Walking into The Butchers Den, there is no mistaking what kind of restaurant you’re entering. The name alone will probably point you in the right direction, but one word echoes through the décor, the menu, and subsequently your appetite – beef!
Chicken lover? You’ll be limited to one main course. Vegetarian? You’ll love the sides. Vegan? Well… Why do you do that to yourself? (I feel comfortable ridiculing vegans here as one look at that rare slab of beef will keep any vegan from reading this review!)But to be honest, if you’re any of those things, a visit to The Butcher’s Den could very well make a beef-loving convert out of you. If not, you can still appreciate the décor.
Located at Al-Bida’a Strip, The Butcher’s Den occupies two floors with very distinct personalities. The first thing you’ll encounter downstairs is the wallpaper. This Andy Warhol work, entitled Cow Wallpaper [Pink on Yellow], 1966, lets you know what you’ll be in for – classic steaks served in a contemporary setting. It’s fresh, bright and modern. Passing the open kitchen you can check out where the meats will be grilled but I was drawn to the glass cube afoot the stairs. This is the refrigerator. I gazed through the glass like a kid outside a sweet shop. Laid bare inside are all the cuts of beef, labelled with their details. The quality of the beef is apparent from this first viewing. Heavy marbling, especially in the Wagyu cuts, signifies a good intramuscular fat content, which of course means more flavor.
After being dragged away from the fridge we checked out the upstairs, which has a warmer, cosier feel than downstairs. It is available for private functions and reservations and can be divided into two separate rooms. They have a small open kitchen area upstairs, too, for live cooking shows. At the top of the stairs you’ll find a conveyor belt, the kind normally employed in running sushi places – at The Butcher’s Den porcelain cows, painted by a variety of artists, ride around the belt instead of raw fish. It’s all about the cow here!
Taking our seats downstairs, our appetizers were waiting for us. Cotton Candy! It was such an oddball thing to find waiting on the table and we loved it. After we’d polished it off, we moved onto the first courses. The Onion and Spinach Quiche imparted great flavors from such humble ingredients and the Leek, Shallot & Cherry Tomato Tart was delicious and, served in a mini cast-iron skillet, looked great, too. But I know what you’re thinking, all I’ve been talking about is cows, so where’s the beef? Wagyu Carpaccio was unlike any Carpaccio I’ve ever tasted. At The Butcher’s Den they serve it with rocket and figs. The slivers of beef melt on the tongue leaving an incredible flavor, and a taste for more.
Dominating the menu at The Butcher’s Den is the choice of meats. They offer Australian Wagyu of varying grades, USDA organic and Argentinian under their Speciality Meat Cuts section, then a USDA CAB (Certified Angus Beef) section and finally USDA Prime Cuts. Each section carries different cuts of beef.
A quick glance at one of the walls will provide an education for anyone not too familiar with where the cuts of beef come from. Illustrated cows adorn the wall, each one detailing which cut comes from where.
We tried an Argentinian Ribeye, an Organic fillet and a Wagyu Striploin Red (6 -7 grade). We opted to take the steaks medium and without rubs or glazes. Beef this good doesn’t need such things. We were served sauces such as Béarnaise, Mushroom, Peppercorn and a Mixed Berry Jalepeno sauce. I tried these and they were good, especially the mixed berry, but the meat didn’t need these either. Then came the two dishes that we’re probably still talking about as you read this; the USDA CAB Short Ribs had a smoky, sweet glaze that made the meat black on the outside. When you sliced through the meat, it fell off the bone with ease revealing a pink succulent center. I managed to refrain myself from gnawing at the bones when the meat was finished! Then came the daddy of all steaks; a Wagyu Fillet Black (8-9 grade). My attempts to explain exactly what this meant to the table were put to shame by The Butcher’s Den manager Denzel’s knowledge. Wagyu, he told us, literally translates as Japanese Cow. It is a way of raising cattle, once almost exclusively in Kobe, Japan, that ensures great marbling and naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. The cattle are fed milk, cheese and, for the last 300-500 days of production, are grain-feed. The grade refers to the amount of marbling on a scale of 1-12. That’s pretty much how I’d said it, I’m sure!
It’s hard to describe the amount of flavor a piece of meat with no sauce, marinade, glaze, or rub can have. As you’re eating it you realize the flavors are coming from the meat itself. It doesn’t taste merely of beef, but so much more. The meat is so tender and you’ll find yourself not wanting to swallow, savouring every chew as it releases its flavor.
The sides on offer at The Butcher’s Den are subtle and serve as perfect accompaniments to the meat cuts. The Beetroot & Turnip Slaw was crunchy and light and the Crispy Parsnip Chips were a unique alternative to potato chips. We opted mostly for greens, preferring to fill up on protein (aka damn tasty beef) rather than carbs – Wilted Chard and Baby Marrow partnered well with all of the meats. The Charred Glazed Figs added a touch of sweetness and was my favorite side.
And so with a heavy heart we moved onto dessert – we were leaving the meat behind and that saddened me a little. I was roused a little by the Chocolate Chip Waffles with Vanilla & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, but I was still thinking about beef. Then it arrived…
Bacon & Chocolate Chip Cookies! Yep, you read it correctly. That was bacon in a cookie. I couldn’t have been happier. Served on slate, with a cup of milk adorned with a sugar coated vanilla pod, the three cookies just looked like regular, albeit warm and still soft, cookies. But those little bits of beef bacon were waiting inside to tantalize my taste buds, combining with the chocolate to deliver a warm, salty, sweet delight. From four of us eating, we were divided 50/50 on this concept. That was fine by me; I got to devour more of them.
The Butcher’s Den serves outstanding beef. You don’t really need to know more than that. But for those who prefer more of a conclusion; if you love a good steak, you’ll find that, plus a whole lot more, being served in a funky, lively spot with a kicking soundtrack to boot.
The Butcher’s Den is located at Al-Bida’a Strip. For more information visit their Facebook page Facebook: TheButchersDen or follow them on Twitter @ButchersDen For reservations or queries call 2226 3140.