Up until recently, unless you were at Santana Row’s Yankee Pier, it was nigh impossible to find fresh, local and sustainable seafood in town. San Francisco, maybe; San Jose, not so much. Thanks to Pacific Catch, a small California chain restaurant, now with a location in the Pruneyard, it has become a little easier.
Its focus is on this type of seafood served with Asian and Latin influences and California sensibilities, featuring a reasonably-priced menu that is extensive without being overwhelming; appetizers ranging from edamame to Korean-style ribs to ceviche with main courses going anywhere from sushi to fish tacos to fish and chips to daily chalkboard specials, which are always changing to reflect the “freshest catch.”
It really is a niche market, but Pacific Catch does a good job of capitalizing on it, doing what restaurants like The Elephant Bar have been attempting to do for years. The space has been revamped entirely since Left at Albuquerque and it’s never looked better. Cobalt blue glass bottles hanging from the ceiling serve as funky and functional mood lighting, and the seating is plush and comfortable. The bar and lounge area is beautifully modern without screaming ultralounge, which is something to be said in today’s evolving restaurant world.
The cocktail list is also extensive and eclectic, showcasing high end alcohol with Asian touches; soju, ginger, and jalapeno, to name a few. The beer selection is surprisingly on-point, with brews for every taste, including the craft variety, with some rather rare and hard to find in restaurants (Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter, Coopers Original Pale Ale, Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale, etc.). The wine list is considerably less impressive, but does offer Parducci, a house wine that is sustainable, going along with the message of the restaurant. The service is also a highlight; young, hip servers with plenty of product knowledge and friendly to boot.
But the food is more than likely the reason you’ll come back. Try the ceviche sampler ($17) to start, three different preparations of raw fish; the traditional Hawaiian poke, made with fresh cubed tuna with sesame and soy paired with wonton crisps, the Baja shrimp ceviche, with lime, avocado, chile and cilantro served with tortilla chips, and the highlight, the Peruvian ceviche, made with the daily white fish, tomato, ginger, avocado and aji Amarillo chiles to be eaten with housemade purple potato chips.
The soup of the day ($7) is always changing but more often than not it is a hit; the tom kha goong is especially tasty; a thai soup made with lemongrass, chiles, coconut milk and shrimp, warm and comforting but with just enough acid and creaminess to round out the dish beautifully. Another favorite is the Dungeness crab with egg and asparagus, Vietnamese-inspired; light, luscious and seasoned to perfection.
And if you are lucky enough to be there on a day they have their crispy fish sauce chicken wings as a special, you are in for a treat. Though not your traditional hot wing, they do have a pronounced Asian spiciness, echoing with ginger and paired with the pungent acid of the fish sauce to create a sticky, crispy garlicky bite that is truly addictive, requiring no dipping sauce whatsoever.
For main courses, the strength is in the simplicity. While tacos and sushi (mostly) exemplify tasty, fresh fish, and deliciously marinated, tender meats, the dishes themselves seem dependent on sauces; most rolls come with sriracha mayo and/or eel sauce, and some even feature a sweet citrus chile glaze, not necessarily featuring fusion at its finest. Tacos are overdressed also, with tartar sauce, tomatillo salsas and chipotle aioli. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with them, but you can tell these are not chef-driven and composed dishes but streamlined for ease and less distinguished palates.
The rice bowls and salads, however, are another story. These are incredibly thoughtful, from the (not-so-simple) side salad ($5) with mixed greens, edamame, marinated mushrooms, cucumber and tomatoes with sweet miso dressing, to the grilled salmon salad ($14.50), complete with crispy salmon-skin croutons (love!) and citrus dressing, to the Korean barbecue rice bowl ($15-17), with your choice of protein, green onion panchan, shredded omelette, daikon, nori and cucumber finished with that delectable Korean barbecue sauce. Also, for a small fee, you can substitute brown rice in any bowl, which is refreshing to see.
Chalkboard specials, again, are paramount here, as this option allows for unusual offerings (such as swordfish, mahi mahi or Dungeness crab) and true composition of a dish; sauces and sides created and cooked to compliment that particular fish. These are usually a little pricier (from $17-26) but definitely worth it.
Pacific Catch has found a home in the South Bay at last, and with their innovation and prices more than rivaling the likes of The Fish Market, as long as standards are kept up, ultimately, it should be successful.
1875 South Bascom Ave. Suite 550
Campbell, CA 95008
Follow me on Twitter!