One year ago, the boys from EMM Group, Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum, imported their New York concept, Catch, to Miami. A 4,000 square foot, two-story eatery, Catch Miami resides inside The James Royal Palm, where it's design preserves much of the art-deco interior that was already present. It is also similar to its New York parent restaurant in its menu items, boasting many of the same dishes made popular at Catch NY. But, of course, it has its own personality, and a chef (Hung Huynh), who cooks up a variety of locally-inspired dishes. We spoke to Emm founders Remm and Birnbaum about Catch Miami's first year, challenges, successful moments and more.
You originally launched Catch in New York, how did you come up with the concept?
Eugene Remm: Seafood was the one concept that we thought hadn't been done in a fun, lifestyle way in the sense that you mix a great food product, which seafood restaurants tend to be, with a lifestyle. And we thought that maybe what Nobu had done for Japanese or Mr. Chow did for Chinese, we felt that we can inject that same excitement into the seafood genre of dining.
Mark Birnbaum: You know, we're big fans of Nobu and we really like that in the dining room at Nobu, often times what we really admired about it was with staggered style of dining came lots of talking and interacting and the room itself was always full of people that were either getting business done in some way ... different industries were all over that room ... and we felt that the traditional "appetizer, entree, dessert, coffee, goodbye" kind of dinner atmosphere didn't exist at Nobu. And it was like little things ... it became a more social environment. Now we see much more of it in the world of eating, it's almost like every restaurant now is doing this small bites things, which some would call tapas, but this is not tapas. And the other part of it and the best analogy was, we had a conversation with one of our chefs and he said, "when you're starving and you make a steak and its fantastic - assuming you're not a vegetarian - the first bite is amazing!" When you're really hungry, it's so satisfying, the second bite is also satisfying and then the third bite's good, but by the time you get to your fourth and fifth and sixth cut and chew, you're really just going through the motion and you lose that sensation. The beauty of what we are doing is that we're introducing that experience of having a great, emotional mouth explosion, however you want to call it when you get satisfied eating something great, just in two bites of everything, And you have many times that experience throughout the night as opposed to only once with your one big piece of steak. So, we felt that catch if it had a staggered dining experience with many small plates that everyone could share, it would be a really positive experience when you left.
What made you choose Miami for the second location?
MB: The sun. Miami to us was our backyard. We've been doing down to Miami for as long as we can remember in both business and personal lives. And most of the customers that are from New York also go to Miami, so similar to like the Hamptons in New York in the summer, we want to have something where our customers already are and then also new customers from Miami that come back to New York. It seemed like a great synergistic move for us. It's also not that far.
Since people were already familiar with the restaurant and expecting something specific, do you think it was a more overwhelming opening than usual in Miami.
ER: Yeah. We opened during New Year's, so it was a really great opportunity for us because a lot of New Yorkers were in Miami during that time, so we had a foot up on the timing and were able to capitalize on that.
MB: I mean, it was part of a whole hotel opening so it was a lot of moving parts. There's issues that are behind the scenes that come up like air-conditioning of the entire hotel having issues or things of that nature. But, no, ultimately it was a great launch and it was a fun party. And we incorporated, obviously like Eugene said, New Year's into it so it was a good time to open because everyone that did know us was down there.
Overall, how was the past year at Catch?
MB: Overall, it's been really good. We're seeing our first year there in season vs off season, it was our first time experiencing Miami other than the peak winter times when everyone in New York is there, so it seems to be quite popular with locals, which is very important. The only challenge really is getting local people to go to South Beach because now off of South Beach there's a lot of competition, a lot of new restaurants whether it's in Brickell or in the Design District, so Miami's really growing in terms of culinary areas to go, so we've maintained a very good following. And of course with the James hotel, 400 rooms above us helps as well. So, it's been good.
What were some of the most challenging aspects about this past year?
ER: The biggest challenge was replicating the New York model outside of New York City and the biggest success was guests complimenting that the food was as good as the New York counterpart which was something we were really focused on and being able to execute that high level of food quality from 2,000 miles away from our core offices was a huge success for us.
Tell me about other success you've met with.
MB: Well, it's helping us expand Catch as well because now that we're in another city outside of our backyard ... you know, saying that you're an operator that has multiple locations within New York City, that's one thing, but when we were able to show people, whether they're developers or people from another country that love Catch New York, they said "oh wow you did the food just as well in Miami," which shows that we're an organization ready to expand. We're now opening in other parts of the world and country and a lot of it is due to the fact that we're able to show and justify and we're capable of doing that, it's not an easy task delivering perfect food quality all the time.
Can you tell me more on what's in store for the future?
MB: Um ... in the future we are expanding Catch in different areas ... we haven't necessarily announced where or what yet, but we're looking obviously at the major markets around the world and around the country to put Catch there, but I can't say where just yet.
Does it feel like it's been a year?
ER: Yes! It feels like a year. Just to mention on the successful, I think a huge success for us is our one year anniversary. Coming back from the opening night, which is always challenging and has all your typical issues, to one year later just having an amazing event and an amazing party at the restaurant, which was really great. Lots of great people, locals and guests from New York and LA. But just to think about the fact that it was a year from the time we opened to that ... it's been ... it feels like a minute, but it also feels like a hundred years.
·: All Coverage of Catch Miami [EMIA]