Everything old is new again. That seems to be the case when it comes to Catch, a seafood restaurant on Broad Street in Red Bank, which opened in late 2014 and has just moved a few doors down, reinventing itself as Catch 19.
OK, maybe refining or fine-tuning is a more appropriate word than reinventing, since Dom Rizzo is still chef, and many former favorites remain on the menu, but now it has more meat and non-fish offerings than before, and a liquor license as well. There are two levels at this new location, previously the site of Gotham. The lower level has tables front and back with a large bar area flanking one wall in between, as well as a raw bar, and a large open, glassed-in kitchen. Comfortable chairs, designer lighting, and lots of artwork on the walls provide an upscale, but unfussy feel to the room. The upstairs is available for private parties.
From the extensive raw bar selections, for starters, we opted for an assortment of raw Oysters ($3.50): briny Pemaquids and Taunton Bays, both from Maine; sweet Cape Cod Wellfleets, and small, mild Kumamotos from Washington state. These begged for crisp, lemon-like acidity from white wines, so we chose a glass of 2014 Laurenz V. Friendly Gruner Veltliner from Austria ($12), light and unremarkable, and a richer 2016 Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, with notes of grapefruit and zesty minerality that made it an enjoyable pairing.
A generous appetizer of Mango Salmon “Tartare” ($16), slices of raw salmon, pineapple mango salsa, radish and lime dressing was cool and refreshing, but the salmon was served sashimi style, not chopped as one expects with a tartare.
Tuna Poke ($18), an ample serving of pieces of sushi grade tuna, yuzu sauce, avocado, bright yellow discs of mango “paper,” and crunchy black sesame seeds, was one of the prettiest looking dishes of the night. Impeccably fresh and fun to eat, it only wanted a bit more aggressive seasoning to bring out its full flavor potential.
We were a bit puzzled by the Char Grilled Octopus ($15) offering. Listed as blood orange glazed and charred octopus, fennel/tomato salad, and topped with a slice of rosy watermelon radish, we expected the seafood to be the star of the dish, but the plate was mostly salad (arugula) with only four very small, albeit tender, octopi ringing the outside. It was pleasing to the eye, and very tasty, with good textures, but we were left wanting more sea and less garden.
The Catch Manhattan Style Clam Chowder ($7) was fresh tasting with nice chunkiness, and had just enough spice to elevate the complexity of the soup without bringing excessive heat to it. The addition of three littleneck clams in the center was a welcome touch.
Billed as “The Finest Cioppino” ($31), the preparation varying nightly, was indeed quite good. On the evening of our visit, a large serving of shrimp, clams, mussels, pieces of salmon and Chilean sea bass was prepared and served in a savory tomato-based broth. All the fish and seafood was tender and perfectly cooked, excepting a number of mussels which, inexplicably, had dried out.
Too intriguing-sounding to pass up, one of my guests chose the Swordfish Milanese ($32); a nice thick hunk of swordfish, sitting on a bed of wilted broccoli rabe, circled with a drizzle of herbs in olive oil, and topped with a gorgeous 2-minute egg, just waiting to be broken, so the yolk could run. It was both flavorful and comforting.
A carryover from the original Catch, the center section of the menu also allows diners to custom build their entrée by selecting a choice of fresh fish or meat, various sauces, and sides.
The wine list has an interesting variety of gently priced whites, mainly from Europe and the USA; reds are weighted towards California with half of them under $100 and half over $100. Wines by the glass are smartly served in quartinos (small carafes holding about a glass and a half of wine). I was happy with a 2015 Donnafugata Sherazade ($14/glass), a Sicilian red made from Nero d’Avola grapes, with a nose of black cherries, and plenty of acidity and fruit to stand up to the entrees.
The warm and welcoming service certainly enhanced the enjoyment of our visit. Our waitperson was extremely knowledgeable and very accommodating.
After tasting so many dishes, Panacotta ($9) topped with toasted coconut and cranberries sounded like a good choice for dessert, and it was.
Having enjoyed so many of the dishes we ordered, I look forward to returning to Catch 19 to further explore this new direction it has taken.
19 Broad St., Red Bank
Bob Sacks, longtime food and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob. Read more reviews here.
This article was first published in the Nov. 9-16, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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