Water Grill Orange County – A Fresh New Seafood Experience in the Heart of Urban OC
Orange County definitely has its share of great seafood restaurants; people flock to the Southern California coastline year round to enjoy a wide array of grilled fish, crustacean, sushi and every other delicacy you can imagine. But great seafood in Orange County isn’t just found beachside.
As the holiday season is upon us, I decided a perfect thing to do to get in the holiday spirit was to see a performance at Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ stunning complex before treating myself to a nice dinner. After the incredible show, I strolled the streets of Costa Mesa, enjoying the lights and bustling holiday atmosphere, and happened upon the brand-new Water Grill, right across the street from South Coast Plaza on Bristol Street. The cosmopolitan center of the city is here, just off the main thoroughfare of the 405 freeway connecting Orange County to Los Angeles.
Water Grill’s layout is truly spectacular. There’s an oyster bar and also a huge copper-topped cocktail bar, and the main dining room is separated from the kitchen by an expansive glass wall so you can watch your fresh seafood being prepared right before service. While I loved the ability to watch the live action, I decided to dine on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, an ample space with a bar and two fireplaces for cooler nights.
I’m naturally curious & cautious about the source of the seafood I consume and after a short conversation with my server, I was assured of Water Grill’s commitment to seafood sustainability and use of their family-owned seafood distribution company. I started with an array of raw oysters as an appetizer, and feasted on fresh Kumamoto oysters from Washington and Stingrays from Chesapeake Bay (a personal favorite), loaded with fresh horseradish and tangy mignonette. I could have been happy simply eating those oysters but I wanted to get more of a taste of what they had to offer. I sipped on a Beauregarde cocktail, recommended by my server. It’s a vodka cocktail with lemon, muddled blueberries and a touch of lemongrass. It was delicious and a nice complement to my oysters. I also sampled the PEI mussels garbanzo appetizer and almost embarrassed myself sopping up every drop of the broth with the crusty French baguette it came with.
I thought it might be hard to keep eating after two appetizers, but my mouth started watering again when perusing the entrees. I decided to get the wild Chilean sea bass. It was a revelation, bathed in a brown butter sauce with a side of pureéd cauliflower and sprinkled with hazelnuts. The fish was moist, tender, and the side of lemon chutney added a great dash of acidic tanginess to the dish.
I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Water Grill, not only for the food, but the great ambiance and service.
I lingered on the lively patio, enjoyed the city view, and ultimately realize I had room for a small dessert. My server recommended the caramel bread pudding sprinkled with Alaea red sea salt. Caramel with sea salt is one of my favorite dessert combinations. The bread pudding melted was perfectly warm and sweet and paired nicely with their homemade sea salt ice cream.
I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Water Grill, not only for the food but the great ambiance and service as well. It’s a great addition to the Orange County food scene, and the perfect stop for visitors enjoying shopping, theater and the walkability of the bustling urban center of OC.