Not surprisingly because of the name, Spain is Catalan’s theme, from the guitarist playing Spanish songs to the focus of the menu, which naturally includes Paella with monkfish, Laughing Bird shrimp, clams and chorizo.
But Chef Drew Davis—who owns the restaurant with his father, Mark Davis—doesn’t confine himself to the usual riffs of Iberian cuisine. Instead, he expands the idiom to Mediterranean, mainly Italian, and adds a focus on fresh and local. The result is the finest Branzino in the Desert, realMediterranean sea bass flown in from Greece, served roasted whole and accompanied by a beet, fennel and red onion salad. It’s succulent, moist and flavorful. There’s no better word to describe it than terrific. His monkfish medallions wrapped with Serrano ham and served on spinach Catalan style with raisins and pinenuts is just as unusual and delicious.
Chef Davis, young as he might be, has a background that includes a long stint at the famed Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton, N.Y. He has the chops to pull off a tricky hybrid menu that includes such outside-the-box dishes as a monkfish liver starter (think foie gras with a strong taste of the sea) that was served the night we were there. He also adds interest to familiar dishes, such as veal Bolognese with sheep’s milk ricotta and braised short ribs with Manchego polenta.
Prices are moderate for such superb food, helped along by an innovative wine list that has 25 bottles of really pretty good wine for just $25 each. And for Desert early birds, the three-course pre-fixe dinner served between 4:30 and 5:30 for $21.95 may be the best deal in the entire Coachella Valley.
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