New York City: CATCH


You may know the EMM Group, or Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum and Michael Hirtenstein – nightlife gurus behind lauded spots Abe and Arthurs, SL and Tenjune. This time, New York’s preeminent hospitality company is reeling in diners again with their newest venture CATCH which officially opened on September 29th 2011. They have teamed up with Top Chef Season 3 winner Hung Huynh to deliver an ultimate seafood soiree in an equally innovative and chic spot that’s stacked three floors high.
Access via a non-descript, narrow doorway on 13th Street across the Gansevoort Hotel and take an elevator up to the building’s second floor to enter this tri-level palace of seafood. The space features two main dining rooms with exposed brick walls, natural wood tables and vintage leather seats – soft interiors and lights, making it well suited to a couple’s dinner as a guys’ night out. Upstairs, you’ll find an enclosed rooftop lounge where a DJ spins late into night. With such upbeat energy in the place, its definitely a scene similar to the SoHo house – trendy, pretty people, and people who seemed to “know people”. But nevertheless, this is a place you absolutely want to be.
The menu is largely seafood focused, globally inspired from Asian to Mediterranean to Western flavors. But unlike traditional fine dining which offers clear courses, CATCH fosters a more relaxed and social approach by offering food in a “steady stream of shareable cuisine”.
Just in case you don’t already know who Chef Hung Huynh is: Known for his skills and speed in the kitchen, Hung was born in Vietnam but raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He began his culinary training as a young boy in his immigrant parents’ Vietnamese restaurant (and has been cutting chicken since 10! :0). After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Hung worked his way through Manhattan’s top kitchens, including Per Se’s. He left New York in 2006 and worked his way up as the Executive Sous Chef at the haute Guy Savoy Restaurant in Las Vegas. In 2007, he participated in the 3rd Season of Top Chef and won, inspiring the judges with his confident approach to truffles, foie gras and other delicacies. He has served as a guest judge on the Top Chef Season 4 and 8, and assisted Chef Angelo Sosa in the finale of the Season 7. In 2008, Hung participated in the Bocuse d’Or USA culinary contest, competing to represent the US in the 2009 international Bocuse d’Or. Hung only won the “Best Fish Award”. Today, he is the Executive Chef of this new haunt CATCH, and unlike many other chefs, Hung seems to be there almost everyday. Admirable.
And it’s no wonder scenesters, celebrities, suits and hipsters have descended upon this newcomer.

Mini Pretzels with Honey Mustard Butter

Mini Pretzels with Honey Mustard Butter to start off. They say men cannot live on bread alone, but for these mini pretzels, we’d be willing to try. Served warm, the pretzels were so soft and had the right amount of saltiness in them. Slather them with a generous amount of that sweet butter, and you’ve got an addictive snack you won’t want to stop eating.

Left: Catch Roll, Right: Hellfire Roll

Hellfire Roll ($13): spicy tuna two-ways, pear, balsamic. Fatty succulent raw tuna and sweet mellow pear in the inside, finished with seared tuna and balsamic dressing to top it all off. It was spicy indeed! The pear was ripe enough to provide that softness and refreshing sweetness as a contrast to the savory and spicy tuna. A generous amount of filling with just the right amount of sweet and vinegary sticky rice, this roll only serves to whet our appetite.
Catch Roll ($16): crab, salmon, miso-honey. What I particularly love about this roll was that it was a burst of flavors and textures all in one bite – sweet, savory, salty, soft, crunchy and spicy. No soy sauce was needed as it had a sauce on its own and it was as good on its own too anyway! The thick slices of salmon, barely seared, was fresh, sweet and sinks right into your teeth. The crab was fresh and its sweetness was distinct. The jalapeño on the top provided a slight crunch and spiciness, while the miso-honey sauce tight all the flavors together. Again, a generous amount of filling with just the right amount of rice. This was definitely my favorite of the two rolls that we ordered.

