Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos by Adam Stuckey
It isn’t often that I say that I’ve had the perfect meal. Yes, I can describe a dish as delicious or amazing, or scream to the rooftops that a restaurant is a must see. But it takes impeccable service and a well-balanced, flawlessly timed, memorable meal for me to deem it perfect in my eyes. I visited Catch Santa Monica inside the Hotel Casa del Mar just steps away from the beach. It was truly one of the best dining experiences and made for a perfect meal.
We had a reservation at Catch for dinner on a Friday night, but I wanted to check out the hotel and the lounge before sitting down for our meal. Casa del Mar is just blocks away from busy downtown Santa Monica and Third Street Promenade – and is tucked away from the touristy hustle and bustle. The hotel is a great destination if you’re in town for a couple days and want to get away from the hectic and crowded scene.
Stepping into the hotel’s lobby, the space was filled with opulent lighting and plush seating. I recommend you grab a drink or some light bites at The Lounge at Casa if you’re looking to kill some time. The wall-to-ceiling windows in the lounge look out onto the beach, Santa Monica pier and Pacific Park. Stay for happy hour and stick around for the sunset – it’s definitely one of the best places to catch the views.
The lobby offers nightly live music ranging from jazz, soul and pop. Grab a craft cocktail, sushi or sashimi, or opt for one of the small plates at The Lounge. Guests around us ordered sliders, fresh oysters, calamari, and much more.
After taking in the sights and sounds, we walked the few steps over to Catch. The restaurant and Managing Chef Sven Mede, who also mans the ship at One Pico, specializes in an array of seafood dishes and seasonal produce. If our meal was anything like it was at One Pico, we knew we were in good hands.
I have to say that what made this meal memorable was the high level of service. The restaurant’s host, Kyle, introduced himself when we first walked into the lounge and notified us that our table was ready whenever we were. He and the General Manager were extremely attentive, adding to the luxury hotel feel and experience.
After being seated, our server for the evening, Jeremy, introduced himself and told us a bit about the menu and the evening’s specials. We knew we wanted to try a bit of everything so our server provided us with recommendations and his favorite wine pairings. If you’re a bit unsure of what to order when you visit Catch, you should definitely leave it up to the chef and your server’s hands. We were still a bit full from our lunch at One Pico earlier that day so the chef was able to create smaller portions of our choosing.
Seafood is definitely the star at Catch Santa Monica so we wanted to try all of the restaurant’s specialties. We started with the Japanese Yellowtail Crudo with shaved radish, cucumber and pickled watermelon. The dish is a perfect wait to start a meal and was a refreshing choice for the extremely sultry summer day.
I highly recommend ordering the Marinated Beef Carpaccio, which was topped with pine nuts, arugula and garlic chips. The beef was perfectly seasoned and paired well with our wines and cocktails. By the way, we ordered a bottle of the 2011 Illumination Sauvignon Blanc from Napa and it was one of the best white wines I’ve ever tasted. The sweet and light white paired well with nearly everything we ordered so take note and ask your server or sommelier for recommendations.
If you’re feeling daring, you must absolutely try the Grilled Spanish Octopus, served with smoked potates and seasoned with paprika and Merula olive oil. The octopus was grilled to perfection and was almost as good as the best octopus dish I’ve ever eaten at Misión 19 in Tijuana, Mexico. The Cedar-Grilled Diver Scallops are another great starter and is served with local peaches, pancetta and basil.
Each starter was perfectly timed and our server told us a bit about the history of the creation of each dish we ordered. We honestly could not have asked for a better dining experience.
If the four starters wasn’t enough to whet our appetites, we settled on splitting the Whole Mediterranean Branzino and a side of Black Truffle Mac & Cheese. The fish is kept whole with its spine removed, and is grilled with various seasonings and served with market fresh vegetables that I’m assuming Chef Mede picked up earlier that week from the local farmer’s market.
The Branzino was outstanding and was light in robust flavor. Catch really knows how to prepare seafood of all kinds. The Mac & Cheese was the perfect starch for our fish and the generous bits of truffle definitely stood out. I’ll definitely be back to try main dishes like the Mustard Marinated California Black Cod or the West Coast Cioppino.
As if we weren’t pushing the gluttonous button enough, we had to order dessert – three different ones for that matter. Catch has special desserts that feature local and seasonal ingredients so make sure to ask about those options before you make a decision. We opted for the Doughnut Holes served with lemon custard and blueberry compote; a seasonal Berry Cobbler with vanilla ice cream; and a seasonal New York Cheesecake with a pistachio crumble. All of the dishes were fantastic, but the light and fluffy cheesecake was my absolute favorite.
If you’re ever in the Santa Monica area and are looking for a dining experience that is away from the tourist trap, yet is surrounded by the natural coastal beauty, you must drop by Catch at Casa del Mar. The service is impeccable, the décor is romantic and you’ll feel what a true fine dining experience really should be. For more information, visit http://www.hotelcasadelmar.com/restaurant-santa-monica.