Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review: Butcher & Singer

Anyone who's been living in Philadelphia for the past few years has no doubt noticed that the city is quickly being colonized by steakhouses. From chain outposts like Del Frisco's to the indie but ├╝ber-luxe Union Trust, there is no shortage of people looking to trade you half a C-note for a thick piece of beef. Why, it's not hard to imagine a tanker truck of creamed spinach overturning on the Schuylkill, or an iceberg lettuce wedge shortage afflicting the region.

Once again, Stephen Starr to the rescue! Clearly the way to address this situation is to ... open another steakhouse. Even though he already has Barclay Prime. On behalf of all of our colons, thanks, Steve. So how does the Butcher stack up?

Like most Starr endeavors, B&S is organized around a central gimmick. In this case, it's "old-timey steakhouse". Any doubt in our minds that they were serious about this theme was erased when we saw our waiter's outstanding mustache. Aside from such facial hair considerations, there is a distinct old-fashioned vibe to the place, in contrast to Starr's other steak joint, Barclay Prime, which is more like some kind of library from the set of 2001.

Anyway, down to business. Appetizers: something they call "salads" are available, and L had one of these; an asparagus-themed plate of vegetation ringed with chopped eggs and capers. Since these salads sounded suspiciously vegetable-y, I opted for a half dozen oysters, which I must say were the finest briny specimens I've ever slurped down.

So, the steak: mine was a New York strip, served as simply as possible on a plate with a sprig of parsley for garnish. The crust was exquisite, not too salty, but a great complement to the medium-rare, well-marbled beef within. For $40, not too bad, especially when there's leftovers to take home for steak and eggs the next day. L, being the dainty feminine type, went for the filet mignon, which was also good despite being a wholly inferior cut. If we wanted to have it both ways, we could have sprung for the $74 Porterhouse for two, which in retrospect would have been a fine idea.

The requisite creamed spinach was delicious, if a rather small portion, and the stuffed hash browns were addictively crispy and Parmesany. For dessert, we split a fine apple crumble.

Complaints? Well, we did feel a little rushed through our meal by our mustachioed friend -there just wasn't a lot of time between courses. A relatively minor problem, but hey, these guys have little room for error when we can take our carno-dollars to Del Frisco's, or Capital Grille, or Union Trust, or Table 31, or any of the other joints willing to broil us up a slab o' meat. So maybe this steakhouse explosion will have a useful effect by separating the meat from the gristle and letting market forces decide the ultimate winners. Blood, whiskey and competition - does capitalism get any better than this?

Butcher and Singer on Urbanspoon

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