Scallop Dumpling

Scallop Dumpling ($15): shrimp, caviar-vichyssoise. Interesting concept. I’ve never seen luscious pieces of scallop stuffed into a wanton wrapper and steamed before. But this was absolutely delicious. It was the right amount of filling to wanton wrapper, unlike many places where the ratio is just off. The vichyssoise (I’ve never heard of this before!) was thick, creamy, hearty and simply divine. The caviar provided a nice saltiness against all those almost umami flavors. My dad almost wanted to lick everything off the plate.

Dungeoness Crab Spaghetti

Dungeoness Crab Spaghetti ($22): tomato, scallion, flying fish roe. Sitting on a bed of inedible seaweed and the shell of the crab was al dente spaghetti with lots and lots and lots of succulent spicy crab meat. If this doesn’t scream appetizing at first look, then what does? Whimsical presentation, and flavor-wise, it definitely delivered. Just one criticism though, for $22, the portion might be a little too small, even though the idea is about sharing.

Sautéed Snapper

Sautéed Snapper ($49): lobster mash, truffle, lemon brown-butter. The snapper was cooked perfectly – flavorful, tender and moist. However, the lobster mash had nothing to rave about, it was a little grainy. Maybe it had sat out a little too long. But with the truffle, everything is elevated in terms of smell and taste. Truffle makes everything right.

Sugar Snap Peas

Side of Sugar Snap Peas ($8). It’s a simple dish, but done right. Sweet, juicy and tasty, I couldn’t stop eating them. Feed this to your kids! Maybe they’ll start eating vegetables then J

Banana Brûlée Split

We had a difficult time deciding which dessert to have as everything sounded so mind-blowing. Chocolate Brownie Cake, Peanut Butter Cup Soufflé, Fresh Baked Cookie Bucket… Helllooooooo!?!?!?? But we finally settled for the Banana Brûlée Split ($12): Raspberry bombe, Gianduja bombe, Cookie Dough bombe. Ever heard of a bombe? Nope not me, I had initially thought that it was a play on the word ‘bomb’, that it was going to be an explosion of something, maybe flavors or textures, in your mouth :p But basically a bombe, is an ice-cream dessert frozen in a spherical mould  so as to resemble a cannonball. Interesting! So from left to right: Cookie dough ice cream on a cookie, and finished off with cookie crumbs and caramel sauce; Gianduja ice cream in a dark chocolate mould; Raspberry ice cream in a white chocolate mould and finished off with raspberries and chocolate sauce. It was basically a deconstructed Banana Split but everything was delicious, even the brûléed bananas – so sweet and nicely caramelized – but the Raspberry bombe was my favourite. Period.
CATCH is a seafood tower which does not lack anything – they have a lounge, a bar, a counter, a cellar, an open kitchen with more than sufficient chefs and servers, bartenders, matredres, doormen/security and lastly clean toilets –  even the service was top-notch, given the fact that they are less than two months old. Our waitress was prompt, friendly, informative and attentive yet not overbearing. Her recommendations allowed us to have a phenomenal dinner and experience. I’ll definitely be back for everything they have to offer (their desserts are already calling out for me!)
So what hasn’t already been said about this splashy Meat Packing District suite of seaworthy delights? Just go. Go for the experience of indulging contemporary seafood at its best and being lavished with attention. Go for the recommendations and ensure your tables are vanquished of crumbs. Go so you can say you went to Top Chef winner Hung Huynh’s mega huge restaurant and have seen him (if you’re lucky enough :p), and then go again. Although CATCH is large enough to seat 275 diners, please listen, and make a reservation now, because the only timing I got when I made my reservation one week in advance was at 6pm.

(I apologize if the pictures seem dull! The lightings were really dim)
21 9th Ave
New York, NY 10014
Tel: 212 392 5978 
This entry was posted in American/New American, Dessert, Dinner, Mediterranean, New York City, Travel to eat! :) and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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