Prior to a concert, my friends and I wanted to get a bite to eat on Stephen Avenue. Originally, we attempted to get a table at Charcut, but without reservations, we were out of luck. Switching food gears, we managed to land one of the last booths at Catch’s oyster bar. We opted to sit at oyster bar rather than the second level dining room. I preferred the nautical themed bar with its comfortable booths and its cheery vibe. On this Friday night, the oyster bar was a happening place, lit up with dates, friends and families enjoying their catch of the day.
We were happy with the level of service we received. Our server was always around when needed, she gave us lots of time to check out the menu, and she offered solid recommendations for both food and wine. As for the food and wine, there are both positive and not as beloved aspects about each. I’ll start with the more positive highlights.
Of the three entrees we ordered, the clear winner was the west coast Manila clam linguini. The dish came with a generous portion of seafood– there must have been almost a dozen of the fattest, freshest tasting clams I’ve ever eaten. The noodles were buttery, covered in rich tasting sauce of white wine, halved cherry tomatoes, capers, and then heavily dusted with freshly grated parmesan cheese. My girlfriend and I inhaled this dish – it was decadent. I’m sure that the constant pinging sound of the empty clamshells hitting the bowl and then reechoing throughout the room thoroughly annoyed our neighbours.
My friend ordered the Spanish spiced prawns with a navy bean stew. The navy beans were tasty– I love the salty and savoury combination of the beans in its saucy mixture of stewed tomatoes, spinach, and bits of pancetta. This dish also had plenty of shrimp, which paired well with the beans. However, we all felt that the shrimp was overcooked. Nothing major, it was still a solid dish.
For my chosen main – I ordered bouillabaisse. Perhaps my error that night was that I tried to pick the healthiest entree. The piece of fish, clams, prawns, and mussels was cooked just right, but the broth lacked much flavour. The highlight of the bouillabaisse was the jumbo scallop. Large in size, the scallop was seared to perfection and the meat was both tender and sweet. This dish didn’t come with the advertised grilled bread. This isn’t a complaint, only an observation. I’m sure if I had asked, our server would have brought it over.
For our appetizer, we ordered a pot of mussels. Unfortunately, we found several shells that were closed shut. None of us felt brave enough to pry it open, so instead, we opted to wistfully gazed at the pile of unopened mussels at the bottom. The mussels that were open were small in size and a bit fishy tasting. However, the garlicky white wine broth was good. We made use of the complimentary bread to mop up with the sauce. My friend enjoyed the broth so much, she swallowed spoonfuls of it on its own. Next time, I’ll listen to my server when she recommends to order the tempura prawns.
The biggest drawback for me at Catch was the price of alcohol. We had started the meal with flat tasting flutes of prosecco. For wine, we ordered a light, spicy pinot noir (Meiomi Pinot Noir) and at $55, it was one of the cheapest choices. To be fair, rent on Stephen Avenue is high. As well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that Catch’s target clientele aren’t downtrodden graduate students. Oh well – good thing I live so close to the Ship and Anchor. One of my friends, whom I am guessing is Catch’s target market (oil consultant), picked up the bill. Unlike me, she’s made good life choices. Thanks M – my treat next time when we do drive thru at McDonald’s.
We left Catch in an excellent mood. The food was tasty, the oyster bar was fun, and the service was stellar. However, once outside, we realized we weren’t quite done (drinking) for the night. No longer in the mood to see a concert, my friend gave away her tickets to a nice looking couple on the street, and we headed to Home Tasting Room (half a block past Catch) to enjoy another bottle. Though it’s a very cute venue, we should have headed over to Saltlik or back to Catch. I ordered a decent bottle (Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cabernet), and at $130, we didn’t want to guzzle it down. However, that was not to be, as the restaurant closes at 11:00 pm. None of us thought to check Home’s closing time, as we (incorrectly) assumed that any restaurant on Stephen Avenue would be open till the wee hours. Still with a huge glass (the server had just poured over a quarter of the bottle into my glass), we were asked to leave. Catch might be pricey, but at least they’re open long enough to enjoy a bottle or two.