Running one restaurant is hard enough, but operating two establishments at the same level of excellence is infinitely more difficult. Yet that is the challenge that Thierry Beaud, Reid Boren and Julien Gremaud, partners in West Palm Beach’s Pistache brasserie, took on when they opened PB Catch in December.
Step into the elegant and understated world of this seafood house, and there are many immediate clues that they succeeded. The entrance area is devoted to a bar and casual seating. The more formal dining room is flanked on one side by a raw bar, where a dozen varieties of shellfish are displayed on ice (if you’re in a celebratory mood, platters are available for $45 and $95). The space is crisp, modern and attractive, with white leather banquettes setting off dark mahogany flooring. Simple table settings promise a calm and ordered universe, and the restaurant delivers.
Less is more at PB Catch. Gremaud, the mastermind behind the kitchen at Pistache, is the supervising chef here, ably assisted by Chef de Cuisine Aaron Black. Among the starters, white tuna tartare ($15) is lighter than air. Chunks of pristine escolar are combined with pickled cucumber, watermelon, scallion and shiitake to make an appetizer crunchy in texture and refreshing in taste. By contrast, there’s more than enough umami to go around in the seared jumbo scallop ($16)—a pair of remarkably sweet scallops undercooked to perfection, presented with sautéed oyster mushrooms and white beans in an orange broth.
The restaurant prides itself on promoting local fishing and sustainable seafood programs, and the entrée side of the menu is divided into Local Catch and World Catch sections. From the former group, grilled pumpkin swordfish ($32), a special of the evening, is plump and juicy, placed on a bed of sautéed spinach, garnished with a white bean puree and napped in a brandy sweet corn sauce. It takes an exceptional Maine lobster roll ($24) to impress a woman from Boston, but my wife was wowed by Gremaud’s version. The tender meat is chilled in a salad of red onion, celery, dill, tarragon and preserved lemon aioli, served on a potato bread roll and accompanied by some stunning sea salt fries. Diehard meat lovers may choose among short ribs, chicken scallopine and a 16-ounce dry aged bone-in ribeye.
The wine list includes about 150 carefully selected choices, heavy on the classics of Bordeaux and Burgundy but with a good representation from California as well. Even better are the three-dozen wines offered by the glass, including Familia Zuccardi Torrontes ($11), Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($16) and Jordan Cabernet ($22).
Service is provided by a coed staff who seems to genuinely enjoy the work. Servers are friendly, accommodating and forthcoming with recommendations, and they have good reason to be proud of the food quality they serve. Managers make a point to greet each table on arrival and check back in the course of the evening; Beaud, splitting his time between here and Pistache, makes the rounds of the dining room as well.
PB Catch enters its second season with a confirmed core of regulars, who are determined to keep the place among the island’s best-kept secrets. Despite that, the restaurant can get crowded on most evenings, and reservations are well advised.
WHERE: 251 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach (561-655-5558, pbcatch.com)
OPEN: Dinner Monday through Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.
FOOD: seafood and raw bar
ATMOSPHERE: elegant and understated
SERVICE: attentive and accommodating
DRESS: Palm Beach casual
Photography by Montana Pritchard Photography