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The Wonderful Water Grill
A couple of months ago we hinted that we wanted to dine at dowtown's Water Grill, perhaps in a celebratory capacity. Well, our wish was indeed granted, and we made our first visit to what many herald is a top spot for seafood in the city. Because we were coming off a sugar high most likely induced from one too many slices of "Happy Graduation (insert name here)!" cake consumed in those days, we didn't get to lapse into the food coma we so treasure after a meal in such a place. So we did what any smart food fan might do: We went back.
This time, though, we let the pros decide. That is, we opted to go with the tasting menu, which put us in the capable hands of the kitchen, guided by Executive Chef David LeFevre. Our dining experience at Water Grill actually began days earlier, when we made our reservations via the phone; each time we've called the restaurant we were absolutely thrilled with the congeniality and efficiency of the reservation staff. The restaurant also does a confirmation callback, which is a lovely added touch. The welcoming vibe extends from there, and in fact, deepens--each encounter with a staff member, from host to captain to server to sommelier is affirmation that service is a key component of any fine dining experience. No hovering stiffs, mind you, just attentive and friendly folks who take care of their customers, which shouldn't, but just might well be a lost art these days.
After clinking our flutes of champagne cocktails our meal began. A tasty starting plate appeared; it was a lobster "ravioli" wherein the lobster was encased in a crisp daikon radish pocket, a la ravioli (pictured, left). Next came a moist and tender wedge of sea trout topped with carmelized garlic; if we may be so cliche, it did melt in our mouth (pictured, center). This was followed by what was the most inventive and adventurous of the dishes, composed of lobster and leeks wrapped in squid ink pasta and topped with a red wine foam and accompanied by grilled fennel bulb. The main course dishes broke from the seafood category, and consisted of a duck breast atop nutty quinoa grains (the duck just a little tough for us, but tasty nonetheless) and sliced steak on sweet potato puree (the steak perfectly cooked and very rich). Two desserts followed, first a mango and kiwidish, then, when we feared we might not be able to take another bite (but, oh, we did!), a warm chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream and drizzles of cinnamon sauce and crème fraîche (pictured, right). Desserts are an absolute must to muster the stamina to try at the Water Grill. Their homemade sorbets and ice creams are stunning, as are their small cakes and pastries. The meal, seven courses in all, was composed of just the right melange of flavors, colors, and textures, as well as manageable portions that didn't overwhelm. The pacing was perfect, as was the pairing of wine we requested to see us through the second half of the courses.
In our case, it was the second time that was really the charm for the Water Grill, but that's not to say the first wasn't a delight, nor do we expect any less from the third, fourth, fifth...well, you get the idea. We think the Water Grill is wonderful, not simply for seafood, but for the whole package, particularly the service and ambiance. The tasting menu is $95, and varies in content. Course-by-course wine pairings are available for an additional $55 per person; because we'd be fools to try to navigate the grid of one way streets downtown after that much wine, we did just fine with a starter cocktail and a single glass during the meal.
544 South Grand Avenue
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