Catch

CATCH-INTERIOR-1BIt’s on the site where Spectrum On One used to be, with it’s massive, decadent brunch that had become a weekly challenge to get more than your money’s worth. That it’s now a restaurant is probably a good thing. The ghosts of a thousand stumbling girls being carried out by friends have been exorcised by a total redevelopment and fit out so the space now resembles the original Catch in New York’s meatpacking District. But the best thing is the American-style service.

There’s an American bartender upfront that makes cocktails we’ve never seen anywhere else. The Grand Slam (Bourbon, Chambord, orange, port, Campari and gold powder liqueur) is perhaps the most liquid fun you’ll have outside of Aquaventure and you should make a stop to see her on the way in. Take your time.

When inside, try and get one of the booths. Sit comfy, it’s a big menu.

As a quick aside here, we should point out that the starters work on the now ubiquitous “sharing concept” but don’t let that put you off. It’s not like some other restaurants where that just means you have to order a load of starters that cost a fortune, are tiny, and then you have to watch other people eat the thing you wanted. We’re with Smithy on this one. Here, the potions are pretty good and can take a hit from the missus nicking something off your plate.

It’s billed as a seafood restaurant but really it’s more that modern, greatest-hits dining that works so well in Dubai, but it all has to be good for this kind of approach to work. At Catch they have clearly got a great team in the kitchen because not one dish faltered and everything was as good as you’d find in a specialty restaurant.

The salmon belly carpaccio with micro greens and sour onion would stand proud on the menu at any of the city’s Japanese restaurants, while the King Fish tacos with guacamole and tomatillo were better than pretty much anything on the menu at top Mexican places.

The “wagyu on the rock” meant dropping slices of raw wagyu beef onto a hot rock for just a few second to cook, then dipping in the yozu soy, sesame and garlic oil. It’s fun and has become something of the contemporary equivalent of the fondue, and Catch is a fun place. It has that atmosphere that you often struggle to find in the UAE, so it comes as no surprise to discover that the marketing manager Ian Riddick joined from a Las Vegas nightclub. Every restaurant in Dubai should have an Ian Riddick looking after diners and making sure a good time is being had.

Likewise, the waiters can answer questions about the food, which is shamefully rare in the city. On their advice we got a whole roasted sea bass. Chili rubbed with cracked olive braised clams and turmeric silky potato it was a feast (see pic below) but crucially we did not encounter a single bone – just big chunks of finely spiced meat.

The desserts are big, inventive and American in all the right ways. Not small and fussy like at some restaurants, but the kind of thing that wide-eyed kids get as a reward at the end of a comic strip. Nowhere else in town will you get a S’mores Pizza dessert with burnt marshmallow, ice cream, milk and dark chocolate or a tower of chocolate covered brownies.

So here’s a stat for you. Last year there was a report in a local newspaper that said 140 new hotels would open in Dubai by the end of 2016. Even if that’s only half true, it would represent a lot of new restaurants in the city. Massive competition. And as more and more restaurants open the thing that will differentiate one restaurant from another will more than likely be the service and atmosphere.

No longer can restaurants just hire the cheapest barely-trained staff they can find. And if top staff from the launch leave, someone just as good or better needs to be hired. Because now that Catch is here, a high mark has been created that competitors will have to (at least) match otherwise why would we choose to go elsewhere?

Catch may not be the city’s “best” restaurant in a San Pellegrino, Michelin Star, “look, we organically knitted that kale ourselves, aren’t we clever” way but if you want a great meal, top drinks, a place with atmosphere and brilliant staff then this is the place.

Right now, Catch is where the food party’s at.

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