An Evening at Catch Restaurant in Winchester
I had the opportunity last night (4/22/08) to entertain several business clients from Germany so I decided to take them Catch in Winchester. It turned out be another great evening. For anyone who hasn't been to Catch it is a small place in the center of Winchester that features fresh and creative seafood dishes. They offer a Prix Fixe menu for $45.00 that includes three courses along with an excellent bread baskets a small dish of assorted olives. The current menu includes about 8 choices of appetizers and and equal number of mains.
I chose the lobster Agnolotti in a very flavorful mushroom broth as my starter. The Agnolotti were house made, perfectly cooked and the broth was full of small shemeji type mushrooms. Others in my party chose the fresh Maine crab salad and the grilled Rhode Island Calamari as starters. Everyone was pleased with their choices.
For my main course I chose the Grilled Striped Bass which was served with littleneck clams and seedless grapes in a light sauce. The Bass was impeccably fresh and the sauce was very flavorful. Two others had the rice coated Bronzini while to other two in our group chose the restaurant's signature dish of grilled scallops served with short rib ravioli. Each of the main dishes was a hit.
We ordered a selection of desserts and finished the dinner with a small bottle of Eis-wine which capped off the meal very well. My clients appreciated the fact that the portion sizes at Catch are on the small side compared with most American restaurants so they were able to enjoy a full three course meal without feeling totally over stuffed.
I have been to Catch many, many times and have never been disappointed with either the food , the excellent and knowledgeable service and a wine list that includes many varieties and price points.
Update: The 3-course menu was $38 last night (perhaps a nod to the current market and still only 3 table occupied while we were there from 8-10p?) - an even bigger steal - it was a delicious meal in a really nice place with great service. There was no skimping on ingredient quality or portion size (which has always been smaller and more civilized here anyway). The only slight downside (?) is that the place is truly embedded in the suburbs and the room is really, really quiet on a weeknight (no buzz at all, kind of low energy).
The generous pour of house red wine was also great ($12 a glass for Grenache/Syrah blend from Ventoux) - the wine markup seems high in general, however. The bread was fresh (Iggy's or equivalent-type rolls) and the herbed olives and EVOO hit the spot.
The mussels w/chorizo and the pork appetizer were both great. The black bass entree was cooked as expertly as any fish I ever had, and the homemade fettuccine with pumpkin, soppressata, and chanterelles was perfect in spite of seeming kind of weird to me before I ordered it.
Dessert (chosen from the regular menu of 4 or 5 options) really stole the show last night - the standout was the pear almond tart with salty almonds (my wife who doesn't really like sweets LOVED it), but the chocolate semifreddo and vanilla gelato doused tableside with a (really good in its own right) fresh expresso was also unique and memorable.
Once again we wonder why we don't choose this spot more often - $100 before tip for a truly top notch dinner served by friendly folks with super easy parking - really a find!
I've been to Catch twice and both times they exceeded my expectations. The food both times was excellent and the service is genuine and friendly. The last time I went I had the Bibb Lettuce Salad as an appetizer and it was one of the best salads I've had in a while; simple, super fresh and well-executed. It's hard for me to get excited about salad, but this one did the trick. I had Flounder as my main and I was reluctant to share any of it with the other 3 people eating with me. I managed to snag a few bites of the pasta with butternut squash and some sort of salami, I love that the pasta-to-other-ingredients was relatively low and that every bite had a slightly different combination of flavors. The menu has already changed since I was there two weekends ago, it's great to know they keep things super-seasonal. Dessert is another category that I tend to skip entirely BUT the first time I was there it was included in the Restaurant Week menu and I LOVED it. I mean I polished off two desserts and sorry I can't tell you what they were but that pastry chef has a gift.
The wine list is sprinkled with little gems at great values and I love love love the Cooper Hill Pinot Noir that they pour by the glass. Definitely worth the drive!
Sigh... we had such a miserable experience -- food and service -- at Catch during Restaurant Week that we will never go back there again.
And to head off any 'hounds who believe that you can't judge a restaurant by Restaurant Week, I very much disagree. If you're going to participate in this event, then you had better be on your toes because RW is the time that folks like us will want to try a new place. A restaurant's performance should be stellar to gain new customers.
Catch has always been a favorite of mine and I have never been disappointed with a meal there. I live in Winchester and have always felt that I was lucky to have such a great little restaurant so close to home. In the current economy I think a lot of places are going to have a tough time but Catch has, over the years they have been in existence, been consistently good so I hope they survive. In addition to great food the service has always been friendly but also very professional. I would recommend Catch to anyone looking for a great meal in a casual environment.