By Raymond Bill
As often as I dine out in the desert, I still manage to find many restaurants that I have yet to visit. As the season is upon us, I am making every effort to check them all off my list. This week, I finally made it to Catalan Restaurant with a dear friend of mine and we were so impressed, we are already planning our return. There are so many intriguing selections on the menu that it may take several meals until I can try them all.
Catalan boasts authentic Mediterranean cuisine with most notable influences of Italy and Spain. As we entered the restaurant, the décor reflected the menu in color and style. The European feel carried over to the central courtyard and we immediately felt swept away from the busy streets of the Coachella Valley to enjoy a night abroad.
Our server shared with us a few featured items for the evening and we began with a glass of wine. There were several wine selections by the glass, both red and white. What was unique was that every selection was equal in price. This took much of the guess work out of ordering. It was easy to decide which varietal would best suit each course without the distraction of prices.
We ordered an appetizer to share. Chef’s Mixed Tapa Plate offers a choice of three small plates to be prepared together for sharing. This was perfect since we could not decide on just one appetizer. Shortly after our order, we received a combination plate that would include Piquillo peppers, roasted and stuffed with creamy goat cheese, tender shrimp sautéed in a bold garlic oil, and three crisp fish cakes with a zesty smoked chili aioli and pickled vegetables. The dish was one of a kind and we were excited for our main course.
Though we passed on a salad course, we would not leave hungry. For the main course, my guest would have the Pan Seared Eastern Diver Scallops. These four scallops were perfectly seared and accompanied by a velvety smooth butternut squash puree, shaved endive and a smoky vinaigrette. The dish was colorful and beautifully plated. It was impressive but not quite as delectable as my entrée.
Placed before me was the best veal dish one will find in the desert. That is my guarantee, so long as it is prepared to perfection as it was for me this past week. The Grilled Veal Skirt Steak was seared to a perfect medium and bursting with flavor. It was presented coiled and topped with shaved Brussels sprouts with a smoked bacon and tomato jam, all over a creamy cauliflower puree, finished with a salsa verde. Oh my, was that incredible! The quality of flavor and presentation was superb! Not only did we enjoy an amazing entrée, our server was engaging and attentive. We were truly receiving the full experience.
We finished our meal with some homemade Limoncello that I would argue is better than the finest Italian restaurants in our valley, and I say this having worked at a few of them. A six month process, the house made Limoncello is a perfect digestif and introduction to our dessert. Upon recommendation, not that we needed it as this selection certainly stood out, we ordered the Apple and Fresh Berry Empenadas. The warm crispy dough and the sweet filling were a match made in heaven. These little bites were the perfect end to a perfect meal.
Catalan is located in Rancho Mirage on Restaurant Row on Highway 111. The father and son duo behind this successful restaurant have a passion for providing true farm to table dining. The menu is fresh and ever changing to accommodate seasonal ingredients. The staff is warm and welcoming, bright with smiles that say, “we love what we do” and it shows. I definitely recommend everyone visit www.catalanrestaurant.com and view their menu and read their story. You will be inspired to try some of the best Mediterranean food in our valley!