Hook, Line & Sinker
Carlsbad’s Land & Water Co. takes sustainability, frugality to scrumptious heights
Posted on April 1, 2019
In a restaurant scene where consumers crave master chef technique set within comfy environs, The Land & Water Co. stands as tall and bright as a lighthouse in coastal Carlsbad. Exec toque Rob Ruiz and his veteran sushi and hot side chefs put on an entrancing performance on a nightly basis. Exacting knifework and artful plating honor pristine product, all of which is thoughtfully and responsibly sourced. It’s a perfectionist, quality ingredient-focused, sushi-bar ethos taken to new heights (seafood is kept in chilled cedar boxes shielded from light and oxygen) and expanded to all facets of the operation.
Fish are procured from local waters and sustainable locales, then butchered whole. Meat and poultry are raised antibiotic- and hormone-free over their lifespans by multi-generational ranchers. Fruits and vegetables are grown in the eatery’s garden or plucked from trusted sources such as a 20-acre certified organic farm that sells exclusively to The Land & Water Co. Every scrap of food is used in dishes or composted for the garden, which is irrigated with recycled water collected in drums from the kitchen. Every sauce, dressing, baked good, and ice cream is made in-house, and anything from the garden that doesn’t make the menu is individually pickled in a brine designed to complement that particular vegetable and presented as a mixed tsukemono appetizer. It’s responsible restaurant practices on all-natural steroids.
Land & Water’s menu leans heavily on seafood, utilizing Ruiz’s extensive sushi-making experience. The semi-eponymous Water Roll is a bestseller conveying the goodness guests can expect from the raw bar. Line-caught albacore tuna, hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish), top-grade salmon, and crab deliver clean, ocean-fresh flavors accented by organic avocado, cucumber, oranges, and sweetly-salty soy infused with a reduction of sake, mirin, and house-made dashi. That condiment is brushed on every bit of unbelievably vibrant sashimi and nigiri that Ruiz’s talented brigade puts out. Other sushi standouts include beautifully tender octopus tentacle with garlic ponzu sauce, and buttery, naturally sweet scallops, both of which are diver-caught.
A simple-sounding riff on goat cheese and beet salad uses every part of Chioggia and blood varieties, the roots and stems of which are oven-blackened then pulverized into ash that accompanies the dish along with a cylinder constructed from thin sheets of phyllo dough. The juice of the beets is used to pickle tart, funky daikon, countering the meaty richness of lengua (cow’s tongue) braised in beef broth for five hours, rolled in potato flour, skewered, and crisped up to order. Made even more decadent with yolky Kewpie mayonnaise, it’s a carnivore’s dream. Ditto bao buns rendered black care of squid ink and stuffed with sweet, smoky pork dressed in a mixture of ume paste (an acidic condiment made from pureed umeboshi plums) and maple syrup.
Next up for Ruiz is The Hold Fast, a fast-casual handroll bar at Point Loma’s Liberty Public Market, which will exclusively rely on locally-caught fish. For now, his ideology and talents are singularly on display at this shining example of next-level care and creativity. 760.729.5263, thelandandwaterco.com Brandon Hernandez
Culinary Innovation: 5
Food Quality: 5
Wine & Sake List: 4
Cocktail Program: 4
Craft Beer Program: 4
Photography by Vincent Knakal