Butcher and Singer’s interior is both large enough to hold a small circus and opulent enough to host a session of Congress without losing an ounce of grandeur. Most impressive however, is its ability to capture the timeless elegance of Frank Sinatra and the incorrigible spirit of Sammy Davis., Jr. in a single room. Both personalities inescapably linger in your mind while you dine at this Stephen Starr establishment, where the booths are plush and the drinks are stiff.
Though it successfully channels the Rat Pack era, Butcher and Singer steers clear of cliché by avoiding some of the more gaudy accoutrements of the period. The space, which opened in October of 2008, boasts ceilings high enough that I almost missed the intricate wooden inlays and bold lines that danced across the top of the room. In fact, a quarter of my meal is spent gazing skyward in order to appreciate the craftsmanship evident in every inch of the room. I am also struck by the dramatic columns that pepper the floor. Dark wooden panels camouflage their massive girth and add a regal touch to an already majestic space.
The restaurant’s lighting is a work of art unto itself. Hitting the ideal pitch between overly dim and glaringly bright, the lighting scheme treats diners to a soothing glow that illuminates rather than spotlights. Crowning the top of the columns are strategically placed bulbs that diffuse the light upwards creating a soft halo effect. Adding to the sense of ease and luxuriance are the restaurant’s furnishings. Not a corner remains un-upholstered, between the padded chairs, cushy crescent shaped booths and soft carpeting. These grandiose furnishings also have the extra benefit of cutting down noise to virtually zero, as the yards of fabric absorb nearby conversations. Between the acoustics, lighting and furnishings, everything in Butcher and Singer is designed with patrons’ comfort in mind.
As one of Philadelphia’s most high profile restaurateurs, Stephen Starr has spanned a variety of cuisines and leapfrogged across the globe by offering Asian, Cuban and creative American fare. Butcher and Singer, his foray into traditional steakhouse culture, is more than just another notch on his already accomplished belt. Instead, Butcher and Singer represents a departure of sorts for a restaurateur who has made the Philadelphia food scene his own personal playground. The addition of this restaurant to his culinary empire stands in sharp contrast to other more modernized establishments that merely capitalize on current trends.
Butcher and Singer is a timeless and elegant response to the unfortunate amount of eateries that don’t hold impeccable customer service and high quality ingredients in the highest esteem. As a result, Butcher and Singer aspires to deliver a world class experience to every diner.
On the night of our visit, the service appears to be a finely tuned orchestra of attentive wait staff, all working harmoniously despite the frenetic pace of the kitchen. Our server is delightfully upbeat and her personality augments the dining experience. She is knowledgeable and quick to offer suggestions or advice regarding various menu items. As a result, our meal consists of dishes that are well paired and her guidance ensures that we didn’t over-order. We enjoy top notch treatment at every turn and are sure to leave feeling truly pampered.
Butcher and Singer proudly boasts specialty cocktails that complement each element of the steakhouse, from ambiance to philosophy to décor. The restaurant’s drink menu is extensive, and as I am easily getting swept up in the mid-century atmosphere, I order an Old Fashioned with my meal. The cocktail, consisting of whiskey, sugar, bitters and club soda, arrives swiftly. I relish the expertly mixed interplay between tart and sweet while appreciating its complexity throughout my first few courses.
Indicative of Butcher and Singer’s commitment to full flavor at every turn, the traditionally overlooked bread course is actually an opportunity to savor the hearty taste that comes with baking only the finest ingredients. With its rustic texture and velvety center, the bread is truly an appetizing start to the evening.
I am continually reminded that pacing is key when dining at Butcher and Singer, where the portions are always generous. The seafood platter is a fantastically indulgent exercise in restraint for crab lovers. A myriad of shellfish line the dish while the center is filled with jumbo lump crab meat waiting to be savored. We sample the Oyster Shooters whose tomato kick and tequila punch ensure that the lighting won’t lull us into complacency.
