RESTAURANTS all over the world have had to adapt to what 2020 threw at them. We all know what that means, please don’t make me say it again, it’s exhausting. Operations and functionality have been adjusted front and back of house, and for diners the most obvious are probably menu changes.
In my experience thus far, these have been streamlined, but that doesn’t necessarily mean constricted. Catch 22 Beachside Grille & Bar in Table View has trimmed down its big page-turner menu in favour of one page printed on both sides – and laminated for hygiene purposes. Wines are now displayed on chalkboards, as are daily specials.
You’ll still find the steaks, seafood and sushi for which the restaurant is famous, but instead of starters there are hot and cold tapas plates. The cold ones are almost all new: Asian sesame slaw, pickled calamari salad, tuna carpaccio, salmon crudo, and prawn toasts. Oysters are Naked or Drunken (vodka and Tabasco) with the addition of piquant mignonette and chilli, lime and soy splashes.
Seasonal vegetable tempura, Sexy BBQ Riblets, chicken/beef skewers and salt and pepper fish goujons join fellow newcomer Loaded Cowboy Fries in the hot plates section. Outrageously seductive and terrifying for the hips at the same time (because once you start, well, you get the idea…) these are rustic-cut chips smothered with cheese sauce, crispy bacon crumbled and Cowboy Candy – a sweet and spicy relish Catch 22 owner Gabbi Katz started making during lockdown. It makes an appearance on various dishes on the menu, and if you get hooked, you can buy a jar to take home. With side hustles being the name of the game, there’s a small retail shelf with Cowboy Candy and spicy Mozambican peri peri sauce (in which the restaurant’s prawns are grilled). Gabbi says she’s planning to make some gin and lemon marmalade before Christmas so I’m putting that in here to hold her to it.
This savvy businesswoman is one after my own heart; while we still have to be cautious when sharing food, the small plates lend themselves to that (so choose your lunch or dinner partner wisely). “That’s the way I have always like to eat, that Mediterranean style. Why do you want to taste only one plate, you want to taste everything?” says Gabbi.
There are no losers with the smaller menu. Favourite dishes make appearances as daily specials, and the heavier heartier ones are on hiatus until winter. Look out for sushi specials too, and Tapas Tuesday when you get any three plates for R200. With a 250ml carafe of wine priced from about R50 to R70 you simply cannot go wrong. Plus, Wednesdays are “Winesdays” with selected carafes for R45 (while stocks last).
There isn’t a massive demand for vegan and vegetarian choices at Catch 22 but Gabbi says she is working on creating better options for non-meat or -seafood eaters. “Something tasty so you don’t feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick,” she adds.
To this end, I decided to sample vegetarian sushi – the first time I have done so on purpose (cucumber maki shoved onto a platter to fill space notwithstanding). The cucumber and radish roses (pictured at the top of the page) were light satisfying enough for me not to even miss the salmon. Tofu nigiri was surprisingly delicious and I’d happily order it again. The veggie tempura caused the waiter all sorts of anxiety because it was supposed to be eaten immediately while it was crispy and crunchy but I was rearranging furniture and roping in staff members to take pictures. He need not have worried; it was still just fine by the time I got to it.
Eat your vegetables, people! They’re flipping amazing.
The feast, with a view overlooking Table Bay and Table Mountain, included salmon crudo (salmon obviously, red onion and fried capers with zingy soy vinaigrette), pickled calamari salad, and sticky Sexy BBQ Riblets with tomato, chorizo and smoked paprika. Gabbi and I also share a love of Spanish-inspired food, and one of her favourite dishes is the Spanish prawns sautéed in olive oil, garlic, a dash of sherry and a light touch of chilli. Toasted bread essential to get all that lovely sauce, and don’t be shy to tuck a napkin in your collar.
“This time of year we’re normally preparing for our busy season and you know what to expect if you’ve been around the block a few times. This year we are looking blindly down a dark passage, which makes it difficult to prepare. We’re hoping to see a high volume of local travellers and visitors to the Cape,” says Gabbi. “We’re going to miss the international kite surfers, who are among my favourite clientele.”
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PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©