Seafood at Catch Restaurant & Lounge, Nation Riviera - St Regis Hotel, Abu Dhabi
I love it when I walk into a restaurant and I immediately fall in like with it. Maybe it is the timeous opening of the door as I walk in. It could be the elegant hostesses that greet me as my guest and I are ushered in. I know that as I pass the bar and lounging area, I have a feeling that I will enjoy this evening. It is an unmistakably seafood destination when one looks at the decor. Hooks and ropes connected to fish bowls are very tastefully used to create the sense of the sea, but the most arresting piece for me is that of a sculpture resembling branches and twigs that have been washed up on a shore.
The colours are light and welcoming, with whites, greys and silvers dominating, complemented by light wood floors and tables. Also, staff are elegantly dressed without being stuffy - again the white and grey motif dictating. It is an eclectic bunch of staff, a strength as restaurants with a cool and chic appeal realise the importance of diversity.
I am seated and while I am offered a menu, the large open kitchen and live sushi area catch my attention. Yes, it is definitely going to be a memorable evening.
It is a fairly compact menu, with a very strong emphasis on sharing. In that spirit, my guest and I order a few items to start the evening. We order Prat Ar Coum oysters and a selection of sushi. My waiter for the evening, Sergey, having been with Catch since pre opening, is my kind of waiter. If only all waiting staff appreciated the significance of first impressions - he is confident, warm and knowledgable. There is also an honesty about him that I find refreshing - when I ask a question and he is not sure, he tells me he will get back to me. All of this in the opening exchange.
The oysters are splendid. They are served with sake and ponzu sauce, but I forego the sauce and add a bit of lemon. They are rich in salinity, large and fleshy and perfectly shucked. We also have a sashimi selection comprising Yellow fin tuna, octopus and scallops. They all served on a bed of ice but it is the scallops' presentation that excites me - thinly sliced with a slice of lime between them. It is a cliche to use the word 'fresh' to describe sashimi, but it is nonetheless true. It is not just taste; the tuna has a gorgeous deep pink colour that smacks of freshness.
Finally, we have the Blow torch dynamite roll. Despite being a traditionalist when it comes to sushi, I live on the wild side this evening and when I try one of these rolls, a mmmmmm escapes my lips. It is the texture that immediately grabs me, and then the flavours. Highly recommended.
Meanwhile, my wine for the evening, a 2012 Chablis "La Pierrelée' La Chablisienne", is fresh and citrusy, making it a perfect complement for seafood. I particularly laud its long taste, allowing me to savour it. Memorable.
Finally, for the main course, I hesitantly follow Sergey's recommendation of the Seabass prepared “Papillotte Style”. I say so because I have tried quite a few seabass dishes where the chef managed to suck all the moisture out of it by over cooking it, but the way this is to be cooked encourages me. As Sergey explains, doubt makes way for anticipation. It is basically cooked in a bag, so moisture will be trapped inside.
My waiter presents the seabass. Still in its bag, table side, and me being such a fan of theatrics, I look on as he opens the bag. The aroma that wafts out is not overpowering. It is only when I serve some on my plate that the aroma really hits home. But don't expect anything strong and overpowering. This is confirmed when I try it. I get very delicate flavours of pepper and salt and alot of natural tasting vegetables. Celery and my favourite, pak choi, stand out. The latter, especially, still has some crunch to it. I love it. A mild sweetness comes from the shallots and cherry tomatoes, but very slight.
But this is about the sea bass, and I am thrilled that I allowed myself to be swayed by Sergey. The moisture has been beautifully trapped, and the sea bass falls apart easily as I prod it, but, and this is the highlight, it has kept its shape really well. All in all, a dish that wows if you appreciate subtlety of flavours.
Dessert is an obvious choice - Mochi ice cream selection of mango, coconut, chocolate and vanilla. The only false note for me is the absence of green tea flavour, but this is all relative, something I appreciate.
Overall, Catch is a unique seafood restaurant thanks to its concept that combines a lounge, bar and dining area. That in itself is not exclusive to them, but with a seafood focus it is. I saw guests simply having a drink at the bar while others were lounging with a few light bites and drinks. This works because sometimes people just want that option of a snack and a glass of something without having to go for a full restaurant experience. Of course, it is primarily restaurant, and this it does very well. It boasts service that is slick and precise, matched by a management staff leading by example and cleaning tables. Finally, a very lively kitchen with a large team of chefs conjuring up some fabulous seafood fare.
Catch understands that a more and more demanding group of diners are no longer satisfied with just a traditional sit-down-and-eat concept. It offers more, much more.
Catch Restaurant & Lounge,
Opposite St Regis Hotel, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 611 0909
Appetisers 48-234 AED
Soups and Salads 48-78 AED
Mains 108-318 AED
Desserts 45-50 AED