butter midtown

I had Butter on my shortlist of restaurants I wanted to dine at ever since I watched a few episodes of Chopped in which Chef Alex Guarnaschelli exuded this stern, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. It resonated with me and with a restaurant named after my favorite spread in the world, how could I resist!

I made reservations on Restaurant Week and arrived on time. If you haven’t been here before, I’m sure you’ll be as confused as I was when faced with two choices; go through the glass doors or down the stairs. It was unclear where the glass doors would take me and I was pretty sure the steps would also lead me astray. Alas, after a couple minutes of “where do I go?!” I looked down by my feet to see “Butter” embossed on the steps.

I was feeling uneasy after those few minutes of confusion and I was not made better with the dismal enthusiasm from the welcome staff. I chose to ignore it. When my friend arrived, we were taken to our seats. We were given a spacious two-person booth, furnished with lovely leather seats and a dark wooden table.

The décor and overall feel of the restaurant was nice. It had the woodsy, country type feel to it, but it failed to capture that American comfort with its service. Apart from refills on water and clearing of our plates, the service staff was neglectful for, what I’d consider, a slow night. Regardless of whether or not it is Restaurant Week, I would think you would want your customers to have a lovely experience so they would come back again.

My major complaints with the service are as follows:
– It took ten minutes before our orders were taken. This, when we were clearly not looking at the menu, trying to catch the eye of our waiter.

– The waiter was so blasé when we asked for the Soup and Fish of the Day. It was as if he didn’t know the day’s specials or just didn’t care enough to give us the details. What we got was “Watercress. Lentils and Bacon. Uhhh… fish is salmon, pan-seared, with broccolini.” If we’re going to ask you what the specials are, then at least put some effort into it! SELL IT!

– The bread arrived to our table and our waiter decided to take away our plates. We expected to get bread plates as replacements, but nope. No bread plates for us. It was so clear that we were struggling to minimize mess with each crunchy bite of bread that other staff glanced over yet still did nothing.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, onto the food! We ordered from the Restaurant Week prix fixe. I got the following:
First Course: Sour David Apple & Roasted Brussels Sprouts Crostini, Breakfast Radish, Sherry
Second Course: Braised Pork Shank, Smashed Sunchokes, Mint & Basil Pesto
Dessert: Butterscotch Custard, Kumquat Marmalade, Truffle Cookies

The crostini was delicious, but difficult to navigate. On a small buttered piece of bread lay a mountain of white whipped ricotta-esque fluff topped with crispy flakes of Brussels sprouts. It was creamy and well seasoned, just very messy. I would gladly eat this again, but I would not go out of my way to come here to just to have this again.

The pork shank was impressively tender. The meat fell off the bone with ease into a pleasant mix of pesto and meat juices. Again, well seasoned from the flesh to the sauce. Somewhat Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. The sunchokes were perplexing, as they seemed like potatoes or even pears. The taste was subtle with a starchy sweetness. The portion size was much to my liking and good enough to make me slightly forgive the poor service we were handed.

The butterscotch custard was intensely bitter and therefore the worst dish of the night. The blame can mostly be on the kumquats, but even so, there was no way to shake it. Two bites and I could do no more. The other dessert, the chocolate layer cake with Szechuan pepper meringue, was barely better than the custard. The cake was dry and the meringue coupled with the spice didn’t complement or enhance anything. Dessert letdown for sure.

When I first heard of this restaurant, I was certain that I would go above and beyond to recommend it, but I just can’t. The service was so poor that the food couldn’t make up for it.



© kimpenguin 2015