Someone once said never look for a seafood restaurant far away from the coasts; you often will be disappointed. Until modern logistics and Water Grill comes along.
Water Grill is a restaurant chain that is family-owned and operated, and offers an elevated, seasonally-driven seafood experience. Located in Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood (LODO), this new restaurant opened in Feb 2022 and features “first-of-season” seafood and a large selection of finfish, shellfish, lobster, crab and oysters, all sourced directly from their own seafood distribution company King’s Seafood Distribution.
The saltwater tanks are visible from the dining room and feature seasonal items such as spiny lobster, dungeness crab, king crabs, and more. It reminded me of those seafood tanks in Hong Kong’s Leiyuemun.
A highlight of this restaurant is its live oyster bar, which stocks over fifteen different kinds of oysters every day, along with other specialties like red sea urchin.
The sourdough was fluffy and had a nice crust, but the butter needed an upgrade.
Deluxe Iced Shellfish Platter
I love chilled seafood towers! But few can do a proper seafood tower. In most cases, it consisted of some seafood that have been simply blanched of all the sweetness out of the crustaceans and shellfish. Luckily this one was not bad. The bottom layer included farmed Totten Inlet Mediterranean mussels; 1 1/4 LB North American hard shell lobster; wild dungeness crab from California; periwinkles; wild jumbo brown shrimp from Mexico.
The raw stuff included wild littleneck clams from Long Island, New York; farmed Peruvian Bay scallops with pistachio, citrus pesto; three types of freshly shucked oysters. The scallops had a wonderful clean taste and texture. The accoutrements on the scallop – pistachio, citrus & pesto – upped the taste ante of the scallop overall.
One trick for a good seafood tower was to provide more sashimi and raw stuff so that one can avoid overcooking the seafood. I have included a couple of additional ala carte orders – a luxurious stack of different eggs called Honeymoon Oyster, and Channel Islands red sea urchin.
freshly shucked oyster with uni roe, tobiko, ikura and quail egg
This was actually the first time I came across an American seafood restaurant so adventurous with the combination. The shooter consisted of a freshly shucked Pacific oyster decked with uni roe (technical they were the sex organs), tobiko (flying fish roe), ikura (salmon roe) and a raw quail egg yolk.
Large Channel Islands Red Sea Urchin
Sea urchin roe is an acquired taste. Usually served raw, uni is actually the reproductive organ of the sea urchin.
My Japanese guests were impressed by the size of the sea urchin served. These Channel Islands Red Sea Urchin is a species of Red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus) and can be found from southern Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. They are also exported to Japan and known as California Gold.
Actually, they were not good eats as the chef was not able to process the sea urchin like the Japanese would. There were specks of shell and spikes and the uni tasted bitter because the innards of the urchin were not cleaned properly. After this, I appreciate the Japanese processed uni even more.
The Raw Bar
The three types of oysters – Hama Hama (crassostrea gigas) from Hamma Hamma River WA, Olde Salt (crassostrea virginica) from Chincoteague VA, Misty Point (crassostrea virginica) from Pope’s Bay VA – in the seafood tower demonstrated the range of texture, salinity and flavours. They are served with fresh horseradish, mignonette, cocktail sauce, and habanero-lime relish
Olde Salts, grown near Chincoteague Bay, are one of the few briny Virginia oysters. Misty Points are remarkably salty and strong-shelled for a Midatlantic oyster. Hama Hamas are still grown wild from natural sets in Hood Canal.
However the kind of sweetness I’m looking for that makes oyster eating such a pleasure can only be found in a Kumamoto. I love this little suckers; kumamoto if fresh, are succulent and sweet with a simple briny liquor.
Wild Eastern Sea Scallops
cauliflower puree, curried roasted cauliflower, pickled golden raisins, soy brown butter
I was again shocked by the size of the scallops. The scallop meat refers to the white adductor muscle that holds the two shells together, and the huge one on the right must have been a huge scallop. The cauliflower in two ways was really delicious. I did find the soy butter sauce a bit overpowering.
dungeness crab, jumbo shrimp, and fresh fish in a shellfish broth
Cioppino, the fish and seafood stew made famous in San Francisco in the 1800s, is a terrific winter dish. The first time I had cioppino was at Cioppino’s @ San Francisco, so that’s the yardstick I used for all cioppino thereafter. The WG version has bigger chunks of seafood and that a plus already from first bat.
The seafood used was really fresh and cooked really perfectly to the right doneness. The broth was bisque like but I find it a bit too little to allow us to soak through all those baguette. I prefer the broth at Cioppino’s as you can taste the shellfish base in that broth. The WG version was more spices and came with a hint of curry.
Overall it was a really good seafood restaurant in Denver, perhaps the best one. They serve whole fish prepared in the way you like, but we could not bring ourselves to order a salt-baked trout after the seafood tower. I would come back again and try their other main courses if I have the chance.
The service ended an upgrade as our server was no where to be seen when our drink order was really slow. Luckily the freshness of the seafood compensated for that lapse.
1691 Market Street, Denver CO 80202
Tel : +1 (303) 727 5711The ds
Visited Jan 2023
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