Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wilmington Restaurant Week: Catch

[caption id="attachment_286" align="alignleft" width="268" caption="Catch - 6623 Market Street - local food with a modern twist."][/caption]

Here in Wilmington we just wrapped up our spring Restaurant Week. From April 28 to May 5, local restaurants offered lunch and dinner specials and prix fixe menus. It’s a great opportunity to have some fine food, maybe revisit a place you haven’t visited in a while or do what Lauren and I did—try someplace new. Several of our friends have been raving about what Chef-Owner Keith Rhodes is doing at Catch—making fantastic food using local farms and fish. When Lauren and I saw Catch was offering a $30 prix fixe menu, we had to go. So we made the call and got a reservation.

For all its hype, Catch’s location had me worried. It’s on Market Street; north Market Street. The section of Market Street that’s all car lots interspersed with tiny strip-malls and a few freestanding stores. But good food is good food no matter the location (try the shrimp trucks in Hale’iwa, Hawai’i). When we walked in, I forgot Catch was on Market Street at all. The bar was modern and well stocked. The simple dining room was cozy without being cramped. And the whole restaurant makes you feel as if you’re under the sea. Rich blue walls the color of the deep ocean, natural wood wainscoting and hardwood floors reminiscent of sand. The light fixtures reminded me of coral and cast shadows on the walls that looked like light playing on water. Crisp white tablecloths. A couple of flowers in a vase. The most surprising thing: no noise from Market Street, only the din of conversation and the click of forks on plates.

[caption id="attachment_277" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="White Wolf Golden Ale and Atteca Garnacha 2007."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_276" align="aligncenter" width="305" caption="Firecracker Shrimp--breaded shrimp in a sherry-cream sauce."][/caption]

Service came quickly after we were seated and we put in our drink and appetizer order: Lauren had White Wolf Golden Ale, I had a glass of 2001 Atteca Grenache and then the Firecracker Shrimp to share. The White Wolf Golden Ale is brewed in Farmville, NC and is very much a beer’s beer—golden and slightly hoppy, like an upscale Budweiser—Lauren thought it was passable, but wanted a Stella Artois or even a Blue Moon (which we were surprised weren’t available). I thought my Atteca Grenache was fantastic; very well balanced and reasonably priced. The Firecracker Shrimp were more like Lauren’s beer—lacking in some way.The shrimp were large, sweet and juicy; the breading light, just salty enough and very flavorful and the sherry-cream sauce was a nice finish. What the Firecracker Shrimp lacked was the heat and pop the name promised. Where was the chili? Not the lip-blistering, get-me-some-milk chili, but something. Some Texas Pete or maybe Sriracha. With the addition of a little hot bite, the Firecracker Shrimp would go from good to great.

For our second course we had the option of the Hibachi House Salad, which Lauren ordered, or the Catfish Curry Chowder topped with micro-cilantro, which I got. Lauren’s salad looked great and tasted better. Seasonal greens (the last of the spring lettuce in our case), shitake mushrooms, cucumber, carrot, tomato and an exceptional sesame ginger vinaigrette. My Catfish Curry Chowder was the perfect little bowl of chowder. Each spoonful was rich without being overwhelming and the micro-cilantro gave it a fresh, subtle finish. We passed forkfuls of salad and spoonfuls of chowder back and forth and both agreed that we’d come back just for this.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The salad was fresh, bright and the dressing was perfect."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_278" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Catfish curry chowder with micro-cilantro. Superb."][/caption]

Our entrees arrived. Lauren’s Tempura Pork Tenderloin with sautéed pea shoots, mashed sweet potatoes and chili sauce looked exquisite and smelled even better. The pea shoots (snow or sugar snap pea we discovered later) were new to us but we loved them. A little like asparagus, they added a brightness to the dish that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. Like the Firecracker Shrimp’s batter, the tempura on the tenderloin was fantastic—light and crispy, it gave the tenderloin a little crunch but still let it taste like pork. The sweet potato mash was delicious and the whole dish looked and tasted like home cooking, but upscale. With the tempura and the chili sauce, Asian flavors and textures were introduced in surprising but organic ways. Very tasty, very well executed.

[caption id="attachment_281" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lauren's Tempura Pork Tenderloin with pea shoots and mashed sweet potatoes with sweet chili sauce."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_280" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="My Lump Crab Bugotini."][/caption]

My Lump Crab Bugotini with tomato concasse and micro-arugula and parmesan snow was a thing of beauty. Piles of sweet crab. A mound of parmesan. The peppery burn of arugula. It was perfect. Even the tomato concasse was perfect and I don’t usually like tomatoes (it’s a texture thing, I don’t like the slimy, seedy part). Each forkful came with a bit of everything and it all worked. Again, Lauren and I traded bites back and forth and found that both dishes were phenomenal.

[caption id="attachment_282" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Warm Chocolate Bundt Cake with fresh whipped cream and cocoa nibs."][/caption]

Finally our dessert came. At first I was disappointed that we had to share a dessert, then I remembered that I need to drop 15 pounds and I was fine with it. When I saw our server bring out a plate with a warm chocolate bundt cake on it, I had second thoughts. One bite and I was convinced that I could not eat the whole thing myself. The cake was rich and moist, and the dots of strawberry puree around the plate added a second layer of sweetness that finished each bite. We finished the cake in record time.

All in all, Catch was a great dining experience. Pricewise they are in the special occasion restaurant category for us, but we’ll be back, that much is sure. I enjoyed it so much that after one meal they made it into my top five Wilmington restaurants. In case you’re curious, they are:

  1. Brasserie du Soleil (French)

  2. Jerry’s (Southern-French Fusion)

  3. Osteria Cicchetti (Italian)

  4. Catch (Southern-Asian Fusion)

  5. Grand Union Pub (Pub Food)

    [caption id="attachment_283" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="In the end there was nothing but spoons."][/caption]

Catch (Market Street) on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Here are other restaurants that I think merit serious consideration:
    Rafaella (great Italian, especially veal and risotto dishes)
    PortLand Grill (special occasion)
    Ruth's Chris (great steaks)
    Carolina Ale House (burgers, large selection of beer)
    The Bento Box (sushi)
    We love Jerry's (great food, wonderful wine), Osteria (build your own pasta), Grand Union (the best falafel in ILM) and Brasserie (fabulous salads) but think these others are worthy of numerous visits too.