I spent my first years as a restaurant-goer in NYC dining where I could most easily imagine myself as a cast member of Sex in the City. Straight out of college, I wasn’t looking for cute hole-in-the-walls — I got the biggest thrill wearing heels and strutting into exclusive spaces pumping dance music, offering $15 specialty cocktails, and turning tables like clockwork. Buddakan and Stanton Social were my locations of choice. Fortunately I’ve now moved on to less trendy pastures as a more seasoned New Yorker, but every now and then I’m dragged into the high concept restaurant chains of my past.
Catch last week was one such occurrence, but it helped me remember why I like menus intended for broad audiences. I admittedly went into it with low expectations, but I left impressed with the service, the food, the drinks and the experience overall. As a seafood lover with menu anxiety (it’s difficult to narrow down to one item after eating a Google buffet for the last five years), Catch’s food selection is perfect for me. They offer a small delectable sushi rolls, a raw bar, a ton of hot specials, family style platters, or a variety of fish simply prepared for those not as adventurous. Think of this place as the steakhouse for fish. It keeps that well-known, roomy corporate feel, but maintains a relaxed, light-hearted vibe with light colored furniture, good lighting, dance music, and fun cocktails. Waiters aren’t as formal, but the service is spot on.
The highlights of the many dishes we tried were the MrC roll with tuna, tempura shrimp and ponzu butter, the soft shell crab roll, the crispiest crispy rock shrimp I’ve ever had, and the tuna tartare crispy rice cakes. These dishes aren’t necessarily unique to Catch (find similar variations at Koi, Bond Street, Nobu, etc), but they’re done exceptionally well. The showstopper visually was the crispy whole snapper that comes out deep fried with an asian style saute, positioned as if it’s about to swim away. The sauce was definitely needed to add flavor. Chinese food lovers would die over the salty cantonese lobster tails; I’m just not a fan for thick brown sauces. The overly buttered mushroom pasta was the only disappointment, but that came as no surprise given it was one of the only pasta dishes on the menu.
Dessert at Catch and its sister restaurants are remarkable, and that goes a long way for someone like me. The strawberry shortcake with a large buttery biscuit brought me straight back to my childhood. The banana brulee split was beautifully prepared, but given the tiny scoops of ice cream and difficulty of scooping up all the ingredients off the flat dish for an ideal bite, I would have preferred a less stylized version.
Despite the hiccups in food, I left hoping to plan my next work event or dad’s visit to town at Catch. It’s a crowd-pleasing special occasion restaurant that sets you up well for a night out – there’s not surprisingly a club upstairs, and it’s situated smack dab in the center of the Meatpacking.
Location: 21 9th Ave above Sephora, entrance on 13th street. Also one in Miami.