There are many restaurant hotspots that slip through the Lick the Plate cracks for one reason or another. Sometimes I just like to wait a while and make sure the initial buzz segues into longevity.
Well in the two years since they have opened, the raves from foodie friends in the know continue to pour in so it was about time to experience it for myself and after the amazing experience I had there I’m a bit embarrassed it took this long.
Chef/owner Rob Ruiz has attained almost mythical status with all of the earned awards applauding his efforts towards sustainable fishing and sourcing locally.
If you are looking for a restaurant that really walks the talk when it comes to doing things right, Land & Water goes above and beyond in that category.
I could devote an entire column to those efforts but they definitely should be noted as they play an integral part in the overall mantra of this fine restaurant.
The restaurant is modeled after a French/izakay, which is a Japanese-style sushi pub, which was a style new to me. It’s located in the 1887 Queen Anne home formerly occupied by the Ocean House.
It’s a nice warm space but honestly, the quality and the attention to detail that goes into everything on their menu almost makes the space irrelevant, it’s that good folks. That said it’s a very nice environment in the heart of coastal Carlsbad.
We started with a couple of specialty cocktails, including the Broadmoor that has Pig’s Nose blended scotch, Pimm’s No. 1, and Fee Brothers orange bitters. This was one of the best craft cocktails I’ve ever had.
My dining companion started with the whimsically named “You Drink Here Too” that consisted of Ty Ku Junmai Sake, Batch Craft ginger beer and club soda. Another crazy good cocktail and we had a sense at that point that we were in for something special. Ruiz actually suggested pairing my cocktail with the citrus salad — and who was I to argue that?
So next up we went with the Local Citrus Salad (paired perfectly with my cocktail) with lavender goat cheese mousse, vanilla quince puree, white balsamic vinaigrette, honey drizzled crostini, arugula and of course an assortment of fresh local citrus. This takes salads to another level folks.
So fresh were the flavors and the textures complimented each other perfectly. It should be noted that all the bread is baked in-house at Land & Water, just another special touch.
As the name states, there is an almost equal mix of meat and seafood on the menu including a full sushi bar so that’s where we went next sampling one of their specialty rolls.
The Water Roll includes spicy tuna, Haas avocado, cucumber, red stone crab roll, tsume, ryu, layers of assorted sashimi topped with ginger, ponzu and citrus slices.
Ruiz spent a decade honing his sushi skills in Hawaii, including an apprenticeship under Japanese sushi master Chef Etsuji Umezu and his expertise was evident as he delicately assembles this amazing roll. It was a joy to watch and even better to eat.
Up next was the Bacon Lardon, which is a perfect example of the exquisite pairing of the land and water concept. The crispy pork belly bacon is combined with Jalapeno cornbread, red stone crab salad, orange marmalade and Japanese mint. It was melt-in-your-mouth good.
Before I move on to the larger plates, I should note that our server Monique did an excellent job of pairing wines that worked wonderfully with each course. It was nice to see that level of professionalism from the wait staff.
The larger plates on the menu had five diverse options ranging from house-smoked Pork Spare Ribs to a Vegetable Pot Pie to a New Zealand caught Barramundi, a Top Sirloin and our selection the Chicken and Gravy.
I rarely eat chicken out, but given the stellar meal we had experienced to this point, I wanted to see how it was handled in the hands of a world-class chef.
It was a half Jidori chicken, mashed potato puree, kimchi and a savory bacon herb jus. It was moist, flavorful and one of the best chicken dishes I’ve had anywhere.
I should note that the lunch menu looks equally fabulous and there is a 3 to 5 p.m. happy hour daily, plus 10:30 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
I would consider Land & Water Company not only one of the best dining experiences in North County, but all of San Diego. No attention to detail is spared and this restaurant. The restaurant is in the hands of a chef/owner who is passionate, wildly talented, and completely dedicated to his craft. If you have not been yet, I highly recommend it.
Find them at 2978 Carlsbad Blvd #110, Carlsbad. For information call (760) 729-5263 or online at landandwaterco.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at email@example.com or (858) 395-6905.