Watermarc raises the bar for local eateries with innovative fare and a contemporary ambience.
By Bria Balliet | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Snagging a seat on the second-story balcony of Peppertree Lane’s Watermarc will instantly transport you to another world. The view of the brick-paved alley, trees adorned with twinkling lights and the scent of fresh waffle cones from the nearby gelato shop make for a charming enough experience on their own, but the restaurant’s superior service and more than a dozen innovative grazing plates make it a high point during a visit to this part of downtown Laguna.
Watermarc chef-owner Marc Cohen, who also helms the local 230 Forest Avenue, has made some changes to his menu since opening five years ago; once known primarily for small plates, the restaurant now offers a well-rounded selection that consists of tapas, intricate salads and entrees.
Kick off the meal with an ahi watermelon skewer, a memorable plate that combines the sweet fruit and fish with a side of seaweed salad and tart ponzu sauce. Traditionalists may prefer the homemade ricotta cheese, which arrives on a breadboard with sweet honeycomb, almonds, vine-dried raisins and toast. Other favorites include the smoked bacon-wrapped dates and the sizzling garlic shrimp flavored with fennel and citrus.
There’s a well-curated selection of main dishes to choose from, too, beginning with a variety of seafood items featuring flavors that cover all the bases. Chilean sea bass, accompanied by warm artichoke and an asparagus potato salad, is artfully prepared with a golden brown, crispy exterior; a must-try, however, is the hearty seafood paella. The Spanish-inspired dish, spiced and served in a skillet, is brimming with shrimp, mussels, calamari, “linguica” (a Portuguese pork sausage) and a healthy portion of Maine lobster—it’s enough to satisfy even the most ravenous dinner guest.
Meanwhile, “meat and potatoes” people will gravitate toward the filet three ways. Featuring a trio of tender filet mignon cuts arranged on a single plate, the preparations include Oscar (lump crab, asparagus and bearnaise sauce), Wellington (duxelles and puff pastry) and Diane (peppercorn and brandy).
Of course, any meal is made more enjoyable with a drink in hand. Watermarc’s Yerba Buena cocktail lends a refreshing kick, combining tequila with mint, lime, agave and either ginger beer or a homemade ginger puree. Oenophiles also have plenty of choices, with 239 varietals that span the globe and a selection of temperature-controlled Cruvinet wines on tap.
When it comes time to top off the meal with a sweet treat, the restaurant offers a fun finale that brings out every diner’s inner child. Presented in an aluminum lunchbox, a milk carton and cream-filled chocolate cupcake make for one of the most charming desserts in town. One last thing to remember—as tempting as it is, don’t steal the lunchbox.