Photo Credit: Lauren Kramer
When cousins and partners Danny Bichara and John Yacoub first walked into the restaurant that used to be The Charthouse “it was like walking back in time,” Bichara said. The place had been shuttered for 14 long months but tables were laid, the green carpet was in place, there were plastic flowers and dropped ceilings, and every last piece of cutlery was still right there.
Determined to energize Steveston with a Granville Island, Sandbar-like restaurant, the two signed a new lease and spent months renovating the space. The dropped ceilings are gone and after 85 liters of paint the ceilings are a creamy white. The restaurant that now bears the name Catch Kitchen & Bar is unrecognizable from what it was before, thanks to the design work and vision of Bichara, Yacoub and their spouses. Sleek, dark flooring contrasts with aluminum siding and elegant, woodsy colours. There are maritime sketches on the walls with bold pieces of décor creating a casual, contemporary and elegant appearance. Then there’s the view – a great, birds-eye vantage point overlooking the Fraser River and the bustle of the public sales float on the docks.
Danny Bichara hails from Liverpool and has worked in restaurant kitchens for 22 years. Yacoub on the other hand, was raised in Vancouver, has a background as a general manager, and boasts a longtime affiliation with the site that’s now Catch Kitchen. At 16, Yacoub was a busboy at Charthouse and he was thrilled to return as an adult and breathe new life into the eatery. Their third partner, Mark Yacoub, signed on as the contractor for the new space.
The afternoon I sat down for a quick lunch, the patio was still under renovation. Bichara promised that a fire pit was soon to come, along with comfortable lounge chairs that would make the patio a perfect place for an evening meal or a lunch in the sunshine. With the lounge chairs, the total seat count for Fresh Catch will be 230 in the restaurant and bar, both large, airy places open from 11am-11pm on weekends and 11am-10pm weekdays.
There’s no question the restaurant biz is a tough one and Bichara’s all too familiar with 15-to-20-hour days. “I’m very hands-on,” he admitted. “This is personal for me and I want to give people a good experience here. Previously, the kitchen was set up for mass production. Turning tables over quickly – that’s not what we’re about.”
Photo Credit: Lauren Kramer
As I dug into my Sesame Tuna Salad ($17.50, pictured above) Catch Kitchen staff gathered to sing happy birthday to a senior out for a ladies’ lunch. The generous salad portion included egg noodles, nuts and tuna sprinkled with black sesame, and it was a filling, delicious meal beautifully presented.
My choice of salad was a hard call between the other tempting dishes on the menu. The lemon caper halibut ($28), drizzled with lemon caper butter served with rice and veggies sounded amazing, as did the Baja fish tacos ($14.75) – cod in beer batter with spicy avocado and cilantro dressing. There are sharing dishes including fresh mussels and Mediterranean flatbread, burgers, pasta and chicken bowls, soups and salads on the well-rounded menu.
Bichara was running the kitchen in a major British steakhouse at age 17, and he’s brought his penchant for bistro-style dishes like roast beef dip ($14.50). In the bar you’ll find wings, dry ribs, gyozas and other pub favourites and on the dessert menu, amazing treats by ex-Chambar Restaurant pastry chef, Chad Reed. Prices are lower than restaurants in the immediate area competing for the same business.
Catch Kitchen has had a busy run since it opened on Good Friday. That day, the restaurant was full of diners and the new team had to learn fast and on their feet. Weekends have been packed, too, and reservations, particularly for window seats on weekends, are highly recommended.
Bichara and his partners are thrilled to be realizing their longtime dream of owning a restaurant and they have the talent, tenacity and determination to make it work. “Canada’s been really good for me,” the British chef reflected. “I feel like there’s more opportunity here to climb the ladder. At Catch Kitchen we want to give Steveston the place it deserves – a downtown experience without all the craziness!”
Catch Kitchen is located at 3866 Bayview St. Suite 200. For reservations call 604. 284-1222 or visit Catchkitchen.com.