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DineLA 2009: Water Grill

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The Water Grill in Downtown LA has a reputation for being a world-class seafood restaurant with accompanying prices to prove it. Since our budget runs more along the Red Lobster line, we jumped at the chance for the $44 DineLA* opportunity for a three-course Water Grill dinner. It’s practically a bargain, right?

Umm. Not really. While the wine menu offered a great selection of wines -- except the least expensive bottle was $40. So we opted for the bargain wines and specialty cocktails by the glass -- and limited ourselves to one each.

The service and decor were exactly what you’d expect from a swanky downtown restaurant that caters to business people on expense accounts, and so we were looking forward to the meal. It started off great when the waiters came around with tongs offering us a selection of olive, ciabbata or French bread. Fancy. (Much fancier than the cheddar cheese biscuits by the basket at Red Lobster -- although those are so so so tasty, too.)

Then it came to choosing our meals. This writer opted for the white chowder (normally $14 a bowl!), the California Pacific Ridgeback Swordfish and the blueberry mascarpone cake while two other dining partners opted for the other two appetizer choices, the sturgeon entree (who wants salmon at a restaurant like this?) and then red velvet pudding with mascarpone ice cream and sorbet sampler.

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When the apps came out, the house cured salmon and the cucumber rolled spicy tuna were so much better than the chowder. Maybe this poster -- who was born in Boston -- is used to thick “chowdah” from Legal Sea Food with plenty of clams without the shells and hearty, cubed potatoes. But what we got was the California version: More soup than chowder, thinly sliced potatoes; and a few clams in their shells. It was seasoned fine, but our biggest turnoff was the temperature. It was served lukewarm.

The temperature of the entrees didn’t fare much better. Both the sturgeon and the swordfish were warm, though the sturgeon was also slightly overcooked. In the battle of the dinner entrees, the swordfish came out on top, with flavors complemented perfectly by the polenta and tomato-based sauce.

As for the dessert, the red velvet pudding, which was more cake then pudding, was the hands-down winner. It was served warm and very moist. The blueberry mascarpone cake turned out to be more of a blueberry cornbread, and the sorbet sampler was just sorbet. Fine, but not great. And that pretty sums up our DineLA dinner at Water Grill. It was fine, but not great.

We know that Water Grill’s not Red Lobster, and you get what you pay for, but when we got the bill that came to nearly $70 per person (including one drink and tip), we’re not sure that the meal was worth that price.

Water Grill
544 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

*DineLA week menus have been extended through the end of February.

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