Catal Restaurant is one of my very favorite restaurants. It's located in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, adjacent to the Disney parks, and we've been going regularly since the restaurant opened in 2001. We've seen multiple General Managers come and go (though, thankfully, the current one has been there for a while, and he's quite good, so we hope he stays for a long, long time), and we've seen executive chefs and other staff come and go as well. As a matter of fact, Catal's very first executive chef was Bret Thompson, who now owns and runs MILK, another place we like very much.
It had been a little while since my last visit, and I was wanting to try out more items on the new menu that debuted in mid-May. Our favorite server wasn't working that night, and one of the other servers we know and like was working a private party, so we ended up with someone we didn't know, which is a rarity there. As we perused the menu, I noticed that there had been some changes to the menu since my last visit, notably the absence of the grilled artichoke appetizer I'd had last time and the addition of a few different dishes.
I decided to start with the seared Dungeness crab cake with Andalusian gazpacho, avocado and cilantro leaves. The husband chose to start with the tataki of togarashi crusted tuna with daikon sprouts, cucumber and miso bruleed sushi rice, and our friend started with the compressed salad of Manchego cheese, arugula, red apples, dates, walnuts and pistachio vinaigrette, which happens to be a favorite with us and many of our friends.
I first tried gazpacho several years ago, and with my love of tomatoes generally, gazpacho immediately became a favorite of mine. This dish had the crab cake in the middle and a good portion of the soup around it, a little more creamy as opposed to more watery like normal. All around, it was very delicious.
It took a little longer than normal for our entrees to come out, and we figured it was because they had five private parties in the restaurant that evening.
My entree was the boneless braised short ribs with seared yellow corn polenta, piperade of peppers and horseradish cream.
I am a fan of both short ribs and polenta, so the combination of the two was not something I could pass up, even given the many other good things on the menu. The short ribs were delicious as usual - moist and tender and very flavorful. The polenta cake was also good as well, good flavor and texture.
The husband had ordered the slow roasted Colorado lamb rack persillade, sweet corn flan, sugar snap peas and shemiji mushrooms, which he really enjoyed.
Our friend ordered the rotisserie roasted half chicken with sweet garlic jus and garlic French fries, which he seemed to enjoy. I've never actually had it myself, but it looks really good, and I've heard that it's quite good, so I'm going to have to try it sometime.
For dessert, I had the peach soup with vanilla-cinnamon scented brioche beignets and frozen yogurt sorbet.
I love peaches, and this was just a delicious dessert. The soup at the bottom was very tasty and flavorful, and then you had the added flavor of the peach slices. The beignets were also very tasty and crunchy, and the sorbet gave a nice mix to the other flavors. Definitely a dessert I'd recommend and especially wonderful on a warm day.
The husband had the warm chocolate-cherry bread pudding with port wine ganache and peppered creme fraiche sorbet.
He said it was almost more like a souffle because it wasn't completely solid inside. He was quite happy with his dessert.
Our friend ordered the trio of sorbets. Catal always offers a trio of gelatos or sorbets with flavors that change nightly.
As usual, the food was terrific, and there are a number of other things on the menu that I'd like to try. Other than the kitchen being slightly slower than normal, service was otherwise good. Our server was pleasant and attentive. We were sorry we didn't get a chance to say hello to a few other people, but it was a very busy evening in the restaurant.
The menu on the Catal page of the Patina Group website is generally behind a season or two or twelve, so here's the current menu.
Parking is available at the Downtown Disney parking lot. You can park for 3 hours for free, and Catal can provide a validation that gives you an extra 2 hours for free. Reservations aren't required but recommended because they can get busy. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant directly or through OpenTable.com.
1580 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92803