Next, the Curried Shrimp Salad is a delectable foray into more subtle spices that strike notes of sweet and savory. We taste the two varieties of oysters adorning the platter, one hailing from Prince Edward Island and the other from Skookum, Washington. While the former has a delightfully briny tinge, the Skookum oysters are a wonderful counterpoint, exhibiting a mild, supple flavor.
My favorite element of the seafood platter is the Alaskan King Crab Leg. The leg is particularly thick and succulent, so divvying it up between the two of us requires a King Solomon-like effort. In addition, there is a liberal portion of shrimp cocktail waiting for anyone who still has room left. The shrimp succeeds in putting an exclamation point on an already dazzling appetizer course.
Another well-executed seafood dish comes in the form of the Tuna Sashimi. This dish allows the chef’s originality to shine with its rich bed of Tzatziki sauce nestled beneath the fish. A flush, vibrant crimson, the tuna’s quality is clearly top notch and the coupling of this Japanese favorite with a traditionally Greek condiment is a delicious surprise.
The salad course offers a variety of enticing options, but the classic Wedge Salad emerges as a menu standout. As a slight twist on this typical dish, Butcher and Singer tops their iceberg lettuce with a Russian dressing. I am enamored with the dressing’s richness especially when paired with the dishes firm bits of bacon and hunks of blue cheese.
Our first entrée, the Colorado Lamb Chops, proves to be juicy and delicate with flavor packed into every bite. The dish is portioned with plenty of tender meat to enjoy. The sweetness of the lamb’s flesh is best served by a medium rare preparation and I am grateful to our ever-helpful waitress for yet another helpful suggestion.
The main event, as can be expected at this rarefied steakhouse, is the beef dish. After much deliberation we order the Delmonico Steak. The rib eye meat is juicy beyond belief and arrives with just a tinge of pink at the center. The Delmonico Steak is served unencumbered by excessive garnishes and dominates our palettes for the rest of the evening. The portions are generous and will definitely send us home with a bag full of fantastic leftovers.
The side dishes we chose to accompany our entrees reside on two ends of the steakhouse cuisine spectrum. First, the Creamed Spinach is a classic choice and does not disappoint. The consistency avoids soupiness or any bitter aftertastes and adds a luscious dimension to our entree. We order the second side dish, Stuffed Hash Browns, at the urging of our waitress. Her knowing smile leads us to believe it will be a tasty addition to our meal and she does not lead us astray. Butcher and Singer’ s Stuffed Hash Browns are unlike any other potato-based dish I’ve encountered inside or outside a steakhouse. Great care is taken with each step of preparation and the effort is evident at first bite. The potato is shredded and then filled with sour cream and potato chunks. After baking until golden in color, the Stuffed Hash Browns arrive as an oversize patty of gently browned potato with a rich supple filling. This is a must-order dish.
There is no better accompaniment to the crisp fall weather than the warm spices of Butcher and Singer’s astonishingly good Carrot Cake. The seasoning keeps the sweet cream cheese icing from becoming too cloying, while the multiple cake layers make for an exquisite final course. We also treat ourselves to the Chocolate Cake, a great choice for chocolate lovers who relish the tangy semi-sweet flavor of this moist classic. Never overpowering but definitely all encompassing, this dish is an unabashedly creamy confection for anyone hungry enough to dig in. The Chocolate Cake makes a great partner for the requisite espresso we enjoy while we nearly clean our plates.
Butcher and Singer is certainly one of Philadelphia’s only steakhouses equally preoccupied with providing the finest customer service and serving unparalleled meals. To say Stephen Starr has “done it again,” would do a disservice to this restaurant’s distinctive character and its ability to transport diners, if for just a few hours, to another era. Each night, entering the restaurant’s threshold is like stepping back in time to an age when men wore fedoras and dinner was an event.
Insider Tip: Butcher and Singer is the perfect dinner destination for a special occasion seven nights a week, but the unbelieveable customer service doesn't stop there. Be sure to stop by for lunch during the week with service from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.