Butter—Alex Guarnaschelli

As you may have read in my post on Mesa Grill, I was in New York City recently and was excited when I realized that it was Restaurant Week in Manhattan!  I had the opportunity to dine at Beccco (lunch), Mesa Grill (dinner), and Butter (dinner).   (See other posts for Becco and Mesa Grill under the experiences tab). 

As my friends know, one of my guilty pleasures is watching my favorite TV chefs on FoodNetwork and the chef judges on MasterChef .  Alex Guarnaschelli always makes me wish I was in her kitchen tasting her food because she has a way of making her food seem comforting while still upscale.  That meant that I had always wanted to try her restaurant called Butter.  Thanks to some help from my hotel, I got a reservation for one even though it was restaurant week and the place was packed. 

As you would expect, the entrance set a welcoming tone to compliment the similarly comforting, but somewhat trendy menu.  The look was hard to capture in a picture because of the low lighting, but I tried.  

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When you get to the main dining area, the lighting remains low with candles on the tables and warm wood trim.  At the back of the dining room, a dramatic two-story window is treated/painted to make it appear that you are peering into a beautiful, almost life-sized, green grove of trees.  The designer got this one right.

Shortly after arriving, I was presented with some tender, corn muffins and a paddle of herb butter.  Southern comfort food in an unexpected place—a good start.

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I debated whether to order off the regular menu or to try the Restaurant Week menu.  My server suggested that the Restaurant Week menu would let me sample more dishes.  Then she helped me decide on the right combination based on my preferences.  I must say that she did a great job!  She knew the menu, was attentive, and made me feel welcome to take my time and enjoy dinner even though I was dining alone.  Compliments to her and to the chef for such a well-prepared staff.

Braised Prince Edward Island Mussels with Smoked Trout and Dry Vermouth.  I would not have thought to pair the smoked trout with the mussels, but it was very good.  The broth was tangy and, along with the smoked trout, gave a lot of character to this mussel dish.  Just right for the first round—not too big, but full of flavor.

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For my entree, I selected the Braised Beef Short Ribs with Lentils and Spicy Carrots.  Yes, there are mouthwatering short ribs hiding under the carrots and on top of the lentils.  When I took the first bite of the carrots, I had forgotten that they had been described as spicy.  What a nice surprise.  This was not just another short rib dish with a colorful veggie for decoration.  Instead, the spicy carrots added another dimension to the dish.  The short ribs themselves were also perfectly cooked.  So many times when eating short ribs, you notice the fatty flavor as much as the meaty texture.   Not the case here.  These short ribs had been slowly cooked, leaving just the tender meaty result that melted in my mouth.  Nice job!

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Gnocchi thinking that a carb would be a good additional to the short ribsIt was not what I would normally have expected for potato gnocchi.  Instead, it was more like miniature, pan-fried potato pancakes.  I wasn’t disappointed because the flavor of these mini potato bites flooded my thoughts with memories of my mom’s amazing potato pancakes.  As a kid, I used to hope that we would have leftover mashed potatotes (didn’t happen often given that my Dad and I both loved potatoes) because I knew that those leftovers would be turned into nicely browned potato pancakes the next day.  While these gnocchi were probably not meant to stir exactly that comparison, they did and in doing so left me with a wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling.

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 I finished my dinner with a creative, contemporary dessert consisting of  Strawberries and Strawberry Black Pepper Sorbet with Brown Sugar and Lemon Verbena Marshmallows.  The presentation was striking.  The sorbet and strawberries had a fresh taste that was the perfect light but sweet ending to my meal.  I can’t say that I tasted the lemon or vervena in the marshmallows, but the marshmallows added a pillowy bite to the dessert, which also had crunchy, pie-crust like pieces on the plate. 

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Once again, I ate more than I needed, but Butter provided an excellent experience, and I was left with the warm, comforting feeling that I would have expected from an Alex Guarnesachelli meal.  Sophisticated but familiar—a great combo.

 © 2013 FoodieOasis