History: The Water Grill downtown has been in operation since 1989, and last year underwent a facelift to make it more appealing to younger diners. Ocean Avenue Seafood on Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica was owned by the same folks, and had been around even longer -- 27 years. But in recent years it had seemed out of date, and business wasn't great. So owner Sam King decided to bring his more successful business to the water, and replace Ocean Avenue Seafood with a second location of Water Grill.
Food: The menu at the new location is almost identical to downtown, and in fact both menus are overseen by Damon Gordon (with chef Tom Rummel running the day-to-day kitchen operation in Santa Monica). Both classic and modern seafood dishes are offered. The real draw is the quality of fish and shellfish, which is best displayed in the restaurant's fantastic iced seafood platters. Dishes from the kitchen can be a little under or over-seasoned, and there are some cooking issues, but even so the quality shines through.
Drinks: Pretty great on all fronts: Well-crafted classic-leaning cocktails; a wide-ranging wine list with plenty for adventurous palates as well as safer picks; and a good selection of craft beers as well as standards.
Space and Service: Apart from that raw bar, these two things are the great strengths of the new Water Grill. There aren't many places to sit and eat and look at the water, and fewer where the food is fantastic. This view can't be beat, and the vintage ship-themed interior is pretty stunning as well. Service is ultra professional and polished, especially impressive in a restaurant as big and busy as this one.
Takeaway: 3 stars (very good). Despite some kitchen slip-ups, this new location of Water Grill is still quite the treat. And thank goodness we now have something decent to feed the tourists in this part of town.
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