I have no doubt William Kovel is a supremely talented chef, his food has been well received for years and he’s put his heart and soul into the opening of Catalyst. I’m confident his Chicken Liver Mousse is divine and the Roasted Cod is lovely, but the burger, at least on my visit, was far from adequate. Customer service is a huge factor in the restaurant world, of course the food is top priority, but great service should be a no-brainer. But far too often I can’t help but feel like it’s a complete afterthought; maybe if I was twenty years older and dressed in a suit perhaps I’d get the respect I deserve. I hate the ageism, it has no place and this was evident from the cold and silent greeting we received upon arrival, the snobby bartender who was disappointed that his attempts to up-sell were denied, and the hostess who refused to wish us a good night as we vacated. And it wasn’t even a busy night at the restaurant, aside from one or two large groups it was mostly empty as we dined at the bar. Curious that the bartender felt the need to only suggest the most expensive items on the menu to us, and the faux-wisdom presented to us as he explained such pedestrian menu items to us such as the shape of a pasta or the type of cheese used in another dish. Does this happen to all patrons or just the “younger” crowd? I know what Taleggio cheese is and just because of my age (31, for the record) or the size of my wallet, I shouldn’t be spoken to like a nine year old. I doubt this happens to the 50-year old suit with deeper pockets.
I take no joy into writing a negative review, I’m often surprised by poorly cooked burgers, expectations or not this one should have been great. The fries are great, however, if uninspired. If McDonald’s fries are the benchmark then Catalyst hits all the right marks, it’s perfectly seasoned, but if you’re looking for something elevated beyond the Golden Arches keep looking. The burger is maddeningly ordinary for all the talk it’s received, as none of the elements add up to much more than the average burger it is. Donned with quite possibly the worst caramelized onions I’ve ever had, they taste as if they’d been cooked for about five minutes with some brown sugar, the sweetness dominates everything else. Roasted tomato and an unidentified cheese may or may not be on the burger, but I can’t detect them. The beef itself is very bland, completely charred to the point of being burnt on the outside, with spots of medium-rare on the inside, but few and far between. Let me repeat that first part; it was burnt on the outside! I can’t recall too many burnt burgers thus far on my quest, if any, it’s sort of forgivable if your dad burns a burger on the grill, it’s less forgivable when you’re paying $15 for a meal. The ultra-thin and again, ultra-sweet bacon is poorly executed and misses the mark. All of this sits in a brioche bun, which fits surprisingly appropriately, but again is too sweet for a burger that is anything but robust. The house-made ketchup is a fun idea, but is too one dimensional and just tastes like uncooked tomato paste.
I actually had high hopes for the Catalyst burger, but with quite possibly the worst service I’ve had in a while and poor execution to match, it’s puzzling to think this is one of the “hot” restaurants around. I wish I had the luxury and the budget to visit places multiple times, but unless this was a complete fluke it’s hard to sing the praises of this burger.
Overall Score: 61