I visit the States at least once a year. It’ll be three times before 2018 comes to an end and if there’s one thing I can almost always count on during my visits, it’s the excellent dining experience I have at the vast majority of American restaurants I eat at. Especially in New York where over the years I’ve enjoyed hundreds of absolutely terrific meals from high-end to low-end.
But then Catch came along…
Taking the elevator from the dark, ground level entrance up to the restaurant’s dining room is in itself a clever means to retain customers. I don’t think it was a deliberate strategy when the owners opened the place, but regardless, once there, you feel like you’ve already made a commitment and kind of give in to whatever awaits once the elevator doors close behind you. Especially when you’re hungry.
Our party of five were seated reasonably fast on the lush terrace but then had to wait about 10 minutes before one of the half-dozen servers showed up at our table. In the meantime, a friendly busboy provided us with water but couldn’t offer us more than that – and an embarrassing smile as the wait prolonged. Such is the hierarchy at most a la carte restaurants and diners in the US.
Once the 30 something server did appear, he offered us only a smile and a promise to return »in just a minute« before rushing off again. We all looked at each other in sheer disbelief. Was he joking? The restaurant had only a few other lunch guests, so we didn’t understand why he kept us waiting – or why customers that had arrived after us were being taken care of before us. Was it perhaps because the maître d’ assumed we were European (i.e. poor tippers) and intentionally un-prioritized us?
After an additional five minutes, (yes, I was timing his promise), the server finally showed up to take our orders. I politely let him know we were a little disappointed about the 15-minute delay. But instead of apologizing, he unabashedly decided to contradict me by claiming that no, our wait had been less than 10 minutes. As if even 10 minutes wasn’t pushing it already. WTF?
We all chose the much-hyped vegan alternative, The Impossible Burger as well as a few batches of truffle fried fries.
Personally, I found the laboratory-derived burger to be surprisingly juicy and flavorful. My taste buds might have been way off due to high expectations, but I don’t think most people would be able to discern whether or not an Impossible Burger is made from plant-based ingredients or USDA Prime Ground Beef. I know I couldn’t. Insofar of taste, texture, and smell, I’d easily guess it was the real deal. Which is a little scary and for some reson reminded me of the 1970s Sci-Fi dystopia, Soylent Green.
Perhaps our server was just having a bad day. Maybe he was a little hungover. Who knows, right? In any case, we felt that for our $200 lunch at Catch we should have received much better service and less attitude.
There are plenty of really good alternative eateries in the Meatpacking District and several places on Manhattan that offer the Impossible Burger for much less than the $19 they charge at Catch.
We all felt that the restaurant’s poor service coupled with an ambitious positioning on New York’s culinary map was nothing short of a total mismatch.
Catch certainly needs to catch up with its prestige.