Butler & Chef may seem like just another Italian restaurant, but there is a difference. It bills itself as an osteria, a place serving wine and simple food — as if from Mama’s kitchen — without a fixed menu, to paraphrase the restaurant’s bill of fare.
There are some fixed menu items with a selection you would expect to find in this type of restaurant — pizza, pasta, starters and so on — but it also borrows an idea from the Japanese, an omakase-style menu with five, seven and nine courses, priced at RM128++, RM188++ and RM238++ respectively. The seven-course selection comes with two glasses of wine and — get this, wine lovers — there is a free flow of wine with the nine-course package.
An omakase meal lets the chef decide what to serve, depending on the ingredients of the day and the chef’s creativity. Unlike a “degustation” meal, there is no fixed menu. A restaurant staff enquires about your food preferences — if you don’t like a particular food, such as duck, for example, the chef can adjust the meal accordingly — which means that you could be served a highly personalised meal.
The restaurant’s décor is straightforward, with a small wine room to one side, which substitutes for a wine list. The long-ish interior houses tables on either side of a central aisle, with a large mural and mirrors on one wall. Indirect lighting gives it a cosy, if not intimate, ambience.
The dinner that night followed the structure of a full-course Italian meal. The first dish of our seven-course repast was an appetiser comprising discs of soft, mild Buffalo Mozzarella cheese on tomato, triangles of firm, salty Pecorino Romano cheese, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, a slice of salty bresaola beef, a salad with pitted black olives and squares of toasted bread — a combination of textures and flavours to intrigue the palate.
A thick house-made mushroom soup, fragrant with truffle oil, was served next, followed by fish — a rectangle of lightly-crisped grilled salmon on a bed of spinach. Mussels, deep fried with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, was a weak link — the fleshy and succulent mussels did not lend themselves well to the deep fried, breaded treatment.
The accompanying wine was very likeable, a light and fruity Chardonnay of Chilean provenance, served cold in chilled wine flutes.
A small section of striploin with mixed vegetables — mushroom, capsicum and carrot — in a red wine sauce was a little overdone for medium doneness, but the meat was fresh, if a little chewy.
A small Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare featured generous portions of fresh, mixed seafood in a light tomato sauce and nicely al dente pasta, to be followed by a dessert of Panna Cotta with raspberry sauce, and Tiramisu, dusted with chocolate powder. The Panna Cotta was firm and smooth, while the tiramisu was light and well done, but not a standout.
The restaurant also had a lobster promotion, at RM99 nett, in various preparations. The lobster with spaghetti, aglio olio style, was a handsome fellow. It was cut in half with the meat thoughtfully scooped out, cubed and cooked before being stuffed back into the shell. The flesh was sweet and firm, although, being an American Lobster (Homarus americanus), I found that it had a milder flavour and texture than the tenacious, thicker-shelled Reef Lobsters you find in tropical coral reefs. It was a treat, with claws that would have made Thanos jealous, and the accompanying spaghetti, with burnt garlic and fresh parsley was firm and fragrant.
The omakase-style meal provides a sampling of various typical Italian dishes, in reduced portions and straightforward presentations, without the painstaking leaps of imagination you often find in degustation menus. The dishes served may differ from one visit to another, but that’s the idea behind omakase.
The ingredients, confidence and authenticity with which the dishes were executed speak of an experienced chef. If you visit the restaurant and are spoilt for choice or simply don’t know what to order, let the chef decide!
Butler & Chef – The Italian Osteria. Block A4, first floor, A4-1-07, Publika, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, KL. 03 6411 9499. Tue-Sun, 12noon-11pm. This article first appeared on June 18, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.