Water’s Edge
1510 Anchors Way Drive, Ventura
805-642-1200
watersedgeventura.com
$5-50


With a waterfront location and gorgeous harbor views, the restaurant nestled between Ventura Harbor and the Ventura Keys has always been one of the best options for sunset dining. It’s changed hands more than once — longtime locals remember it as Scotch and Sirloin; later it became the short-lived Longboard’s and then the more recent (and more successful) Rhumb Line — but the nearly uninterrupted sight of the ocean and marina has never failed to captivate.

It reopened in the fall with a new name, a slightly updated interior and a more creative menu. Now, the freshly minted Water’s Edge (owned by the same people who have Waterside in Channel Islands Harbor) has much more to recommend it than just the view.

Dining there with two friends on a drizzly Tuesday evening, I was surprised to find it fairly full. Not packed to the gills, necessarily, but pleasantly busy — it definitely felt like a “happening” place. It was around 6 p.m. and happy hour (offered daily, 3-7 p.m.) was in full swing. Taking one look at the bar menu, I could see why: There are several dishes available, from $5 to $10, with a little bit of everything: sliders (lamb, beef and ahi), flatbread pizza, poke, oysters, bruschetta and more. 

The dinner menu likewise had numerous options of the surf and turf variety. From the decadent lavender-crusted lamb chops and pork osso bucco to the cioppino to the crab-stuffed sand dabs, there were many tempting entrees. The craft cocktail, beer and wine lists were substantial as well. 

There are two main sections in this elegant restaurant: a raised bar area with several high tops, and more traditional seating in the dining room. Floor-to-ceiling windows all around mean there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. While you can order off the regular menu no matter where you sit, happy hour dishes are only served in the bar. With entrees starting at around $25, we took the more affordable option, and settled into a comfortable table in the busy bar for some serious noshing. 

I began my meal with a brown sugar old fashioned from the $8 cocktail menu. It was perfectly prepared and very attractive, with a generous slice of orange zest perched on top — easily as good (if not better) than those I’ve had for twice the price. Happy hour dishes are all tapas-sized and meant to be shared, giving us lots of opportunity for exploration. 

We enjoyed the popcorn shrimp ($10), fried in the lightest of batters and still plump and juicy, and the earthy, rich lamb sliders ($8). These had a tomato jam for a touch of sweetness, creamy goat cheese and crisp, peppery arugula — highly recommended. Both dishes included a generous helping of steak fries. Inspired by the gorgeous views of the ocean, we also ordered a platter of oysters ($2.50 each), served raw on the half shell with just a touch of brine: fresh, light and delicious.

We also tried the ahi, prepared two different ways. Both were excellent. In the tacos ($8), cubes of fish were just barely seared and piled onto corn tortillas with lots of fresh coleslaw, flavored with a very spicy chipotle sauce. They had quite the kick, but went down easy. Even better was the ahi poke ($10). Unlike a traditional poke, where fresh fish, vegetables and other ingredients are layered into a bowl, this was a much more delicate preparation. Deep-fried wontons were topped with raw cubes dressed with a sweet and salty soy glaze and topped with green onions and sesame seeds. A lot of flavor and the full spectrum of taste sensations were packed into each little square.

I did consider the flatbread pizza, the shrimp bruschetta bites and possibly the riblets (which our server assured us were very popular). By now, however, we were pleasantly satisfied. There was just enough room for dessert: a luscious lemon cake drizzled with raspberry puree and decorated with a disc of white chocolate. The perfect coda to a truly wonderful meal.

Based on this single outing, Water’s Edge seems to hit all its marks. Comfortable, stylish interior, great food, lots of options, good service and a skilled bartender. The price point for entrees is a little high, but not outrageous for a special occasion dinner. And for casual, everyday dining, the happy hour really delivers, in quality, presentation and affordability. No matter how you slice it, Water’s Edge makes the cut.