Chris Brown powwowing with A$AP Rocky. Jerry Bruckheimer and Sylvester Stallone holding court. And the Clippers carousing after their preseason game against the Raptors. That was one night (Oct. 5) at 2-week-old Catch, L.A.'s hottest, most polarizing restaurant.
An outpost of Manhattan's Meatpacking District original, the rooftop seafood spot across San Vicente Boulevard from West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center trafficks in truffle sashimi ($24), bold-faced names and an in-your-face exclusivity underscored by the doorman out front. Gatekeepers are a rare sight in the city's restaurant world - most famously employed by nearby Koi during its own celebrity-magnet heyday more than a decade ago. (Only competitor E.P. & L.P., a few blocks east along Melrose Avenue, which also boasts a rooftop, currently utilizes a similar arrangement, and then only from Thursday through Sunday.)
The move has raised eyebrows among industry insiders and foodie hoi polloi alike. For their part, Catch's owners Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum - nightlife veterans who made their names with New York City bottle-service club Tenjune - insist it's a crowd-control necessity given the wattage factor. (Recent arrivals range from Ari Emanuel and David Beckham to Kendall Jenner and Mark Cuban.) "The doorman isn't judging whether people are worthy," says Remm.
Another point of contention, circulated on Yelp, has been that OpenTable reservations are being canceled on the day of arrival, or even at the door. The owners explain they've suspended their relationship with the app, only accepting table requests from friends and friends-of-friends, turning the restaurant into a de facto private supper club - akin to No Name on Fairfax Boulevard. They blame disingenuous use, contending tables were being booked by patrons for nonprime hours (or even for the unrelated Catch at Santa Monica's Casa Del Mar) with the intent of talking their way into seats once they arrive.
"People will scam their way in when you're a shiny new toy," says Birnbaum.
Neither the seaside Catch nor OpenTable would comment.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.