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Restaurants & Bars 3

Impressive Catch

Spencer | Apr 18, 200305:40 PM

Last night we finally tried the new Catch (2362 Market at Castro) after walking by it for a few months. We were impressed.

The name "Catch" - with its simple fish image - suggested a fish-centric restaurant, and I was all prepared for a menu long in the ocean. My partner, instead, looked at the generic-sheik design and clientele and expected a watered down Pasta Pomodoro or Fuzio. I must admit that the place seemed to be designed by a committee with too many MBAs and not enough MFAs, but that is often the reality of restaurants that hope make a profit, and I can accept that. Luckily the food was more in tune with my expectations than Partner's...

The menu, however, didn't give me much hope. There was only one fish entree. There was a house seafood stew, but at $17 or something else ridiculous, I would have wanted six portions of soup, not one. That one fish entree was salmon on linguini, which I last had at some such Mel's Diner before the Internet was invented by Al Gore. What was it doing on this menu? I was forced to ask for daily specials, and ordered the fishiest one blind. Partner ordered an "ahi tuna and crostini trio" from the salad list.

The food came out promptly. It was well displayed on large white plates - his rectangular, mine a big deep pasta bowl that could have held six portions of soup.

Delicious. Surprised. Happy. Filled.

Partner's dish was four thin slices sheared off a chunk of pepper-seared ahi, spread out under a frisee toupee topped with - can you guess - three little pieces of toast and tapenade. Partner is Italian, a good cook, and in rare form complimented the tapenade highly. I tried it and it /was/ good.

I had two hunks of pepper broiled Opah floating over a sea of garbanzo beans is something delicious. I ate it all (bastard! I didn't share with Partner, it must have been good). The fish, described as a friend-of-swordfish by the nice overworked waitress, was well cooked, but steak-y full of flavor and texture. The pepper marinade was primo for the taste of the fish, and whatever had been done to the garbanzos was well worth it. I ate the whole swimming pool of them in the bottom of that big dish. And I feel fine today.

The list of wine bottles is on the back of the menu. I didn't find it until too late as I was too intrigued by the separate list of wine by the glass - and by the half or whole pitcher. Murphy Goode Fume' by the half pitcher? I imagined the back-of-the-house gnomes tapping a Goode-N-Ready five-liter each Monday for a week of easy drinking from Pyrex 1/2 liter pitchers. We were suddenly at a family restaurant on the Adriatic Coast of Italy looking out at the flotsam floating in the green seafoam, asking repeatedly for refils of our half liter until we could barely walk out the restaurant door. We ordered beers from a short list heavily tilted toward bitter lagers.

And that decor? Well, I was stuck looking at the Yamaha player piano play by itself better than the hired pianist dressed like Elton John at a funeral. Most of the light - and all of the distracting glare - came from the backlit bar shelves that stretched up to the 20' ceiling keeping all those liquors nice and warm. At least the host was cute. And professional. And nice. But cute.

Overall reaction?

Have a drink or two before you go. The food was very good, but the design, the "live" music, and the vibe were distracting. Maybe I should be less curious. Perhaps I should sit facing the wall next time. Whatever. I enjoyed the food, and there will be a next time.

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