Saturday, November 17, 2012

Starry Nights

Dining at two Steven Starr steakhouses on consecutive weekends, first Butcher & Singer then Barclay Prime, sounds and is both decadent and delightful.  However, the close proximity of the events forces one to compare the style, standards and experience of both.  While both have Starr DNA, an attention to providing fabulous design and attention to detail, extremely high quality ingredients and excellent customer service, the two restaurants had completely distinct personalities.

Butcher & Singer plays homage to the traditional steakhouse.  Walking into the opulent and fantastically re-designed former bank building, one is transported back in time and you can imagine yourself surrounded by high rolling business executives or mobsters strutting around with cigar in one hand and a bejeweled starlet on the  other.  Despite the sky high ceilings and spaciousness of the restaurant, the warm tones of the decor, comfy u-shaped booths and friendly service are overwhelmingly inviting.  The food does not disappoint- the porterhouse is prepared exactly as requested, a true medium rare with a wonderful salty char, the meat practically melting in your mouth.  Surprisingly, for a steakhouse, the sides did not feel like a complete afterthought.  The brussel sprouts and asparagus are delicious and had me wanting more.  I blame the 2 or 3 blue cheese stuffed, dirty gin martinis for the sole photo (sorry!). . . and yes, the cocktails alone are worth a bar visit.

While Butcher & Singer recalls the decadence and glory of old Hollywood, Barclay and Prime is effortlessly cool, refined in its minimalism.  White marble tables and walls are offset by walnut bookcases and plush green sofas.  Our waitress is exceptional- witty under duress (loss power for a few minutes),  knowledgeable and ready with recommendations and in tune with her clientele.  A wonderful moment during the dinner was when the waitress offered a tray of top grade knives- wusthof, henckels, shun- choose your weapon!

Now, for the food! The wedge salad was a notch above the norm with lumps of crab meat and the beet salad with microgreens surprised with a playful, pistachio crunch.  The miso glazed black cod was superbly prepared and a perfect dish for my mom.  The porterhouse which I shared with the sis-in-law was solid, but dare I say it, not as good as Butcher & Singer's.  Even now I cannot put my finger on the disparity, perhaps not quite as flavorful or not as well seasoned. . . but the New York strip and the Short Ribs were divine and had me dreaming about steak the rest of the week.  The cooked mushrooms and truffle oil mashed potatoes sides were standout good- rich and earthy.  

So the verdict- which is the better steakhouse?  I suppose it comes down to what you think a steakhouse should be and I am a sucker for a traditional style steakhouse so my vote goes to Butcher & Singer.  That being said, I would eagerly go back to either restaurant!