With all the mixed reviews I have been hearing, I thought I would check it out myself. First off, it is certainly far better than Coccole, no contest. Plus, the space has been completely redesigned so it is much more comfortable and better lit. Four of us shared the following appetizers:
Duo of Soups: White and green Asparagus Soups, Lemon Oil - This was my favorite item of the night, actually. A yin and yang of white and green asparagus puree was poured into a white bowl, with the lemon/olive oil drizzled on top. It was a lovely presentation that tasted of freshness and bright flavor. I was delighted that they did not take the easy way out as there was little or no butter or cream added.
Grilled Flatbread, Asian Pears, “Oregonzola” Cheese, Candied Walnuts, Honey Balsamic Reduction, Micro Greens - Also a favorite of the table. Not too sweet, a tiny bit tart. Great fusion of textures and flavor.
Jumbo Lump Crab Salad, Red Grapefruit, Avocado Tatsoi - This was fine but unremarkable in any way.
Seared Scallops, English Pea Risotto, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Toasted Pine Nuts - For once, seared scallops that were not overcooked. I find that hard to find in this city. Very fresh, perfectly seared. This risotto was nothing less than amazing. We scraped the plate clean. Order this for sure.
Mains: I got the chicken, the other three ordered steak.
Sonoma Spring Chicken, Asparagus, Morel Mushrooms, Roasted Chicken Jus - Nice presentation; deboned breast with crispy skin with the wing bones and drumsticks still attached. It was a little inconsistent; some of the chicken was a bit undercooked. The bone was pretty red. The sauce was delightful. Some of the asparagus was not peeled and was stringy. Some of it was spot on. Morels were mild flavored and a nice accent.
Dry Aged Bone-in New York Steak, Red Scallions, Peewee Potatoes, Baby Shitake Mushrooms, Beef Jus - My husband insisted on really rare and that is what he got. I think someone hit it with a cigarette lighter then brought it out. It is nice to know they don't pre-sear; clearly, it was made to order. Everyone was very happy with their steaks. I don't know exactly what they did with the shitakes, but they were also one of the best things of the night. My husband went nuts for them and he usually picks them out of dishes and gives them to me.
Dessert: Three of us got the molten lava cake, one ordered some fromage blanc and expresso gelato.
Molten Chocolate Cake, Burnt Marshmallow, Graham Crackers: They had a problem in the kitchen and I did not get mine until everyone else finished their dessert. They comp'ed me for it. It was basically an overdone smore. Which is not a bad thing...
Fromage blanc gelato tested well, like cheesecake ice cream. Duh. It was ok. Expresso gelato was described by my husband as "intense coffee flavor" but no aftertaste. "very clean."
Overall - I would rate Catalina 'good' by LA standards and 'Very Good" for South Bay standards. If I lived across town I would not make a special trip to go, but I do highly recommend it for locals.
Appetizers are around $10-$15, entrees mostly $25-$30.
corkage: $20. They do not have proper glassware. They have a decent wine list with some notable California and Italian offerings, but this is weird - no vintages. I have never seen a wine list with so many options over $100 without vintages.
I also posted this on my blog in case anyone wants to check it out.