A few months ago, when Butcher & Bull opened their doors, they had a media preview night and while I try to always get to those, I had a prior commitment that night and couldn’t make the event at the Marriott in downtown Winston-Salem. But, thanks to Chef Richard Miller and Meagan Byrne at Bolt PR, Stephanie and I finally got my tasting, so we made it a date night.
The decor is more straight-lined and gray than I expected but it was modern and welcoming. I thought it looked great in there. While there were some “standard” restaurant fixtures, they remodeled the restaurant into a destination. We liked it a lot, especially the focus on the “bull” aspect. But, other than what to expect whilst eating there, you didn’t come here for interior design lessons. You came here for the food. Let’s do that!
Chef Richard started us off with a salad. Yeah, a salad. This was the “Arugula Salad” and had baby kale, toasted almonds, shaved fennel, beets, feta and a brown butter miso vinaigrette. I generally do not eat beets as I feel they taste like I’m eating dirt. But, I ate every bite of this salad. I tried to get all of the feta, all of the miso dressing, the almonds, everything. To me, it had a lovely nutty/earthy quality that was very appealing and mixed with the umami miso, the peppery arugula and toasted almonds made this a savory-like salad. I really enjoyed it. Stephanie did as well. It went well with her red wine and my salty gose.
That’s when the fun really started. You know when I say fun that usually means meat! And, since this is a twist on the modern steakhouse, you’d expect meat. How about Bison Carpaccio? Very thinly sliced extra rare bison topped with a quail egg, “Everything Bagel” seasoning, more arugula and Manchego cheese. It also included caper berries which I’ve never had before. I have had, and love, capers but never one of these beauties. The bison was so thinly sliced that they wilted around the fork as I placed it on Stephanie’s and my plates. So, delicate, so tender and so delicious. Mixing the cheese and quail egg around it was tangy and semi-sweet all at the same time.
Next was the Shrimp Cocktail. Boring, right? Not!!! It comes out on a plate with a glass cover and you can barely see what is inside the glass dome because it is so smokey. Cold smoke, actually. When Chef Richard removed the dome, the aroma of the smoke attacked the senses and it was amazing. These shrimps were anything but. They were rather large, drizzled with preserved lemon and sitting on a housemade cocktail sauce mixture of not ketchup like many generic cocktail sauces can be but a tomato jam with horseradish mixed in. And, if you’ve ever read my reviews before you know that Stephanie and I are both fans of pea shoots. The crunchy, earthy greens were the perfect topping for this dish. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and smoked. There was much rejoicing.
Then came the Spanish Octopus. I love octopus. When we have sushi, I like “extra” octopus. It can be chewy, yes, but I really enjoy it. So, this came to us with crisp-yet-tender cauliflower, chorizo bits, a creamy sauce and a tangy chimichurri sauce. The octopus itself was not tough. Its texture was somewhere between a scallop and shrimp. Not mushy and not chewy. It was just right. All the flavors made a delicious plate of goodness. I had to point out the chorizo bits to my girl as she was skipping them, mistaking them for pieces of the cauliflower and octopus. Delicious.
The “real meat” was on its way, next. The Wagyu Shoulder Tenders had their turn. Chunks of pure perfection. They were all done medium rare and had a crusty outer layer that was perfectly seasoned. Very earthy, salty, peppery and was like a hug for the shoulder. You could see the juices between the fibers of the meat and that made it even more appealing. Like most of Butcher & Bull’s steaks (from what I can tell), they come with blistered cherry tomatoes. These things were on the verge of popping but, man… the flavor burst when you bit into it was amazing. Because I was savoring the taste of the beef, I was neglecting the tomatoes but put a bulb on one of the last pieces of this I had and it was a party in my mouth. Acidic. Juicy. Tangy. Savory. Divine. Should I keep coming up with descriptors?
The Bone-In Dry-Aged Ribeye was the last of the big stuff. Although, Chef did ask if we
wanted more meat. I assured him that we had had our fill after this plate. Again, prepared medium-rare, If you’ll remember back when Chef Richard was on our podcast he talked about the dry-aged beef. Dry-aging allows for more flavor and tenderness to permeate through the meat. This plate arrived with a huge bone with the meat morsels already cut for us, more for presentation, I believe. Chef explained that usually it comes intact but he cut it up for us. So tender and being a ribeye, there was a good bit of fat on it. But, as we know, fat equals flavor. It wasn’t so much fat you couldn’t eat it. It was enough fat to make the flavors burst, plus the seasoning on it was making it even better.
Finally, after we had had enough of heavenly meat, we were treated to the no-frills Cheesecake. It was “plain” (a misnomer, of course), nary a compote to be found, on a graham cracker crust and served with house-whipped cream. It was anything but plain, but it had no “toppings.” And, it didn’t need any. Truth is, we ate the cheesecake with only a bit of time paying any kind of attention to the whipped cream, and even that was delicious. I just didn’t think the cheesecake needed anything but its own volition to make my palate happy. And it did just that.
There’s a reason why Chef Richard Miller won the NC Competition Dining championship a few years back. That reason is that he’s that darned good. He has great culinary ideas and the culinary skills to back those ideas up. That, and he has an amazing team that he can depend on. The flavors were lightyears beyond ordinary. They were adventurous, experimental, subtle, bursting, everything rolled up in one. A true culinary delight. This is a premier location in this city and if you haven’t tried it, or you haven’t booked your own dinner there, you are doing yourself a disservice. It isn’t often that I attend a tasting where every plate is on par with the one before it. Usually, there are fluctuations, but not this time. Trust me.
Visit their website. Give them a call at 336-722-5232. Use Open Table or any other reservation apps. Just get over there. Sooner than later. Butcher & Bull is located in the Marriott downtown, 425 N. Cherry Street.
Thank you, Chef Richard, Butcher & Bull, Meagan Byrne, Bolt PR, for a most fantastic meal and evening.