Water Grill

Allyson Thurber  
Allyson Thurber, Executive Chef

With innate talent, an eye and taste for innovation, a commitment to quality, and a dedicated determination to be the best in her field, Executive Chef Allyson Thurber has been instrumental in establishing Water Grill as one of the best seafood restaurants in the country.

With her leadership in the restaurant's 2,000 square food kitchen, combined with General Manager Phillip Larimore's knowledge of wines and savvy for operations, Water Grill has received numerous awards, repeated accolades from restaurant critics and has been consistently voted "L.A's Best Seafood" in Zagat's guide each year since it's opening in 1991.

Thurber's tireless dedication to offer patrons an exceptional dining experience, "one they will remember," is illustrated in the restaurant's diverse menu, which changes daily to feature the freshest of fish and shell fish from the Pacific Northwest and other regions in the United States.

"I strive to combine the highest quality ingredients, in conventional and unconventional ways, to create dishes that more than satisfy our guests," says Thurber. "When all is said and done, to me the greatest compliment is seeing a customer finish every last bit of a meal I prepared."

Among Thurber's special dishes are appetizers such as a Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Napoleon flavored with the essence of Porcini Mushrooms, and Sashimi of Big Eye Tuna with a Spicy Radish Salad and Wasabi Vinaigrette. Some favorite entrees include sautéed Copper River King Salmon with Hazelnut Mashed Potatoes. Shitake Mushrooms, and a Port and Shallot Sauce; Potato crushed New Zealand Dorade with a Smoked Salmon and Caviar Sauce; and, Grilled Rare Big Eye Tuna with Blue Prawns, Spicy Soba Noodle Salad and Chinese Pesto.

Graduating Valedictorian from the famed Culinary Institute of America in 1988, Thurber brings a wealth of experience and balance to her position at Water Grill.

Growing up, she enjoyed experimenting with new recipes and spent seemingly endless hours in the kitchen. Against the advise of family and friends, who believed that it was "no career for a woman," Thurber first decided to pursue her dream to become a chef when a friend offered her the opportunity to help out in the kitchen of his small Sacramento-area restaurant. Realizing the opportunity to make a living at something she truly loves, she left a successful career as a graphic artist and the rest is history.

Her official apprenticeship began in 1981 in Sacramento, California at the exclusive Grand Island Mansion. Four years later, she was drawn to New York, where she served as Chef Tourant at the famous American bistro, Mortimers. In 1987 she accepted a position with Larry Forgione at New York's An American Place. A year later, she moved to London to further cultivate her art, and excelled under the tutelage of noted British Chef, Stanley Berwick. Just over a year later she returned to her native California, to serve as Sous Chef at downtown's esteemed Checkers Hotel. From there, she was recruited to the Water Grill in 1991.

In her little free time, Thurber is active in several local and social causes, teaches seafood workshops to novice and accomplished cooks, donates her talents to charitable events, and enjoys preparing gourmet cuisine for her four cats.

watergrill logo  

Water Grill

  • Address: 544 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, Ca 90071
  • (in the heart of downtown L.A. adjacent to the
  • Biltmore Hotel between 5th & 6th Streets)
  • Telephone: (213) 891-0900 Fax: (213) 629-1891
  • General Manager: Phillip Larimore
  • Executive Chef: Allyson Thurber
  • Owner: University Restaurant Group
Hours: Lunch--Monday through Friday, 11:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Dinner--Monday and Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Opened: 1991

Seating: 125 in the dining area, and 75 in the Bar/Oyster Bar areas.

Bar: Featuring a vast selection of fine spirits and non-alcoholic beverages, a choice of micro beers and an extensive wine list, the Bar at Water Grill is a popular gathering spot for the Who's Who of Los Angeles.

Oyster Bar: Serving up to eight varieties of fresh oysters, as well as other fresh shell and specialty fish (such as Purple Sea Urchin, Gooseneck Barnacles, Canadian Spot Prawns, Prince Edward Island Mussels, Maine lobster and Dungeness crab). Water Grill boasts the only Oyster Bar in downtown Los Angeles.

