Is Butcher & Still a cut above?
The dining scene on Abu Dhabi’s Maryah Island is hotting up as a steady stream of restaurants open their doors. Butcher & Still at the Four Seasons unleashed its 1940s Chicago-style steakhouse recently.
The impressive Al Capone-inspired rustic interior lured us in. The diners were well dressed, as was the service team, leaving you with that feeling of a special night out. The beechwood oven, the open kitchen and the intricate furnishings all created atmosphere and as the restaurant filled up, the vibe was energetic. A terrace offers one of the best ground floor views of Abu Dhabi as it overlooks the Maryah Island waterways, with a view of the skyscraper skyline beyond that.
The service was outstanding from start to finish; attentive but not intrusive, knowledgeable but not patronising, patient but not absent. Most importantly, it felt as if everything was about us, whilst an exceptional Serbian waiter tended to our every need. We sampled wines to see which were best, each course was brought out when we were ready for them, allowing us to enjoy our evening as we desired – something that was not always done elsewhere. The service team, complemented by Californian chefs and managers, were part of the show and added to the feeling of being well looked after.
The starters began with a 99% lump crab cake with scallop, remoulade and lemon which was meatily satisfying but not as much as the waiter-recommended French onion soup. The caramelised onions gave the soup a sweet overtone similar to onion chutney and the Gruyere cheese took the soup to a level that exceeded my expectations.
The leisurely wait for the main course allowed me to select a wine for my steak from the American-inspired list, with our waiter encouraging me to try a couple of different vintages. I settled on the light-bodied Californian Kenwood Pinot Noir 2013; a gentle accompaniment to the meat that lay ahead. Watching the chefs at work was as fun as the food; as they probed, tested, tasted and fine-tuned their offerings. The main courses arrived and the hickory-smoked braised beef short rib was unbelievable in size and taste. Topped with pickled cucumber to balance the saltiness of the ribs, it was an impossible mission to finish and had to be taken home to eat the next day (where it tasted equally impressive). My boneless signature house favourite fillet was topped with a herb butter, served with a subtle peppercorn sauce and a futile side salad. Replacing the salad with the sautéed garlic spinach was a wise move on my part. The steak cookery of the American-imported cuts of meat was as masterful as I had observed in the kitchen and my steak was clearly well-rested with a crispy caramelisation on the outside. The truffle fries with Béarnaise were unnecessary and were actually wedges; generously coated in cheese and truffle oil but how many more times will I have to endure wedges when the menu says ‘fries’, I wonder?
At this point, we were full and having seen the size of the desserts, we pondered missing them out altogether. In the end, we shared a slice of key lime pie taller than my hand is wide. The pie has the right acidity but was just too big, even for two of us. The oversized American influence was clear to see. My experience of American desserts reminded me that it is all about size over quality. Give me a refined, balanced dessert any day of the week – but that’s just my personal opinion and I appreciate others may adore American desserts.
The AED380 per head price point without drinks is on the expensive side but worth it if you want a special evening to celebrate an occasion. The service is slick; the atmosphere is energetic; the décor is enticing; the food (bar my personal opinion on desserts) is excellent; and the value for money is good – all making Butcher & Still a cut above other steakhouses. The possibility of returning for the show-stopping grand seafood tower, or the Kagoshima wagyu lingered in my mind. If the price was a touch lower and the desserts were as thoughtful as the other courses, Butcher & Still would become more than just a special occasion restaurant. Here’s to a 4 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.
What’s your take on American-style desserts?
Until next time,
Who is guest reviewer Matt? A newly-married author and teacher with an obsession for French wine and fine dining, he loves nothing more than trying new restaurants and dishes with his wife and friends. Travel plans are always made around food and he can remember what he was doing on any given day by recalling the meal that he ate. His favourite chefs are Michel Roux Jr. and Nathan Outlaw.