December 2018

What’s the Catch?

A Lush Passageway Leads to a Culinary Delight

By Jason Harris

There it is. As you walk through the Aria, something draws you away from the bright lights. Something draws you away from the sounds of gamblers cheering and jeering, based on the proverbial hands they were dealt. Away from the drab carpets, away from the men in form-fitting suits and the women in even tighter dresses. Away from all the other entryways into assorted bars and restaurants. Away from the slow tourists overwhelmed by the activity and the frustrated locals trying to pass them as quickly as possible. Because, like an oasis in the desert, there it is.

So much green. What is it? Is it an aviary? Is it a mini nature preserve? Is it a not-so hidden passageway into a secret garden? Is your childhood dream coming true as you discover FernGully is real? Has our desire to remake everything in Las Vegas’s image gotten the best of us and now we have an Amazon rainforest in the middle of a casino?

Kind of…

This well-curated feat of landscape architecture is simply the entrance to Catch, the much-anticipated restaurant from New York– where else? – which now has outposts in Los Angeles, Playa Del Carmen, and Las Vegas. Catch is such a destination in New York that besides their main restaurant, they also have Catch Roof, which its website describes as a “downtown destination for in-the-know New Yorkers, where panoramic views of the city skyline set the stage for an intimate experience, any time of year.” In other words, it’s on a roof!

When the rumors of a Vegas outlet started – ones that stated they would replace BarMasa and Tetsu, the former of which had been a staple of the Aria since the hotel opened in 2009 – you knew they were going to go big. How big, you ask? Word around town was that the space received a $7,000,000 makeover.

I guess that’s not that much when one of your owners, Tillman Fertita, who has been dubbed “The World’s Richest Restauranteur” by Forbes Magazine, pays the players of his NBA franchise Houston Rockets an annual combined salary of $132,826,574.

Of the other two owners, and the founders of Catch, Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum, Forbes only has this to say: they are the “New Kings of New York hospitality.”

So, what is the purpose of Catch? Is it to provide yet another seafood, Asian tapas and sushi joint? Or is the restaurant just a backdrop for something else? Says sous-chef Erin Castro, “We do vibe reports throughout the night, where we walk and see the tone of the restaurant. If we need to build higher or lower volume in places. This is how we tie everything together.”

Castro, 32, has worked all over the MGM collection of restaurants, from French bistro Bardot Brasserie to the extraordinary steakhouse Jean-Georges. What attracted her to Catch was not just the accessible style of food, but the brand itself. She states, “How many times have you been to a place where the food is great, but the atmosphere could be better? Or they have terrible music? Being in a restaurant is not only about the food, it’s gotta create a specific environment.”

Which brings us back to the sanctuary you pass through upon entry. The flora and fauna are pristine, stunning and welcoming. It is as if it was made specifically for Instagram stories. While green is the overwhelming color, there are little nooks that feature flowers of different shades that have clearly been put together for photo opportunities.

Perhaps you want to grab those likes in front of the purple-and-white-flowered angel’s wings which give those who stand in front of them the look as if they are going to fly into the sky and join a squad of magical fairies. Maybe you’d prefer to pop a squat on the Victorian-looking iron bench in front of the red, orange, and white floral wall to get your social media validation. Of course, both areas have Catch branding in prominent positions.

But you can’t eat the flowers. I mean, technically you can, but, as Royal Tenenbaum once said, “Still frowned upon.” So, you have to leave the magical flower portal and enter the dining area. First up is the bar, perhaps announcing its priority with pride of place. You go to Catch to see and be seen. You are a pretty person! Own your swag and talk to other, equally pretty people!

Behind the bar is a beautiful dining room you would never see if you weren’t led there. Tinges of green set the lighting mood and make it reminiscent of the flower tunnel. An approachable sushi bar is off to the side. And there’s room to move around between tables!

As for the food, you’re getting solid riffs on the known items. The standout dish is A5 Miyazaki Wagyu, which features the luxurious beef along with yuzu soy, garlic oil, maldon sea salt, and sesame. The thin slices of meat are cooked tableside on a hot stone. Says Castro of the dish, “It’s very interactive. It gives people the preference on how they want their meat cooked and they get to see the different styles of preparations. Some people have it with just the pickled vegetables. Some people have it with just the sauce. Some people like the meat itself.”

While there are plenty of other hot plates, the staff seems to steer guests towards the cold dishes. I guess the idea is instead of laboring over scallop gnocchi, why not enjoy the simple bites of sashimi and rolls?

The signature sashimi is the truffle, which takes raw tuna and hamachi and covers it in a mix of chili oil, ponzu, caviar, and black truffle. Hey, that’s high-end! But is it better than any simply prepared non-truffle sashimi? That’s probably not the point and in Catch’s defense, they do offer a number of traditional preparations.

Whimsy succeeds in dessert choices, which include s’mores pizza and a donut wonder wheel. “Hit Me” chocolate cake takes a bunch of things you loved from your childhood and smashes them together to create something both adolescent and adult you will be very happy you tried. A liquified take on a Klondike bar – what would you do for one? would you turn it into liquid? – where dulce de leche ice cream, brownie, and devil’s food get a velvety chocolate sauce poured over it tableside. This is a memorable way to close the meal.

As you walk out, back through the underpass of greenery, you are struck by the need to take more pictures, specifically selfies with you in front of the stunning background. And that’s the lasting impression of the restaurant. Does the food really matter? That, dear readers, is the Catch.


Mushroom Pasta

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