Another Catch docks…in Dubai
Why do some restaurants in Dubai insist on a bevy of pretty hostesses all huddled at the entrance ready to pounce? Are a couple of ladies not enough to check reservations and assign tables? Or why not add a male host for the sake of balance? It really is quite intimidating and most unnecessary…and that’s not just my opinion, but from what I have canvassed one shared by male diners. Anyhow rant over…we’re at Catch, the new seafood restaurant transplanted from New York to the Fairmont Dubai (not to be confused with its namesake in Abu Dhabi, a home-grown concept), that has replaced Spectrum on One.
The transformation to a dark and edgy industrial space with exposed ceilings, copper columns and mock brickwork laden with graffiti is very New York. There’s a lounge area and a couple of bars, in addition to the main dining room. Sadly though the windows have been blocked off – a real shame given that even though Catch is only open for dinner, those sparkly nocturnal Sheikh Zayed views are no longer.
A hostess shows us to our table, a teeny à deux number crammed between two tables where every word will be overheard – one of the worst tables in the house. At least I know my cover is not blown. We request one of the semi-circular ‘Chesterfield’ leather banquettes given the majority are empty for an 8.30pm booking, and she heads off to check. In the meantime we perch ourselves at the bar. And this is where Catch starts to excel. The bar staff are indeed mixologists and the cocktail list reflects their expertise with creative concoctions including a wonderfully mellow avocado pisco sour. The wine list is also well considered and well priced.
We ask for the menus whilst sipping our drinks and the jovial waiter explains the concept of American seafood with an Asian influence…and quelle surprise the sharing style, a pet peeve of Mr Man in the White Hat’s. Interestingly signature dishes are not marked up, but at our prompting he takes the time to run through some of his favourites – a clear sign that he has eaten his way through the menu – a sadly rather rare find in Dubai. The menu works its way through sushi and sashimi; ‘rolled’ makis; ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ appetisers; and onto main courses of ‘hot’ dishes; ‘big’ fish and meat; and grills; plus some sides. Diverse and interesting, it’s actually hard to choose, which is a good thing in my opinion.
In the meantime, our hostess returns to advise that all the banquettes are reserved but a standalone table that seats four is available. Well handled, but in typical Dubai style, by the end of our evening at least one, if not more of the banquettes remains unoccupied. I know restaurants always keep tables aside for impromptu ‘VIP’ guests, but are they really reserved, or do the diners simply not show up? I’ll have to give Catch the benefit of the doubt. What’s unusual about Catch’s sharing concept is that each course is served in sequence as opposed to simultaneously, which allows you to appreciate each and every dish. I think even Mr White Hat would relish this style of serving.
A ‘hellfire roll’ arrives as seven pieces of maki with spiced tuna served two ways – a topping of tuna drizzled with pear balsamic – and sandwiched within the rice, a tartare mix. Well executed but lacks punch – a far cry from hell fire. On the other hand, devilled eggs which at Catch blends smoked salmon, crème fraiche, chives and tobiko egg, with a sprinkling of roe, is the first of two star dishes. So moreishly creamy and velvety with an element of crunch, the three dollops prettily presented in eggshells have us craving more. A bug bearer of mine is when two people are sharing in a ‘sharing concept’ restaurant, why can’t the kitchen serve an additional portion to balance it out?
The lobster rolls presented in toasted brioche-like potato bread arrive looking superb, but sadly are drizzled with truffle oil which you’ll know from previous reviews is an allergy of mine. Our waiter checks but the kitchen cannot accommodate our sans truffle oil request as the mix is pre-prepared. Even my dining companion who adores truffles and its intense aroma finds that it overpowers an already strong-flavoured lobster. Given many ingredients are mentioned on the Catch menu, then this dish should have truffle highlighted. Onto our second star dish, the shrimp scampi – one giant prawn (if I am being picky there are differences between shrimp and prawn so it’s either one or the other) diced up with a smattering of artichokes, cherry tomatoes and a chilli, garlic sauce oozing buttery goodness. Thumbs up for exquisite flavours and a beautiful presentation.
We indulge in four starters so that we can have just one main course, and after much discussion with our two waiters, we settle on testing Catch’s meat capabilities with a short rib in a hoisin sauce that is served on a bed of sweet potato puree. Whilst the meat does easily fall of the bone, it’s not as tender and succulent as I would expect from a short rib that has been braised for 48 hours. One waiter tells us this type is Australian Wagyu which I find hard to believe, especially as other Wagyu dishes are identified as such on the menu. Going by this dish, I would say stick to Catch’s seafood specialities.
Desserts are giant American-sized portions so you really only need order one to share. A ‘hit me cake’ rocks up as a brownie layered with roasted white chocolate ice cream and drizzled at the table with liquid ‘Klondike’, a mix of chocolate and vanilla ice cream named after the North American chocolate bar. I have to google that one. Well executed, but not mine or my friend’s cup of tea. If you love rich, dense desserts of the likes of Chili’s (yes you read right) then this one’s for you – but it feels out of place for a seafood-focused restaurant whose cuisine is mostly light and fresh with Far Eastern ingredients.
Going by our choices, some dishes impress, whilst many require tweaking – so I do wonder whether our experience is representative of the whole menu. There’s certainly enough of a compelling choice to want to return and try out more. And I would return, because that aside, Catch certainly ticks the service box with well trained, knowledgeable and witty waiting staff – the latter so refreshing for Dubai. Just remove the excess hostesses pretty please. There’s a vibrant vibe with only a handful of tables unoccupied on a Monday evening – but be prepared dinner does not come cheap. Expect to pay between AED 300 – 400 and upwards for three dishes per person without alcohol. With all this in mind, here’s to a 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.
What’s your view on hostesses at restaurants? Have you dined at Catch and how did it fare for you?