So many of my friends love Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, but it has the opposite effect on me. I don’t go to Disneyland by choice. I hardly ever venture to downtown Disney unless we have out-of-town visitors who are visiting the theme park. That is the only time I will fight the crowds and meet them at downtown Disney for a meal.
The last time I am at Catal (part of The Patina Group) is about a year and a half ago when friends from the Bay Area are here with their kids. More recently, some extended family members are here – yes, visiting Disneyland of course – and I suggest Catal for dinner. Since my last visit, former executive chef of Pinot Provence, Alfonso Ramirez — one of my favorite OC chefs — has joined Catal. On this Friday night, the restaurant is bustling, but Chef Ramirez manages to pop out briefly to say hello.
There are a lot of us, and we are hungry. My great grand-niece is five years old, very talkative and eyeing the bacon in the Bacon Wrapped Dates ($11) served on a bed of chicory lettuce tossed with peppered sherry vinegar dotted with blue cheese. The salad is beautifully dressed with the bacon and dates nestling between the leaves, adding both sweet and savory deliciousness to the mix.
Caprese ($16) comprises plump local heirloom tomato wedges, creamy burrata, San Daniele prosciutto, dressed in a basil vin and Cilla Madori balsamic. There is nothing on this plate I don’t love.
The Crispy Calamari ($14) is lovely, with roasted corn salsa, and a piquant Aleppo spiced aioli dipping sauce. The calamari itself is coated in a light seasoned batter which adds another level of flavor to the tender rings.
I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese, but my son, and everyone else enjoy the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers ($12) tremendously. The piquillo peppers are stuffed with goat cheese on a plate drizzled with herb chimichurri with a pinch of toasted pine nuts.
I always think it’s great for visitors to try some Californian cuisine while they are here, and Ahi Bruschetta ($16) is a perfect example of this. Crispy crostini is first topped with avocado and Mediterranean salsa, then topped with perfectly seared blackened Pacific. If you like robust flavors, then take a little of the Sriracha balsamic reduction and/or Sriracha from the plate and schmear it on the fish. It is definitely a stellar representation of what our state has to offer.
It’s hard to describe Spanish Tortilla Frites ($11) except it is so delicious we all fight over it. Comprising the flavors of tortilla espanola, the seasoned potatoes are formed into a pan and cut into thick logs before they are fried to crispy perfection. Dip in the romesco sauce or garlic aioli – you’ll definitely need to ask for more!
Moving on to entrées, we have many duplicate orders including two of Steelhead Salmon ($27) which is always a safe selection for those who aren’t overly adventurous. The salmon is a tad overcooked, but comes with really good sides such as crispy fingerling potatoes, Cipollini onions, and asparagus.
You can’t really go wrong with Diver Scallops ($33) and these are simply seared sitting in a bath of English pea puree which lends a touch of sweetness to the gorgeous mollusks. Bacon is a wonderful ingredient, and Nueske braised bacon is incredible, however, in this instance it overpowers the delicate scallops and completely overwhelms the delicate scallops.
However, it is the Porchetta ($26) which shines. Four at the table choose this dish, a generous portion of two large rounds of Salmon Creek pork loin and belly, accompanied by crispy sweet potato (two substitute this for mashed potatoes) grilled peaches. The only complaint I have about this dish is the lack of crispy skin — a vital component of porchetta. Otherwise, a well-executed and well-seasoned main course at Catal.
If you’re visiting the park, and want to step outside for a break, then Catal is a perfect respite where you’ll enjoy a full-service meal and your kids are more than welcome. There aren’t many surprises here. The menu is consistent and there is something for everyone. Just make sure you have a reservation if you don’t want to wait.
1580 Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802