I have to say we were warned.
Well, not warned, per se. A few weeks back when Chef Richard Miller hinted at what was to come to the Chef’s Table at Butcher & Bull, he said to be prepared to see creative slants on some of their favorite dishes that were fun and surprising to get us out of our comfort zones. Miller said he and Chef Tim Gallione had been planning for weeks to dazzle us with one of the most creative menus we’ve seen.
Before we get into the food at the event, we need to talk about the complete overhaul that Butcher & Bull, located inside the Marriott in downtown Winston-Salem, underwent earlier this year. The eatery was transformed into a sleek space rich in blues and neutral tones, leather and light. There might be a few animal skulls present, just to be sure you don’t forget where you are.
“We knew we wanted a fresh, vibrant, contemporary restaurant to stand out in what is happening in downtown Winston-Salem, and we decided on the idea of a steakhouse, which we don’t really have down here,” Miller said.
Gone are the booths, television screens and anything suggesting this is a hotel. Miller said the desire was to create a welcoming environment for gathering and fellowship. “We wanted a 100% brand new product and leave no evidence of the past so that people will want to come here for dinner, enjoy the company of friends and family, have a good cocktail or a glass of wine, and have a really phenomenal steak or anything else on the menu.”
In addition to an abundant steak offering with various cuts, like a Strip and a 48-ounce Tomahawk, there is tuna, salmon, crab cakes and cauliflower steak. Now, Butcher & Bull is getting accolades for its inventive small plates and shareable such as the Bison Carpaccio with Quail Egg and a showstopper of a Shrimp Cocktail, complete with a presentation under a cold, smoky, glass dome.
Miller, who grew up in Winston-Salem, has spent the better part of a decade going up the ranks at Butcher & Bull. He helped develop the former iteration, Graze, and made a name for himself locally and regionally as a chef there. After a brief departure, he returned to Graze as executive chef and guided the culinary team through the transformation.
The Chef’s Table that was presented last week was everything Miller promised and more, with six beautifully-plated courses that were playful and adventurous with bright colors and interesting textures. And each dish was as delicious and visually appealing. We got an eyeful of local ingredients, raw meat, organs, and an eight-limbed mollusc.
General Tso’s Harmony Ridge Farms Duck Heart, Greens, Citrus, Peanuts, Togarashi
A kick-off to the evening with an unexpected Asian flare. We had some skeptical folks at the table when the menu mentioned “duck heart.” But the heart was perfectly and lightly breaded on the outside and tender enough to cut with a fork. The drizzle of sauce had just enough heat and made the perfect bite when accompanied with the crushed peanuts.
Beef Tartare, Deviled Egg Crema, Pecorino
As if duck heart wasn’t enough to surprise you, imagine your next course being raw beef. Butcher & Bull’s tartare is well-executed with proper seasoning. The deviled egg crema landed a Southern slant to the dish, and the pecorino was baked into a crisp, which could be used as a savory little cracker.
Charred Octopus, Southern Cucumber Salad, Fair Share Farm Micro Greens, Lemon, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onions, Fennel
Another ambitious dish by Chef Richard and his team. This two-toned plate of lightly charred octopus on bright quick-pickled cukes was a wonderful middle course. The pickles (a riff on Miller’s mother’s recipe) allowed for some palate cleansing with the intrepid star of the plate.
Joyce Farms Bone Marrow, Bread-and-Butter Cauliflower, Fermented Mustard, Charred Bread, Old Nick Carolina Bourbon
And now we get a marrow bone. Beautifully and rustically plated, the bones had a light schmear of marrow topped with housemade mustard. This dish required Chef Richard to visit the room and instruct us that after scooping out the marrow and enjoying with the “toast,” we were to then use that hollow bone as a sloo or a “shoot” to take back the shot of bourbon. Some of our diners succeeded at this fun challenge. I failed epically.
Certified Angus Beef ® Brand, Demi-Glaze, Pommes Purée Potato Chips, Sweet Potato, Mushrooms
As our fifth course arrived, we knew that the culinary team really wanted to show off what Butcher & Bull wants to be known for—steak with pizzazz, as the service team came around the other side and drizzled it with the demi.
Carolina Gold Rice Pudding, Johnson Farms Peaches, Fair Share Farmâ Marigold Flowers
There’s something about the flavor of Carolina Gold rice. Hailing from the Southeastern reaches of the Carolinas, it has a beautiful golden hue and a deep, toasty flavor, almost reminiscent of popcorn. And when Richard turned it into rice pudding, the toasty flavor came through along with the sweetness of the cream and then it was topped with wonderfully succulent grilled yellow and white peaches, with edible flowers.
At the end of the evening, the room erupted in applause, with many guests saying it was the best event they’d attended. As for Miller, he said he and Chef Tim Gallione wanted to give the guests a taste of what inspires them, and he promises that this is only the beginning.
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.
Butcher & Bull is located at 425 N. Cherry St., in the Marriott of downtown Winston-Salem.