Restaurant review: Abu Dhabi’s Catch is on its way to becoming a seafood haven

With glittering interiors and an open sushi bar, Catch, the new bustling restaurant in Abu Dhabi, has a lot to offer seafood lovers.

Catch restaurant at the Nation Riviera Beach Club is spacious with an open sushi bar. Courtesy Catch
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Despite the growth in five-star dining at venues such as Finz (at the Beach Rotana), Fishmarket (InterContinental) and Sayad (Emirates Palace), Abu Dhabi still does not really have one defining, high-end seafood restaurant.

On the face of it, Catch seems to have all the prerequisites to claim that place at the top of the city’s (sea) food chain – not least its location on the capital’s Corniche.

It is markedly less hip than its Nation Rivera Beach Club neighbour, Asia de Cuba, although it shares similar difficulties with the often windy conditions, which meant that the terrace was a no-go when we visited, so we headed instead into the glittering interior.

It is spacious, with an open sushi bar, and was relatively bustling even on a midweek evening – certainly a positive sign.

We selected two disparate starters: the mini crab burgers (kudos to Catch for resisting the temptation to chase the zeitgeist by calling them sliders) and the dim sum platter.

The former were an excellent pair of well-sized offerings on black brioche buns, with avocado, tartar sauce and crunchily tasty banana chips – more than worth the Dh89.

For the same price, the dim sum wasn’t quite so memorable – though there was nothing notably wrong about the sextet of steamed scallop shumai, prawn ha gao and squid-ink dumplings, with chilli dipping sauce that had a satisfying little kick to it.

It was left to the mains to truly showcase Catch’s fresher-than-fresh seafood. The grilled tiger prawns were impressively presented, fanned open from the middle and slathered in a frothy butter emulsion, with spindly shoots of succulent salicornia protruding skywards. In a rare under-billing scene, they were advertised at Dh279, but cost only Dh229 when the bill arrived.

The culinary bar was raised even higher by the roasted meagre fillet – “it’s like sea bass”, our waiter offered – a substantial island of fish sitting in a sea of broth, packed with saffron potatoes, shrimps, baby calamari and clams. At Dh119, it was a veritable steal.

On to the desserts and the poached pear with vanilla and cacao sauce – a gold-tipped, toffee-apple-style creation with additional fans of sliced pear – sadly didn’t live up to its visual promise. The main pear was a little tough, which might have been eased had the dish not been served (presumably deliberately) cold.

The sharing dessert plate did, however, make good on its fabulous display. The highlights of the quintet of treats were the dinky pistachio trocadero – which vaguely resembled a Super Mario mushroom – and the mini raspberry opera cake.

The only significant grumble of the evening was a few dips in the service offered by one waitress. She deposited the dim sum platter on our table without bothering to explain the contents. More unforgivably, she then whisked away a plate with a few remaining banana chips without asking if we had finished. Like too many waiting staff, her eyes-to-the-floor, head-in-the-clouds demeanour meant that she roundly ignored our request for her to leave them where they were.

Our other waiter was better, thankfully – friendly, knowledgeable and efficient, despite being run off his overworked feet dashing between tables.

On the service slip-ups alone, Catch isn’t quite the outright cuisine scene-leader that Abu Dhabi could use – but it is there or thereabouts when it comes to the best seafood in the city.

• Our meal for two at Catch, Nation Riviera Beach Club, St Regis Abu Dhabi, cost Dh784. For more information, call 02 611 0909. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito

aworkman@thenational.ae