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Houston billionaire lands Catch with celebrity-fueled NYC-based seafood restaurant By Eric Sandler

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Houston’s Billion Dollar Buyer has reeled in a new catch. Landry's Inc. CEO Tilman Fertitta announced Monday night on Instagram that he’s become a 50 percent owner of the EMM Group, a New York-based restaurant group known for its Catch seafood restaurant and Lexington Brass bistro.

“I’ve been a fan of (EMM Group owners) Mark (Birnbaum) and Eugene (Remm) for numerous years,” Fertitta tells CultureMap. “We’ve talked about doing deals together (before). It just seemed like the right time. They were starting to expand, and they could use our support and infrastructure (to help grow the company).”

Fertitta says he doesn’t have any plans to change the way the organization operates and that he chose to invest in the company, rather than explore purchasing it outright, to allow Birnbaum and Remm to remain with EMM and lead its growth.

At a time when younger diners are increasingly looking for an experience with their meals, Catch delivers. Known as much for its lively, celebrity-fueled atmosphere as for signature dishes like Catch ceviche, Cantonese lobster and S’mores pizza, the company operates a massive, three-story restaurant in New York City and expanded to Los Angeles last year. London, Las Vegas, and a second location in New York City’s Midtown are all in the immediate future.

Catch will “probably, eventually” make its way to Houston as well, but Fertitta says he’s not ready to commit to a specific timeline.

“Hopefully we’ll start trying to build one a year and just seeing where it goes,” Fertitta says. “We know how successful we’ve been with Mastro’s. This is sort of the equivalent on the seafood side. We think it’s going to do extremely well.”

While Houston’s Mastro’s locations is still under construction as part of Landry’s The Post Oak mixed-use complex, the city’s diners have responded favorably to Steak 48, which is owned by Mastro’s founders Jeffrey and Michael Mastro. Landry’s purchased Mastro’s from a private equity firm in 2013.

Feritta says he thinks the way restaurants like Mastro’s, Catch, and Steak 48 mix high quality food with a lively atmosphere is the future of fine dining.

“It is the experience. It’s also the crowd is a little later,” Fertitta says. “It becomes the social aspect. If you don’t have the entertainment and social aspect, I think you’re going to be in trouble.”

Houstonians will get a chance to experience Fertitta’s vision for this style of restaurants when Mastro’s opens this fall. In his opinion, it’s about time the city embraced these concepts that have been successful in other parts of the country.

“It’s just a different level,” Fertiita says. “It’s the quality of the food. It’s the quality of the service. And just now Houston is starting to see these types of restaurants. We’ve been behind the curve on these big restaurants with good food and good service that just reach everybody.”

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