Introducing a New Dining Experience That Will Make You Feel Right at Home
Setting The Table
WRITTEN BY: JODILYN OTTOBRE | PHOTOGRAPHED BY: KARL GARRISON
With a rustic yet refined setting that provides an open-concept atmosphere, Watertable gives Orange County a taste of the West LA dining vibe, all while being board short friendly, of course.
Huntington Beach is best known as a local hotspot for fish tacos, beach burgers and island-style cuisine, but Hyatt’s Executive Chef Manfred Lassahn and Food and Beverage Director, Jon Benson, sought to create a dining destination that the area didn’t offer. Located within the prestigious Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, Watertable opened its doors this past spring to provide an alternative from your typical Surf City experience.
Thoughtfully designed to give Orange County locals a retreat they can call their home, the restaurant offers interactive yet cozy dining areas like the Library Lounge, Family Kitchen, Living Room and Sun Porch, collectively providing both a sophisticated ambiance as well as casual comfort. Every room has its own character and charm, allowing you to enjoy each space differently as you would the rooms in your own home.
Go ahead and settle in. Your food has been served and it’s time to indulge. The bare wood tables lack the formality of a tablecloth, allowing each dish to stand out and make its own bold impression against the wood’s natural surface. Fine crystal wine glasses, simple floral centerpieces and hammered silverware give your dining experience a touch of elegance. The freshly baked bread made in the shape of a wheat stock is salted and buttered to a mouthwatering tee, awaiting its chance to be smothered in one of the Bar Jar spreads. You’ll be taking your bread and wiping it along the inside of the jar to make sure you’ve consumed every last bit.
The Honey-Lavender Brined Berkshire Pork Porterhouse is grilled to perfection as it sits in its own juices under a frisee salad, pickled red onion and cherry demi. The food is fresh and delicately composed, and will not last long after your fork makes it back after your first bite. But remember, there’s no hurry. Just sit back in your chair and let the conversation flow as you enjoy your meal and soak up your surroundings.
Known for owning over 50 chef’s coats and a leading culinary history with Hyatt, Chef Manfred Lassahn shares his vision as he talks about his passion for creating a unique dining experience and the concept behind Watertable that’s making Orange County locals want to unpack their bags and take a staycation.
INTERVIEW WITH | Executive Chef Manfred Lassahn
Q: What have you gained through working 30 years as an Executive Chef for Hyatt, and how does Watertable showcase these achievements?
Manfred Lassahn: In my years with Hyatt, I have had the good fortune of being able to assist with the culinary start-ups in many of our hotels across the county. In doing so, property location, concept, local farming availabilities, sustainability of products and current food trends have always been points that had to be hit on. What is special about Watertable is that it is very personal to me. Having been part of the entire design and construction phases with the menu writing running parallel, it was important that all elements were aligned and cohesive.
Q: How is your culinary education in Germany incorporated into the Watertable menu?
ML: A European culinary apprenticeship is very different from the ones here in the states. We were a group of 72 that started together, and three years later, only six graduated in the first round, I being one of them. One of my biggest takeaways is the respect for food in both the natural state as well as the preparation. You learn that Mother Nature tells you when it’s ready to be consumed and not a commercial hot house. Watertable’s food is prepared in a simple, fresh fashion, preserving many of the nutritional values and without being overly fussed with.
Q: Do you have any crazy cooking scars or have you experienced any cooking-related injuries?
ML: I have a very slight one-inch scar on my left hand from a slicing injury. I basically cut my hand in half. I had 70 stitches on the inside of my hand and over 100 on the outside. Doctors said that it was the cleanest cut outside of an operating room that they had ever seen.
Q: What is the concept behind Watertable and how does it fit into the Surf City scene?
ML: From the very first day we were talking about the concept, “comfort food with attitude” seemed to be the direction we were going in. We wanted food that was recognizable by name, ingredients and preparation, but that also had that little bit of edge and sexiness without being unapproachable. Watertable was not designed to fit in, it was created to be part of the scene, but to take that scene to the next level. Pete’s Sunset Grille, also here at the resort, epitomizes Surf City with its world surf destination menu offerings. Food is like fashion, and in Watertable, I was creating this year’s “little black dress.”
Q: How would you best describe your menu, restaurant vibe and what to expect from a Watertable dining experience?
ML: The restaurant and bar boast a total of seven different menus. Both the bar and the restaurant (at varying times of the day) were designed to be experienced differently, hence the different menus with unique dining options. The menus also change with the seasons and what kind of fruits and vegetables that are available, so you may come in and discover that the dish you had the last time is slightly different than before, or even find a whole new menu. Expect to expect the unexpected!
Q: It’s 3am and your stomach is grumbling. What do you find yourself whipping up as a favorite late night snack?
ML: That’s not a late night snack time for me, that’s a half-hour before I get up for the day. I have never been a late night snacker; it was never in my DNA.
Q: Where did the idea for Bar Jars come from?
ML: The idea came two-fold. It is first based on the simple idea of canning, and the second reason being of instant gratification. Even when you order an appetizer, there is still that awkward waiting period for it to arrive. The Bar Jars allow the bartender to hand you something while you’re waiting for that appetizer to make its way to you.
Q: What kind of dishes is your restaurant currently preparing and featuring on your menu?
ML: I am the product of immigrant parents that came here from Europe and grew up eating seasonally, and I will forever do so. Although we are very fortunate to be in a state and climate that gives us the availability of almost everything year round, I will stay true to concept. What this does is make one look forward to things returning to the food scene.
We will always have signature items like the Pork Porterhouse and other items that will remain from season to season, but we will have supporting ingredients that speak to that particular season as well.
Featured Dish With Appetizer & Dessert
Drake Farms Whipped Goat Cheese
olive oil, sea salt, pickled cherry tomatoes, charred crostini
1. Manchego Cheese (seasonal)
2. Salbitxada Spread with Smoked Spanish Paprika and Toasted Almonds
3. Oven Cured Tomatoes with Shallots, Cracked Blacked Pepper, Smoked Paprika and Sherry Vinegar
Deconstructed Heirloom Tomato Salad
burrata, maldon sea salt, aged sherry, balsamic, micro sprouts
Line Caught Alaskan Halibut
infused white wine butter sauce and grilled white corn succotash
meyer lemon, fennel and thyme stuffed summer succotash, enfuso olive oil
Honey Lavender Brined Berkshire Pork Porterhouse
sun dried cherry demi, pickled onion, frisee salad
Salted Caramel Profiteroles