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The Gossiping Gourmet: Laguna restaurant still making a mark

April 04, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • The seafood sausage is a one of the more popular dishes at the Watermarc restaurant in downtown Laguna Beach.
The seafood sausage is a one of the more popular dishes… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

There aren't a lot of new restaurant openings these days, so we thought we might check in from time to time at some places we've enjoyed in the past to see if they are still up to snuff.

Executive chef and partner Marc Cohen opened Watermarc in Laguna Beach almost three years ago, and chef de cuisine Kiel Andersen has been running the kitchen from the beginning. We are happy to report that Cohen has maintained the level of quality that we experienced on our first visit.

The menu has been tweaked a bit but some of our old favorites are still there, such as the seafood sausage, roasted cauliflower trio and the warm blue cheese pear tarts.

One notable change is that the charming upstairs terrace has been fully enclosed so that it is warm and cozy all year round, while the wall of glass still makes you feel like you are dining alfresco under the spreading branches of the venerable, gnarled pepper tree.

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For those of you who have not eaten here before, the main dining room offers an ocean view, albeit across Coast Highway, and features a large bar area with a long communal table. The decor is both contemporary and warm.

Warm crusty bread comes with an unusual butter, blue cheese spread made with a red wine reduction that was quite delicious.

It is hard to decide whether to compose a meal out of the many interesting grazing plates or go with the more traditional style of appetizer and entrée. We did a bit of both.

We started off with a grazing plate of scallops, which was the evening's special. Three crispy, lightly browned, very juicy, sweet scallops arrived on a bed of feathery endive salad with julienned apples and a smattering of finely chopped walnuts.

Shavings of Parmesan on the top and a smear of raspberry reduction beneath added yet more complexity. Scattered around the dish were salty, fatty cubes of bacon. It was a lovely mélange of textures and flavors.

A wooden board was the platform for the crusty flatbread topped with figs, onions, spinach and a molten mass of goat cheese and mozzarella. We have tried a number of flatbreads at Watermarc, but this was the cheesiest. For us, it overwhelmed the other flavors, but serious cheese lovers might prefer it this way.

The menu calls the onions "caramelized," but ours hadn't achieved the browned sweetness one expects. The figs, however, provided a nice sweet touch and we wished there had been a few more of them.

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