Like most restaurants in Laguna Beach, Watermarc is classy, trendy, and tiny. I wondered upon entering the establishment if they would in fact be able to accommodate my party of eight. We had an 8:30 reservation on a Friday night, and when we walked in there appeared not to be one empty seat in the house. They in fact had two tables available for a party of our size and allowed us to choose. The first was in their even smaller upstairs loft area. Fitting maybe thirty seats total and next to the kitchen I was intrigued, but I had been given another option I just had to explore. We were led downstairs to Watermarc’s small outdoor patio. There on the patio sat one table set for eight. It was perfect. We still got the feel for the restaurant, were just outside the bar, but felt like a private party.
The long black table, decorated with black tablecloths, tea light candles, white napkins, and white chairs provided a perfectly simplistic backdrop to the many artful dishes in our future.
The heat lamps were blazing and creating a fireplace-on-a-snowy-day feel, which was comforting, but being a warm summer night in Laguna I requested they be turned off.
Our server arrived moments after we were seated to start drink orders. Our drinks were delivered promptly and poured heavily.
The first round of the evening went to the mini filet mignon pot pie. Tender chunks of filet mignon, mirepoix, and potatoes, dressed in a nicely executed demi glacé and wrapped in puff pastry. One bite and I was transported to my mother’s kitchen, watching her roll out the dough and mix everything into an old pie pan. Waiting for the little bit of left-over crust to be sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Chef Cohen of Watermarc has managed to transform a childhood staple into a magnificent specimen that melts in the mouth, leaving a craving only to be satisfied by more of his own creation.
The filet mignon pot pie managed to beat out it’s equally impressive contenders: foie gras brûlée served with brioche triangles balanced by a balsamic reduction and orange supreme, fried Laura Chenel goat cheese with honey and apples, seafood sausage in a white bean soup, and warm blue cheese pear tarts topped with burgundy-poached pear chunks.
Round Two goes to the seared ahi with braised bacon and fig gastrique. A dish easily found on many restaurant menus, but just as easily over cooked and lacking in…everything. This ahi was perfectly seared. It’s fig gastrique counterpart was equally as good, but what really set this dish apart was the thick cut of slab bacon, braised and balanced on two spears of white asparagus, daring you to cut into it, add it to your forkful of ahi and fig, and just wait for that combination of lovely flavors to dance on your tongue. Dance it did.
A very close second to the ahi was the filet mignon on brioche with mushroom confit. This was the dish I ordered, and after my first bite I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing. It was probably the simplest of the entrees ordered, but also the prettiest. Sitting pretty on a round of brioche, surrounded by button mushrooms and onions, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil, I ate this dish slowly, savoring each bite. These dishes were followed closely by: chicken saltimboca with sage butter and fontina, filet three ways (crab and béarnaise, mushroom and puff pastry, peppercorn and brandy), heirloom tomato soup with manchego grilled cheese, roasted Chilean sea bass with lentils and red wine butter, New York strip steak with horseradish gremolata, and the three sides of potato purée (black pepper and smoked bacon, sour cream and onion, broccolini and white cheddar).
There were no disappointing dishes served at Watermarc. Each dish artfully displayed and appropriately portioned. Thankfully dessert followed in this vein. Cookies and cream pots de creme with piping hot beignets served in a miniature fryer basket tied with the molten chocolate cake served with a miniature espresso chip shake. The smaller, and cute, desserts rounded out the evening on a great note.
Offering classy and sophisticated fare in a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere, Watermarc fits in well with the surrounding Laguna Beach. Chef Cohen does not fail to impress and has a lifelong fan. Me.
I have so much fun with this small group of friends. We have been through a lot together and I have a feeling we’re not finished. I am so glad to have these people in my life and even more proud to call them my friends.