Sunday, April 13, 2008


In Downtown Disney in Anaheim, upscale Mediterranean food.

Of all the places in Downtown Disney, Catal seemed most eager to seat a party of six on Saturday night, or at least they had the shortest wait time. They have a lovely upstairs balcony overlooking a square in the downtown where their associated Uva Bar serves drinks and appetizers.

We can't resist a selection of olives on the appetizer menu, and theirs were fresh and exotic, not just your standard kalamata. We didn't get all the names, but I remember the five of them as dark and rich; green and mellow; small, dark, and intense; small, maroon, and slightly bitter; and immense olives with a soft eggplant color and a smooth, oily flavor. Accompanying them on our appetizer plate was the "Tapas trio": a gazpacho shot, a crab cake, and two dates stuffed with ham and bleu cheese. I like gazpacho, but Mark doesn't, so I took the whole shot. It was really more like a cold V8 with finely chopped tomatoes and cucumbers in it, but there was an undertone of spice that was quite pleasant.

Dinner certainly lived up to the appetizers. We shared an olive oil and dill-poached salmon over red pepper couscous. The tzatziki sauce on the side had great spice, garlicky and tangy--it wasn't just yogurt with cucumbers in it. Salmon is one of those things that Mark finds variable, but Catal's salmon kept a nice flavor of salmon under the light dill seasoning. The red pepper couscous could've used a little more red pepper, but the couscous was done just right.

We also sampled one friend's paella. It didn't compare to Mark's homemade one, but it was still quite good, rich and savory. The shellfish was tender and fresh too, the veggies crisp, and the rice tender and sticky.

The dinner was light enough that we felt able to get a cheese plate: two mild cheeses and a sharper Italian type that was quite tasty. They included a side of quince confiture, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinegar drizzle. We polished the plate clean even after the cheese was gone. Then it was time for dessert, a carrot cake with coconut sorbet and carrot creme anglaise. We have a great experience of carrot cake, too, and this one scored pretty high. The cake was good and firm, tending toward a carrot flavor rather than a spice cake flavor, with big chunks of walnut & raisin, and--the part that's always hard to find--perfect cream cheese frosting. It went pretty well with the light coconut sorbet, too.

The service was good, although on occasion we felt slightly neglected, but that might be because we were out on the patio, or because it was a Saturday night and they were busy. It wasn't a bad trade for the view, and our waitress was friendly and very helpful. Maybe all the places on Downtown Disney are this good, but on a night when we couldn't go anywhere else, Catal made us feel like we were special, not like we were settling.

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