PASO ROBLES — For a long time seafood was not my forte. I spent years perfecting how to ask waiters to substitute chicken or red meat for any fish and seafood dish and watched as jaws dropped at my requests.
“But it tastes just like chicken” or “it’s an acquired taste, you’ll grow to like it” were phrases I’d heard too many times.
Did they not realize how dirty the water was that those animals lived in? Did they not smell that rancid and ever-lingering stench? Did they really enjoy gnawing on what, to me, felt like a slimy ball of Play-Doh?
Of course my developed. The older I got, the more I went out and the bigger risk I was willing to take, especially in regard to trying new foods.
Today, at 24, I can proudly say that I am a seafood connoisseur. So when my editor suggested trying The Catch, a local seafood bar and grill located at 836 11th St., I had no reservations.
Right off the bat, I realized The Catch wasn’t like most seafood restaurants. Newly styled and recently expanded, the bar and grill welcomes customers as a warm, cool eatery. It’s edgy, modern and almost chic look captures a sense of class and neatness — the exact opposite of what comes to mind when I think of a typical seafood joint.
The grill’s charm undoubtedly has something to do with the sharp attention to details: the clean crispness of the granite bar and swiveling stools, the top-of-the-line open kitchen that lets customers catch a glimpse of the action, the glossy cut of the tiled floor and the dimly lit hues that catch you off guard and encourage you to take it all in.
What’s ironic though, it that there’s no such thing as a small detail at The Catch — everything adds up to a quiet and subtle, yet still bold vibe and an assuredness that lets customers know they’ve just walked into a place that has to be doing something right.
That type of confidence doesn’t happen overnight.
Owned and operated by chef Chico Mora, The Catch is sort of an addition to his former neighboring business, Chico’s Cafe, which he had originally opened about nine years ago.
“The Catch was a way for us to expand our business and show our customers how we prepare food,” Mora said.
Mora, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 30 years and moved to the Central Coast 23 years ago, wanted to embrace the same family feel atmosphere of the Cafe and in an effort to do so, created a menu with plenty of variety.
“We have a bigger menu now, one that even though its focus is seafood, has something for everyone,” Mora said. “We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and most of our plates have some type of meat, whether it’s lamb, beef or some kind of seafood.”
One of Paso Robles’ premier seafood restaurants, The Catch is known for its solid dishes made with fresh ingredients. When Mora noted that the scallops, calamari and halibut are the restaurant’s best dishes, I decided to treat myself to the full fine dining experience.
I opted for the halibut and vegetables, and let me tell you, he was right. An absolutely mouthwatering dish, it’s the perfect choice for someone just dipping their toes into the world of seafood.
The halibut, known to taste a little less ‘fishy,’ was lean and almost a little sweet, with a firm but still tender texture. Each bite crumbled perfectly and paired well with the lightly-herbed and sauteed vegetables.
While The Catch’s often crowded quarters can be intimidating, its filling meals — accompanied by an energy and enthusiasm worth preserving — are undoubtedly worth both the wait and taste.