Bull & Butterfly’s owners pivot to the positive
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Playa Vista’s Bull & Butterfly was adversely affected by the pandemic closures, but restaurateurs Alan and Heidi Jackson used the time off to their advantage.
“When we were abruptly forced to close, we had all this inventory and we didn’t know what to do with it,” Alan says. “We started fermenting, drying and smoking them. We started to make our own uncultured butter, for example. Employees were also rehired and retrained.
“This forced respite gave us an opportunity to really dig deep and come up with new ingredients and, without this time, we wouldn’t have had the time to think about it.”
Heidi adds, “We took the ingredients and repurposed them in such different ways. We didn’t have the time in the past to do research and development. This allowed Alan to refocus on the menu and make so many improvements.”
Foodies can taste those new ingredients — which also include fermented cabbage and dried orange dust — now that Bull & Butterfly is offering prix-fixe to-go meals.
Available on Fridays and Saturdays, its prix-fixe menu will continue after the dining room reopens. The menu rotates and will include apps, mains, sides and dessert. Bottles of wine as well as selected batched B&B cocktails are available for add on. Orders — $52 per person, with a minimum of two people — must be placed by 4 p.m. Thursdays.
“When we had the first shutdown, we had to reevaluate,” Alan says. “We were never engineered as a restaurant with food to go. That was never part of our thought process.
“Prior to Newsom’s lift of the ban, we wanted to dive into to-go.”
A recent prix-fixe menu included kumquat and kampachi crudo with breakfast radish, Persian cucumbers and serrano chili; blistered shishito peppers with nam pla sauce and curry spice; little gem Caesar with piquillo pepper breadcrumbs and Bellwether Farms pepato peppercorn cheese; 4-ounce ribeye cap with oven-roasted tomatoes, grilled Bermuda onions, watercress and B&B steak sauce; charred sugar snap peas with glazed spring onion, roasted radish and mint butter;
and chocolate cream pie with chocolate banana gauche, chocolate short crust and marshmallow meringue.
The Jacksons call Bull & Butterfly a fresh, light and modern take on the traditional steakhouse experience,
with an emphasis on humanely and pasture-raised meats, prepared with ranch-inspired techniques.
“We cook over hard wood,” he says. “We cook in a coal-fired oven from Spain (Josper) that infuses wonderful smoky flavor and sears the steak beautifully. The other thing we’re trying to do is not rely on the requisite side dishes and starters. It’s a nod to it. You’re not going to get creamed spinach.”
Instead, sides include fire-baked rice cake ($10); Josper-roasted marble potatoes ($9); charred sugar snap peas ($9); coal-roasted spring carrots ($9), French fries and fry sauce ($8); jalapeno mac and cheese ($9) and charred Wiser Family cone cabbage ($10).
“The vegetables are cooked on the Josper,” he says. “It’s that backyard flavor that comes through the steak, versus a steak that’s cooked in butter, which I love. It feels much more akin to what we would have in a backyard.”
Main dishes are creative. A grilled swordfish chop ($32) has tomato comfit, baba ghanoush, Jimmy Nardello pepper sofrito and saffron aioli ($32). Spatchcock chicken is brined for 24 hours and
finished with “smaltz” potatoes and
chimichurri ($27). The wood-grilled pastrami steak is a new turn on a classic: marble rye, Caraway sauerkraut and pickled mustard seeds ($30).
For comfort food, try the house ground dry-aged cheeseburger served on a
salt-and-pepper brioche bun, Hooks dry-aged cheddar, grilled Bermuda
onions and smoked ketchup ($19).
The Jacksons are long-time restaurateurs, calling Bull & Butterfly their 36th eatery. The couple founded the Lemonade group of restaurants, which was sold to a private equity firm. They also started a robust catering business that worked with the Screen Actors Guild, BET and Golden Globe awards.
Alan attributes his success to Heidi, whom, he says, makes sure he’s focused.
“I’m about really being passionate about food and not seeing the restaurant business as a marketing gimmick,” Alan adds. “We never succumb to using terms like ‘farm to table’ or ‘better for you.’ It was always our hope that people saw the pedigree in the food, and the work that we put into it. That’s a big contributor to our success, along with luck and timing.”
Heidi adds, “This is our nod to our version of a new, inspired steakhouse. We’re not just steak. We have amazing and beautiful dishes that are fish or vegetarian on the grill. We bring a whole group of people together who can eat different ways in a steakhouse, which is changing the way we all eat.”
Bull & Butterfly
Inside the Playa Vista
12746 Jefferson Boulevard,
Suite 2200, Playa Vista
5 to 9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays
5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
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