Review of WaterMarc in Laguna Beach
Watermarc is more than a Modern American restaurant, it is a Culinary Art Studio
Perhaps one of the better meals I have enjoyed in Laguna Beach in quite some time. Watermarc’s presentation was artwork and the taste was equally impressive.
I recently visited Watermarc on a double date with my wife and another couple. Part of my goal that evening was to review Watermarc; my second goal of my night was to do a review of my friend’s new beau. More on this relationship intrigue later in the post. At first blush, Watermarc’s menu sounds run of the mill, with the ubiquitous short rib, chicken, steak, fish of the day. I admit that I went into Watermarc with a bad attitude and full of preconceived notions. By the time I left Watermarc, I was very giddy with excitement by the food and service.
Watermarc is owned by Chef and Owner Marc Cohen, who is known for his other restaurants Opah and 230 Forest. Watermarc is located at located in the heart of Laguna, just next door to Nick’s and Tommy Bahama. The food is modern American, although Chef Cohen brings a strong flare of artistry into his food, by turning each dish into a piece of culinary art.
What we ordered at Watermarc
Fried Goat Cheese
I have eaten fried goat cheese way too many times because my wife is obsessed with this dish. Although I grudgingly agreed to the goat cheese balls, I was pleasantly surprised by the preparation. The standard fried goat cheese dish is a baseball sized portion of crusted and fried goat cheese. Watermarc’s preparation is artful and served bite sized portion with minced apples and honey.
Each spoonful should be consumed in one glorious bite. The texture is crispy on the tongue and then oozes with warm and creamy goat cheese. The apples and honey keep the dish light and playful. ($9)
I don’t say this lightly, but this is one of the better paella preparations that I have tasted and seen. The paella is FULLY loaded with high-end seafood and flavor. Watermarc’s paella is most similar to Paella Alicantina, a Spanish coastal Paella loaded with shellfish. Watermarc’s paella is made with half a Main lobster, shrimp, New Zealand green mussels, calamari (rings and tentacles), and a Portugese sausage called Linguica. The rice is extremely flavorful and speckled with fresh peas.
The only things that could be considered an issue by some paella aficionados is that that there is more seafood than rice, a “no no” among Paella purists. The paella also does not have a “soccorat”, the sticky crusty rice on the bottom on the pan. With this said, I would tell the paella purist and wannabees to shove it. I think Watermarc’s preparation is a perfect adaption, soccorat or not. This dish is a must try if you remotely like paella or lobster.($34)
Chicken “Cordon Bleu”
The name “cordon bleu” is in name only and with that said, this dish is a delicious reinvention of the original. The similarity to “vordon bleu” is the usage of chicken, ham, cheese, although the comparison to the classic dish ends there. The dish uses half of a Jidori free range chicken. The drum and thigh are prepared in a crispy confit and the breast appears to be pan seared in a very buttery pan. The result is pure magic. The brie and the smoked ham slices are served in compliment to the chicken. The “cordon bleu” is served atop shaved asparagus and topped with a rich Mornay sauce. The result was a complicated layering of flavors and textures, tied in a bow with an equally beautiful platting. ($24)
Blackened “1855” New York Strip Steak
This dish was highly recommended by our waiter, Kevin. When I asked him which item on the menu he would eat as his “death row” meal, he insisted that we go with the blackened 1855 New York Strip. My tablemate ordered the strip steak and he said that it was cooked a perfect medium-rare, juicy, and flavorful. I took a peek and it was an impressive steak that was choc full of juices. Judging by his O faces, I really think he liked it. The steak is topped with bacon-gorgonzola butter and served with a pototato pancake. ($30)
Ordering dessert was high drama at our table. My wife insisted on the bread pudding and our waiter seconded her preferences. Although I saw an item on the menu called the “The Lunch Box” and my imagination was set afire by visions of receiving dessert in an 80’s style metal lunch box. My wife remained stubborn on her bread pudding choice and I was about to order my own dessert, when our friends new boyfriend, ordered the Lunch Box. Obviously he is a man of good tastes; I liked him already.
The Lunch Box
The lunch box is a throwback to childhood memories of bringing a GI Joe aluminum lunch box to school and getting excited when your mom left a surprise dessert in your box. The dish includes three house made ding dongs and with a carton of milk. The ding dongs are a very upscale version from the ones you at as a kid, with almost a ganache shell over cream filled chocolate cake. This ding dong is uber better than anything Hostess ever made. For nostalgia reasons, this is a must order dessert.
I could not help myself from starring longfully at my tablemate’s Ding Dong. He took pity on me and gave me half of his last ding dong, just like a soldier sharing his last bullet with a comrade from same hometown. After this gesture I gave my friend the thumbs up, this guy is a keeper.
The White Chocolate Macadamia Bread Pudding
The white chocolate macadamia bread pudding was delicious and well plated, as expected. The bread pudding looks like it, and tasted like, it is made with croissant and mixed with softened macadamia nuts and white chocolate. The bread pudding was topped with Kahlua Anglaise ( a dessert topping made of custard crème). On the other side of the plate rested a pineapple ice cream, topped with a oven dried pineapple ring. This was a ridiculously delicious dessert and pretty to look at.
The X-factor that can make or break a restaurant is their service. Our Waiter, Kevin, made a good dinner experience into a fantastic experience by providing professional, yet very friendly service. Kevin, knew every dish and their ingredients, like he was going to the kitchen to prepare it himself. He was able to help us pick the perfect bottle of wine for our taste and price point. I don’t want to get this review getting to Kevin’s head, but he was a rock star. Request his section if you can.
My Final Thoughts about Watermarc
Sometimes the best restaurants are the ones that completely surprise you with the quality of their food and service, Watermarc did just that for me. Each of the dishes at our table was prepared artfully, both in terms of flavor and presentation. Service was impeccable and was the cherry on top for a great evening. Tom’s Foodie Blog recommends Watermarc.
448 S. Coast Highway Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Note: Some of my fans complain that I mostly only to positive reviews, the fact is that I generally do not write about mediocre restaurant experience. In fact, I only write about places which I really liked, even if it was a media event invite. If I think the food is just “good”, I will leave it to the Yelpers to write about it. The exception to this rule is Bad Reviews, I leave these for restaurants that piss me off with bad food, bad value or treat their customers poorly. Your restaurant does not want to be on this short, but sad, list.