If you weren’t looking for The Butcher Shop you’d walk right by and probably never know it existed. Marked only by an unassuming pig sign, the restaurant is located across from B&G Oysters (another Barbara Lynch eatery) on Tremont Street in the South End. We walked in and were greeted by the hostess clutching an iPad that held the reservation info; there’s no room for a stand or computer as the place only holds a bar and about 8-10 high tops. A wooden butcher’s table is located in the back where customers are brought to order a glass of wine while they wait for their table. This giant chopping block is illuminated by a refrigerator containing a variety of different cuts of meat, pates, sausage links, and small containers of soup, pulled pork, hummus etc that you can purchase. Doubling as a meat market, The Butcher Shop is small restaurant but has a lot of character with a clear culinary message.
Bread: Three pieces of soda bread and six pieces of white bread were delivered on a small plate with a mini ramekin of salted whipped butter and a side of honey. The bread was decent but was clearly just a vehicle for the spreads; sweet honey and salty butter made for a great pairing.
Menu: The Restaurant Week menu was limited with 2 appetizer options, 3 entrée choices, and 2 dessert selections. I convinced that my mom, that while there were only a couple of options, I was confident that we’d enjoy any one of Barbara Lynch’s creations. There was also a hand written Artisanal Cheese menu waiting for us on the stone table top.
Lamb Carpaccio – quail egg, pickled baby artichoke, shallot mousse
Seven small thin slices of lamb were topped with artichokes leaves, quail egg, and shallot mousse in a perfect linear presentation. I first forked the egg to determine the runniness of the yolk; after seeing that it was in fact poached, I immediately ate the egg and piece of lamb in one big bite. I’ve never had lamb prepared that way and I really enjoyed it. I wish I had spread out the mousse into multiple bites, but thinking it was another egg I popped the entire thing into my mouth. Not a terrible idea though… it was soft, smooth, and melted on my tongue.
Shepherd’s Pie – parsnips, cauliflower, curry
An oval cast iron baking dish came overflowing with a blanket of pureed potato. Hiding beneath were large chunks of lamb and scarce pieces of cauliflower. The mashed potato was indeed smashed and whipped into a smooth topping. This entrée was pretty good, a smaller portion size, and had a bit of a spicy kick to it.
Typically mousse is light and fluffy but this version was dense and thick. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, I actually enjoyed this more solid mousse which made for a richer dessert after a somewhat light meal (my Shepherd’s Pie wasn’t necessarily light, but the size wasn’t exactly overwhelming).
Bathroom: Located down a narrow stairwell in the basement, there’s 1 unisex room/stall that created a little bit of a line. The wall was adorned with a round mirror and framed drawings of different types of meat. A large scale was in the corner, clearly not intended to tempt/torture customers as it was “zeroed” at 150 lbs.
Service: We arrived on time but the couple at our table was just paying their bill, so we were escorted to the butcher’s chopping block in the back where we ordered a glass of wine. We sat 5-10 minutes later and ordered shortly after. My only complaint is that our first course came out 30 seconds after the bread. I like to enjoy my food, and never like being/feeling rushed; this wasn’t a huge deal, but give me a minute to enjoy your delicious bread before you clutter our small table with more plates!
Overall: One of the high lights of the evening was the wine; I wasn’t familiar with any of their offerings but told the server I liked a dry red. I ended up with the Bordeaux which was excellent. As the restaurant only had bar and high top seating it wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable/cozy spot, but no restaurant can compare in terms of décor and the actual butcher shop atmosphere. The regular menu is limited and specific, so just know what you’re getting yourself into before reserving here. I’m glad I tried The Butcher Shop but I won’t rush back for dinner, only because I generally like hearty meals/portions and more of a variety (as do the people I typically dine with). Although if I’m looking for an evening of apps and great wine this may be the first place I turn to! I look forward to trying the other restaurants in the Gruppo (I’m looking at you No. 9).
The Perfect Bite: Lamb carpaccio with quail egg and a piece of pickled artichoke.
For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston