The Water Grill in downtown Bellevue offers both locally and globally sourced seafood with an international flair. They opened in December 2022 and are owned by King’s Seafood Company. King’s is a family-owned business with over 70 years of experience in seafood and a strong focus on environmental stewardship and sustainable sourcing. Sam King is the CEO, and his dad was one of the founders.
So much fresh seafood; where do we begin? Salmon, halibut, crabcakes, mussels, oysters, shrimp? Do we focus on locally caught or seafood from international waters?
Executive Chef Kaelon Sparks is undoubtedly committed to locally sourced seafood. Before coming to Water Grill, he was Executive Chef at a Seattle Pike Place Market seafood restaurant.
The first decision was which fresh oysters we wanted; there were 16 varieties! Which we understand is typical. While we decided on which fresh oysters to order, we started with the Oysters Rockefeller. These oysters are lightly cooked on the half-shell with tangy parmesan, baby spinach, and fennel. This time-honored dish dates to the 1880s in New Orleans. So, with flying colors, this indeed passes the test of time. It was so delicious that we were tempted to order some more.
We decided instead to branch out a bit, so we ordered The Grand Iced Shellfish Platter, which included raw oysters, mussels (Puget Sound), clams (Chesapeake Bay), Peruvian Bay Scallops, Jumbo Shrimp (Mexico), and North American Hard Shell Lobster.
Three types of oysters were served: Atlantic (Eastern) from the Chesapeake Bay, Kumamoto from the Puget Sound, and Pacific from Mexico. Of course, the delicious mignonette sauce went well with all of them. My favorite was the Kumamoto, originally grown in Yatsushiro Bay, Japan. They are now very common along the West Coast. Kumamoto oysters tend to be mild, less briny (salty), and a bit sweeter than the others.
We both agreed that the Peruvian Bay Scallops were our favorite item on the platter, though the oysters were a close second for me. The scallops had a very nice spice, with a little bit of heat, and the taste was enhanced with the unique pistachio and citrus pesto.
We could have easily been finished dining; however, since we skipped lunch and noticed the salmon and crab dishes delivered to the next table, we decided to order the Wild British Columbia Dungeness Crab and the Farmed New Zealand King Salmon.
Eating crab is always a fun, tasty, and potentially messy adventure! Using the crab cracker provided, we quickly acquired big lumps of succulent, sweet crab meat and dipped them into the melted butter sauce provided. Crab meat can be a lot of work, but for those who love it – it is worth it. And this crab was definitely worth it!
Farmed New Zealand King Salmon? Living in the great Northwest for many years, we have been lucky and spoiled to have fresh wild-caught salmon often available from Northern British Columbia to Northern California. Then our server insisted we try the farmed salmon. Well, that was honestly the best salmon I have had. King Salmon is known to be the most flavorful salmon, and this one certainly delivered. The salmon was tender and delicious and was further complimented by the accompanying sauce and vegetables. The sauce was made of white wine, peppercorn, shallots, and tomato, and the salmon was served on a bed of corn, heirloom carrots, and vadouvan curry butter. I could happily eat this sauce by the spoonful.
What was the highlight of this evening’s dinner? It would be way too hard to pick our favorite seafood dish. But one highlight was learning about the company’s seafood distribution arm, which emphasizes environmental stewardship, including sustainable sourcing and reliance on aquaculture (farmed seafood). Many years ago, CEO Sam King helped launch the Sustainable Seafood Forum. They also give resources to non-profits and government agencies to further scientific study.
Some people question aquaculture. However, if one follows the proper protocols, this is a critical source of seafood. Some sources state that almost 75% of global marine stocks are overfished. Thus, properly managed aquaculture practices are important.
We will return to Water Grill soon, and we might expand our food choices and check out some of their steak options, which look very tempting. However, I will always start with the Oysters Rockefeller.
Editorial disclosure: food and beverages were generously provided.