Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
My friend Vlad is really into side-by-side comparisons. So his first thought when he found out that Catch was offering a new promotion called the "High Tide Special" - 6 oysters, plus two glasses of Prosecco or Steam Whistle, all for $20 - his first thought was to see how they stacked up against Embarcadero's oysters, and his second thought was to invite me!
Unfortunately, it wasn't until we got to Catch that we found out that the special only lasts till 6 PM. Plus, we didn't have reservations and the restaurant was fully booked for the night. Fortunately, Vlad noticed two seats at the bar, and special or no special, we were at least able to squeeze in to try some of their oysters.
Without the special, the oysters were $3 apiece and were served with freshly grated horseradish, housemade chipotle sauce and saskatoon berry mignonette and wedges of lemon and lime. Vlad ordered six - half west coast and half east coast - whereas I tried to save my stomach for the next stop and ordered two - Shiny Sea (east coast) and Mattaki (west coast).
The Mattaki was my favourite of the two - it was more meaty and had a more distinctive taste. All the condiments were light and gave the oyster a bit of a kick without being too overpowering.
I also got an order of BBQ Octopus Tacos ($13).
I *really* liked these - alongside the octopus, which were marinated in a BBQ sauce, the lightly toasted tortillas were filled with smoky hummus, salsa and paprika sour cream. The only downside was that they were quite messy! There was way too much filling for the tiny taco shells.
After we finished our Steam Whistles, it was off to our next stop, The Embarcadero. The price of the oysters here vary by type, but overall they were cheaper than at Catch. In fact, the entire atmosphere at The Embarcadero is more casual and laid back. They also have a "daily special oyster" that is priced at $1.25 each for the day, and you can get an Oyster Platter (one of each type) for $23.
We decided we wanted to be able to try the same types of oysters, so we got four pairs - Little Wing (that day's special, from BC), Royal Miyagi (from BC), Fanny Bay (from BC) and Caraquet (from NB)
These were served with the requisite Tabasco and wedges of lemon, as well as a housemade sauce that tasted like a blend of tomato, garlic, soy sauce and other ingredients which I didn't care for because I felt that it overpowered the tiny oysters. My favourite was the Caraquet - it was plumper and had a deeper, more distinctive flavour compared to the other oysters.
By this time, Vlad was feeling a little more peckish so we decided to order a few appies - the Seared Scallops with Pancetta and Butternut Squash Carrot Purée ($12) only came with one small piece of pancetta, but the butternut squash carrot purée was sweet and mellow, and we tried to scoop it up with every last piece of scallop.
We also had the Asiago and Herb Roasted Mushroom Risotto Balls ($10). The risotto balls were crisp on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, with the mushrooms adding a touch of richness.
We capped off the night with cheesecake with berry compote and chocolate sauce. ($6.25) It was decadently rich and not too sweet and paired well with the two sauces, though the crust was a little bit soggy. Between the two of us, it was the perfect way to end the night.
So who's the winner? While Vlad gives it to Embarcadero, I thought the atmosphere was a little too casual and pub-like for a wine and oyster bar, though I concede the prices are lower and it's easier to get a table. If I worked downtown, I might invite a friend out to Catch to try their happy hour special; otherwise I'd probably save it for special occasions only.
Catch Seafood Restaurant and Bar
100 8 Ave SE
Calgary AB T2G 0K6
Oyster Bar open Mon-Fri 11:30 AM-10 PM. Sat 4 PM-10 PM. Dining Room open Mon-Fri 11:30 AM-1 PM. Sat 5:30 PM-9 PM. Closed Sundays. Reservations recommended and available on OpenTable.
208 17 Ave SE
Calgary AB T2G 1H4
Open Mon-Thu 11 AM-11 PM. Fri 11 AM-Midnight. Sat 4 PM-Midnight. Closed Sundays. Online reservations available.