Where to Eat: Butter Restaurant
Among the many wonderful things about New York City, Restaurant Week has to be one of them. For one week in the winter, many of the top restaurants in the city offer prix-fixe lunch menus for $25 and dinner for $35. It's a great chance to hit all those places on your "list" without going broke.
I have been wanting to try out Butter restaurant for a while now. I love the "New American" style of cuisine and chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli's focus on seasonal ingredients. It takes some planning to get a table though; the Restaurant Week dates were booked solid a little over a week before event actually started.
Occasionally, restaurants will offer less-than-stellar menus for Restaurant Week. (Read: house salad appetizer, roast chicken main, creme brulee dessert. A bit blah, non?) Butter is not one of those restaurants. I was excited to eat there before even stepping into the restaurant because their menu was so enticing, I honestly wanted to try every item on it.
Butter serves its guests in possibly the most beautiful dining room I have ever been in. The ceiling is composed of high wooden arches and panels of glowing golden light. The back wall of the restaurant is lit with a forest motif. It's all very chic and elegant. The space is rather long and narrow. The walls are lined with semi-circular banquettes, and there are about 5 rows of 3 tables for 2 in the center of the dining room. My one gripe is that the tables were so crammed together (maybe one foot between tables!) that it was a little too easy to listen to the conversations of the adjacent diners.
After a lengthy and taxing debate, I settled on Batter-Dipped Florida Shrimp with Celery Root and Fresh Chilies as a starter, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Crispy Purple Majesty Potatoes, Chopped Leeks and Fresh Pomegranate. Dessert was Dark Chocolate Cake with Toasted Almond Jam.
The meal started with cornbread and brown bread served with quenelles of unctuous herb butter and vanilla butter (I assume, as I saw the little flecks in the butter but couldn't really taste the vanilla). The shrimp was wonderful; there were three large, juicy, battered prawns. The chili dressing was very hot, but the heat stays in your mouth, not in your throat, which worked for me. The beef was also well done. It was very tender, although the flavor went a little flat after I had finished half the dish. It started to taste just plain "braised beef in gravy"-ish. The pomegranate was the best part because the crunchy bursts of sweet juice was just what the dish needed to refresh the flavors; I just wish there was more of it. I was most looking forward to dessert, but maybe my anticipation was what led to me being underwhelmed. The round chocolate cake was on the dry side, and it was served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I was really, really looking forward to the toasted almond jam (a nut jam? How does that even work??) but it was nowhere to be found on the plate!
Overall, the food was really excellent, especially for Restaurant Week. The one area that left much to be desired was the service. On occasion, servers will treat diners who choose to eat from the prix-fixe menu differently from those ordering a la carte (Megu Midtown, I'm looking at you.) The server was inattentive and condescending to us, but was perfectly capable of pleasant banter with the diners of the adjacent table. The bill was automatically sent to the table before we had even finished dessert. If a restaurant is not prepared to serve customers dining on a budget, then perhaps they should not participate in Restaurant Week.
Fortunately, the service was only a slight wrinkle in an otherwise wonderful meal. (I am also pretty sure that the behavior of one server is not representative of the entire waitstaff.) The ambiance and quality of food more than convinced me that I will be a repeat customer in the future.
415 Lafayette Street
Image courtesy of nycgo.com