican shrimp, 6 green-lip mussels,1/2 crab and half of a 1 1/2 lb lobster.
OK, the $13 difference may seem to more than cover the addition of the scallops, clams, and 6 shrimp at the Grill (the mussels don't count since the huge green-lip more than match the little black fellas), but value for money doesn't compensate for lack of freshness and flavour.
Everything at The Lobster was top quality - the oysters briny, the shrimps meaty, and the crab and lobster chewy and very flavourful. In contrast, the seafood at The Water Grill was a HUGE disappointment, particularly the two crustaceans, which were, frankly, inedible. That they had been frozen and badly thawed was obvious - they oozed water and the flesh was mushy. After trying to salvage something from the crab, we gave up totally on the lobster.
To our discredit, we did not complain. My husband was so disgusted that a restaurant built on its seafood would serve something so obviously wrong, that we simply paid and walked out. I am amazed that it has managed to keep its reputation, despite now being part of a chain. The Lobster has nothing to fear from the SM newcomer.

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  1. thank you so much for this post.
    both of those restaurants are participating in restaurant week.
    although i wouldn't be ordering the dish you ordered, your write-up determined the one at which i'll be eating/

    1. I think your experience was uncommon. We had a plateau there last week and it was excellent. Been several times since they've opened and have been pleased every time.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JudiAU

        Yeah. I've been to Water Grill about 100 times, almost all downtown. It's certainly not as bad as the OP suggests. Moreover, it seems to me that the more you cook crustaceans, the "meatier" they will be. Very fresh, raw crustaceans are mushy, watery, and translucent.

      2. Absolutely agree - Water Grill is horrible - the seafood platter was inedible - don't bother

        3 Replies
          1. re: lizziee

            I'm with the Water Grill nay-sayers.
            Downtown is fine; SM is NOT. It is generic and disappointing, much the same as Ocean Seafood.

            1. re: VenusCafe

              It is very amusing to find myself siding with the Lobster in this duel to the bottom (of the sea), but in comparison to the SaMo Water Grill even the Lobster comes out swimmingly.

              Caveat - I only went once about 2 months ago, so improvement in SaMo WG may have occurred.

          2. Ever since they changed the menu and space, The Water Grill has gone seriously down hill. What was once one of the best places for seafood with exceptional service is now a shadow of itself. I'm not sure why they still call it Water Grill anymore

            1. Tried The Lobster today for lunch. Like my scallops in faro, braised pork belly with cauliflower very much. This is good cooking. My friend had a lobster salad - which he was enthusiastic over.

              The octopus appetizer didn't click with me. I thought it had a hint of "fishiness" - my friend didn't. (he liked it more than i did). Perhaps I'm spoiled by Mozza's, Angelinis and Vincenti's octopus.

              4 Replies
                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                  If you want to be spoiled, try the octopus and calamari preps at Bestia. They are tender but also have another dimension of flavor due to grilling or cooking a la plancha. The octopus and calamari appetizer and the seafood risotto really show them off well.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Superba Snack Bar has a great pastrami seasoned grilled octopus dish.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Bestia has excellent octopus. I forgot to add them. Thanks for the reminder.

                      Is it grilled on a "plancha" - as in a large steel griddle, or on a "char-broiler"? i don't remember.