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More than Seafood

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6623 Market Street
Price: $$-$$$
Bottom line: I can’t afford Catch every day, but when I can, I know I’ll get my money’s worth!

RIB-STICKING CUISINE: Chef Keith Rhodes’ ribs delight, shown here with a cucumber margarita, complete with ancho chile-powder rim. Photo by Bethany Turner

I’ve been a fan of Catch from its earliest days on Princess Street (now Phun Seafood Bar). I’ve even quipped that chef/owner Keith Rhodes is just using the tiny space as his test kitchen, and once a restaurant becomes a hit, he’ll move it to a better location and start over downtown (we’ll see what he does with Phun). Such is the case with Catch, which now resides on Market Street in Ogden.

Rhodes is now infamous for his early dismissal from Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Now, if anyone has a good joke to tell about his decision to buy cooked shrimp, I’m all ears. The next person to mention it for no obvious reason without anything clever to say is getting a fork in the eye, courtesy of Rosa Bianca. We all saw the show, people; let’s move on.

Catch was conceived as a seafood restaurant (I imagine the name gives it away), but the menu is slightly more expansive. Known for remarkably fresh local seafood, prepared with Southern and Asian influences, the menu is always a delight for any foodie to peruse. Since I’ve long been a fan of the place, I’ve tried many of the seafood dishes available. Thus, when I decided to use Catch for this review, I searched a new angle.

I chose to avoid the seafood and focus on some of the other menu offerings. After all, we know that Catch can provide fantastic seafood, but what about the rest? Though, I couldn’t resist the crab cake, we ordered three appetizers and one entrée with no fish in them whatsoever.

We opened with an appetizer special, a pulled-pork taco with sriracha aioli. Too many North Carolinians take a “more is better” approach to vinegar in their pulled pork. But Rhodes let the fatty, flavorful meat do the heavy lifting. With only traces of vinegar, the taste of slow-cooked pig meat was a real treat. Though I’m not a native North Carolinian, my guest was. She agreed the delicate flavoring was a tremendous improvement over some of the more tart styles we taste here.

I could have used a bit more sriracha in the aioli. Then again, sometimes I want to drink a glass of sriracha alongside my meal, so I might not be the fairest judge on that subject.

Next came the Korean BBQ ribs. I might have fallen in love. With meat sliding off the bone and a mildly spicy sauce, these ribs are amongst the best I’ve ever tasted. The salty, hand-cut fries served alongside them allowed me to soak up as much of the thick barbecue sauce as I could. Rich with hints of mesquite, the sauce reminded me why I’m so disgusted with watery sauces served by chain restaurants and lazy chefs. (Water doesn’t have flavor—so keep it the hell out of your sauces!)

We split two entrees: a duck salad and the aforementioned crab cake. I find both of these dishes easy to judge at a glance. Duck is well-prepared if the fat is crispy; loose duck fat is rather unpleasant on the tongue. Crab cakes are well made when one can see substantial chunks of crab meat. Without seeing crab meat, it’s all breading, which means it’s a rip-off. Thankfully, Catch scored highly on both theses criteria.

As with the pork, Rhodes let the unctuous duck meat take center stage, and avoided the temptation to over-season it. That temptation has sunk many a promising chef, but this salad is a testament to restraint. The earthy mushrooms, the bibb lettuce (so fresh I’d swear it came from their onsite hydroponic garden, though it is reserved for herbs) and the tangy ginger-laced dressing all combined with the duck to make an elegant, light summer entrée.

The crab cake, which looked to be every ounce of the quarter pound the menu promised, eschewed the heavy breading I loathe so much. The sweet crab meat made an immediate impression on the nose and the tongue. Served atop a bed of curried potato salad, the crab cake was true to its Southern roots. Catch doesn’t bother with deep-fried Maryland-style cakes, but instead opts for the more delicate Charleston preparation (possibly the only time in Southern cuisine we abandon vats of oil while cooking). By pan-searing the dish, the crab meat remains the most dominant flavor. While deep fried foods can be delicious, the grease doesn’t make for the best crab cake.

The curried potato salad, while pleasant, lacked the impact I like to get from curry. I would have preferred a spicier side dish; however, since I’ve spent this entire review praising Rhodes for not over-seasoning, I can hardly criticize him too harshly now for keeping his understated style.

Some people complain that Catch is too expensive. I will confess that five dishes and an iced tea cost me $65 (before I tipped our amazingly helpful and patient waitress). I’ve never objected to paying for quality, though. I can’t afford to eat Catch every day, but when I can, I know I’ll get my money’s worth. There are cheaper lunch spots in town, but there aren’t better ones.

I love everything about Catch. From its minimalist décor, to its heavily lacquered table tops, to the soft blues in the paint on the walls evoking thoughts of the sea. Our waitress smiled brightly even though we came in toward the end of lunch service and stayed later than any polite restaurant-goers ever should. I recommend Catch unequivocally.

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