Butcher & Still has been on my ‘to dine at’ list (the longest list ever, BTW) for the better part of four months, and I was glad to finally make the visit (sorry, Abu Dhabi, you are sometimes wildly difficult to schedule). Coming off a recent great steak experience (Graze), I’m not sure if I was entirely ready for another boost of protein not even a week later, but these are the things I do for this blog. 😉
As I was explaining to my dining companion, I tend to go into places with relatively low expectations — ready for whatever direction the evening might take (but not prepared to make excuses for anyone). Fortunately for me, my experience at Butcher & Still was nothing short of amazing.
To start our evening, we first opted to have a drink in the expansive lounge area (located just after the entrance). In these cooler months, there is plenty of outdoor seating, looking back onto the lights of Abu Dhabi island. Additionally, Butcher & Still boasts an antique Tanqueray No. 10 Imperial Martini Shaker, one of five in the world and the only one to reside in the Middle East. Did we both have a martini prepared in this historic contraption? You bet we did! Did I annoy the bartender by getting video while he used the machine? Let’s hope I didn’t!
Finishing our drinks, we moved over to our table (a traditional red covered booth, facing out to the rest of the diners). While we were acquainted with some of the staff, a batch of fresh Porterhouse rolls (with truffle butter!) were brought to the table, which the carb lover in me was a rather excited about. For a starter, I had been instructed
(ordered) to have the 99% Lump Crab Cake (AED80). And actually, I wondered, how different can a crab cake be? Oh friends, it can be so much better than you’ve ever had before. Proper chunks of fresh crab (none of that imitation stuff, believe me) with a bit of scallop, remoulade, and lemon. This one is so good you have to drop any pretense of being polite and just carve out the bigger half for whoever else you’re sharing the table with (or just drop the charade and order one for yourself). Because why not? We also ordered Scallop in a Shell (AED110), which features large scallops with mushrooms, cream and bread crumbs. The creaminess of the sauce combined with the earthiness of the mushrooms and sweetness of the scallops all added up to a perfect dish. In the end, my dining partner and I made a trade (I got more of the scallops, and she got more of the crab — I’m sure you’ll find your own equation for a harmonious table).
For my main, I originally ordered the Bone-In Signature House Favorite Filet, 9 oz. (AED300), but it was explained that the kitchen had to send the recent cuts of this order back to the vendor as the beef was not up to their standards. I didn’t have time to be disappointed and instead opted for the Filet Mignon (Medium Rare, natch) instead. Served with a large portion of garlic butter and my requested Bernaise sauce, I was in beef heaven. Not pictured, a side order of truffle fries (which, if anything, were the only miss for me during the evening — they were just a bit too chunky for my tastes).
For my friend, a pescatarian, after some consultation with the wait staff, she was pointed towards the Signature Dover Sole (AED250). While certainly, this is a steakhouse (sorry vegetarians!), there are some options for those not so into beef. By the time I finished my steak, I looked over and the fish was gone. Perhaps the cost is a bit high, but it was a wonderfully prepared piece of fish.
If you can imagine, we decided to have a dessert (which was ambitious, at best). While it was not mentioned how big the portions are, we each ordered a piece of pie (Key Lime and Pecan) and literally had some guy walk by our table and point at my piece (pictured below). I would suggest a single order to split for the table (unless you want to bring leftovers to work the following day).
What I thought might be a two-hour no fuss meal turned into a fantastic evening. Best of all? We were treated to a preview of the authentic speakeasy hidden within the restaurant. Yes, some amazing soul designed a hotel in the Middle East with a private dining room that you have to know about, because there is no way you would stumble across it on your own. With the Speakeasy Cocktail Lab concept starting in The Hideaway on Friday evenings, you need the password to get in (AED120 includes two selected cocktails and two bites). As far as I know, this is a one of a kind offer in the UAE (that I can’t seem to stop telling people about).
So, why does Butcher & Still get the top distinction for me? What sets it so far apart? Understated, attentive, personal service (across the board), combined with a wonderfully designed venue and top notch food that isn’t being delivered elsewhere in the city (not to mention the uniqueness of the martini shaker and the Speakeasy). And don’t think we received special attention that wasn’t given out to other tables. I watched as the chef and his staff made the rounds to every diner (to a nearly packed restaurant, a great sign for a Monday night in January). Zuma and Hakkasan offer decent competition in Abu Dhabi, but for me, B&S would be my go to for visiting friends, an anniversary, date night, birthday, or whatever your excuse is for an excellent meal!