Parking: Validated valet parking $3.50.

Cuisine: Specializing in fresh seafood from the Pacific Northwest and other regions within the United States; all prepared with the tasteful innovation that has earned Water Grill renown as Los Angeles' best seafood restaurant. The menu changes daily to feature the freshest of seasonal catches and harvest. A variety of pastas, steaks, chops and poultry are also available.

Price Range: Lunch, $8.00—$20.00
Dinner, $12.00—$26.00

Wine List: Emphasizing exceptional varieties from California and the Pacific Northwest, Water Grill's comprehensive wine list is presented in a helpful format, offering patrons a guided tour through the characteristics of each wine, as well as recommendations for inspired food and wine pairings.

water grill

Design/Ambiance: Designed by Hatch Design Group (Costa Mesa, California), the interior design of Water Grill combines classic richness with playful eclecticism to create an ambiance of lighthearted elegance.

Awards/Recognitions: Zagat's Survey, L.A.'s Best Seafood, '93, '94, '95

Zagat's '95, "Water Grill is Downtown's Favorite Power-Lunch Spot."

"Water Grill has become the leading seafood restaurant in Los Angeles," Gourmet Magazine

"The fish is fresh, the desserts luscious, the service insouciant," Los Angeles Times Magazine

"The Water Grill may be the best seafood eatery in Los Angeles," Los Angeles Reader

Attire: Contemporary sophistication.

Parking: Validated valet parking $3.50


Grilled Barracuda Salad
with a Tomato Epazote Relish

By Allyson Thurber

Serves 6

  • 4 Ea. Chayote squash peeled and julienne
  • 2 Ea. Red pepper seeds removed and sliced thin
  • 2 Ea. Yellow pepper seeds removed and sliced thin
  • 2 Ea. Carrots peeled and julienne
  • 1 Ea. Head salad spinach, stems removed and sliced thin
  • 1 Ea. Red onion sliced thin
  • 1 Bu. Chives cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1/2 Small red cabbage sliced thin
  • 1/2 Tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Pepper

Toss together all ingredients and dress with vinaigrette.

  • 1/8 C. Fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 C. Pure olive oil
  • 1/8 C. Rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 Tsp. Cumin
  • 1 Tsp. Fresh chopped garlic

Combine all ingredients.

Tomato Epazote Relish
  • 20 Ea. Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut to a medium dice
  • 2 Tb. Fresh chopped Epazote (If not available use fresh basil)
  • Juice of three limes
  • 1 Tsp. garlic
  • 3 Tb Fine chopped red onion
  • 2 Tb. Fine chopped scallion greens
  • 1 Small jalapeño seeded and diced extra small
  • 1/2 Tb. Honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and let sit for 2 hours in refrigerator.

To Serve

Season Barracuda fillets with salt and pepper. Grill over medium high heat for approx. 2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness and desired doneness.

Place tossed salad in center of the plate, place grilled fish on top of salad and top with relish. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs.


"Iced" Tiramisu

By David James

Everybody loves Tiramisu, the Italian dessert made with mascarpone. Here is a version which is frozen like an ice cream or semi-freddo. The ladyfingers give the taste and texture of a granite when frozen. Serve this alone or with a bitter chocolate sauce.


  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 T Vanilla
  • 1 T Coffee extract
  • 3/4 C. cream
  • 3/4 C. Mascarpone
  • 15 Ladyfingers, soaked in espresso


    Whip cream and mascarpone until soft peaks. Set aside. Whip yolks, sugar, vanilla, and coffee extract until light. Fold cheese mix into egg mix. Whip whites until stiff peaks. Fold into mixture. Fold in Ladyfingers. Pour into a 6 inch cake pan and freeze 3 hours. To unmold—dip pan in hot water quickly and invert.

Provided by Water Grill

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified March 2007

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