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Butterfly Restaurant

January 7, 2014

When my husband and I knew we were going to be in San Francisco for Thanksgiving, we knew we were going to have to find a place to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.  Trying to find a place to eat on a holiday when you’re on the road can be tricky sometimes as many places close down for the holidays.  However, the good thing about being traveling to a big city is the fact that you know you’ll always be able to find something.  It may not be your first choice, but there will be some place somewhere that’s open to serve the tourists.  My husband and I did some research a few months in advance to try to find out what restaurants would be open on Thanksgiving and then we narrowed down our choices from there based upon the location of the restaurant, its menu and our ease in getting to the restaurant.  We finally settled on one that we both agreed upon.

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Butterfly Restaurant, located on the historic Embarcadero at Pier 33 overlooking the San Francisco Bay serves modern Asian cuisine.  The chef and owner, Robert Lam, opened up the restaurant in 2000 on Mission Street where it grew successful before he moved to Pier 33 in 2003.  What drew our eye to this particular restaurant for Thanksgiving was the fact that it served Asian food, something completely different from the typical turkey dinner served on this particular day.  According to the Butterfly’s restaurant, the cuisine is “Asian within Asian” drawing on inspirations from Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine.  However, weeks before we were due to arrive in San Francisco, we found out that instead of their normal menu, Butterfly would be serving up a special Thanksgiving menu.  We were a bit disappointed about this revelation, but decided that a) the menu looked ok, b) it was Thanksgiving Day which makes it difficult to expect much and c) this late in the game, where were we going to find reservations anywhere else.  So, we might as well keep our reservations at Butterfly and hope for the best.

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Before any of the food ever came to the table, I was already happy with our selection of Butterfly Restaurant based on our drink selections alone.  On their special drink menu, I found a non-alcoholic drink called the “lycheetini” which I just had to give a try.  The lycheetini is a non-alcoholic martini made with lychee puree and simple syrup.  The idea seems so simple, I wonder why I haven’t seen this drink at other Asian restaurants.  Served in a martini glass with an actual lychee fruit skewered and stuck into the glass, this drink was out-of-this-world good.  Sweet and smooth and delicious.  This is one of my most favorite drinks ever.  I may just have to make a version of this lycheetini at home.  By this point, I knew I would like this restaurant.

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My husband ordered a beer for his dinner meal.  An Anchor Steam beer which apparently is known for its unique flavor is created through a blend of pale and caramel malts, fermented with lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures in shallow open-air fermenters with gentle carbonation is a San Francisco brewery.  I think my husband figured that since we were in San Francisco, he might as well go with a local beer which he’s had before and likes.

The Thanksgiving meal being served at Butterfly restaurant was a set menu that came with an appetizer, the choice between a soup or salad, the main entrée, and a choice for dessert.

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For the appetizer, our menu read as follows:
Oyster duo, bloody mary shooter, “nuco cham” mignonette
House smoked king salmon, whipped horseradish, wasabi cracker
Ahi poke, shiso, tobiko caviar, malted sesame

I think we were a bit overwhelmed reading the menu thinking that we were going to get quite an appetizer.  But, our waiter assured us that the menu sounded much more daunting than the actual appetizer.  The menu listed all of the components of the dish, but that the dish itself wasn’t too large.  And our waiter was correct, the appetizer dish itself wasn’t too daunting.  It was recommended by the chef that we start out with the oyster, follow that with the shooter, then the smoked salmon cracker and finish with the ahi poke.  As I’ve never tried oysters in my life and never had any desire too, I told my husband that he was welcome to have mine.  Which he did.  Truth be told, he’d never had oysters before this evening either, but after trying his own (and he’ll try anything once), he decided that he liked them enough to have mine.  So, I started my appetizer with the smoked salmon with whipped horseradish on a wasabi cracker.  That was phenomenal.  The wasabi cracker and the whipped horseradish provided a nice kick and spice to the wonderful smoked salmon.  It was perfection in a bite.  The ahi poke with the caviar was terrific.  The caviar provided a bit of saltiness and the malted sesame provided a bit of tanginess in flavor to compliment the ahi poke.  A terrific start to our meal.

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For the salad or soup choice, my husband and I actually both chose the salad option.  What we received was a salad that was almost a meal in and of itself.  The salad was a duo of poached pear and endive salad with Hawaiian bread and blue cheese muffin and macadamia nuts and pomegranate seeds.  The duo of poached pears were actually sweet pears half poached in white wine and half poached in red wine.  While the pears were good, admittedly they were a bit too boozy in flavor for my liking.  The endive salad, however, was fantastic.  There was some sort of tangy vinaigrette sauce which paired well with the salad and the pomegranate and macadamia nuts provided a great sweetness and crunch to the dish.  But, for me, the star of the dish was the Hawaiian bread and blue cheese muffin.  The Hawaiian bread was sweet and soft, but nicely crisp on the outside from baking and the tang of the blue cheese was an amazing compliment to the sweet Hawaiian bread.  This salad and muffin was one of the most unique and flavorful salads I’ve ever had.

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For the entrée, everyone was served the same meal.  The dish consisted of salt baked diestel turkey breast, turkey leg confit and sweet potato hash, grit and goat cheese cake, twice baked butterball potato, lop cheong fried sticky rice, gingered cranberry and strawberry and truffled mushroom sauce.  By the time dinner was served, I was so hungry and the plate brought to the table looked so good.  The first thing I tried was the turkey breast, which was absolutely phenomenal.  The turkey breast was incredibly flavorful and moist and absolutely delicious.  The turkey leg confit and sweet potato hash was absolutely amazing.  It was the perfect way to give us more turkey meat than just the breast.  The twice baked butterball potato was really creamy and sweet and a terrific side dish.  And the lop cheong fried sticky rice was unique but somehow fit in with the whole dish and the Asian theme of the restaurant.  Lop cheong is a Chinese sausage and putting it into fried sticky rice was a neat combination.  The grit and goat cheese cake was pretty good and the gingered cranberry and strawberry was better than traditional cranberry sauce, but I still could have done without it.  The truffled mushroom sauce on the plate really brought the whole dish together as it went well with the turkey breast and the hash as well as a good combination for the potato and the flavor matched well with the fried sticky rice.  My husband and I agreed that this was hands-down the best turkey dinner either of us had ever eaten.  We were so impressed with the meal and we both finished it off without any problems.  When the chef/owner came by our table that night, we made a point to tell him how much we loved the meal he had prepared for us.

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The dessert option was a slice of pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Our options were pumpkin pie, apple pie and pecan pie.  I chose pecan pie and my husband chose apple pie.  Neither of us expected much from the dessert as we figured a Thanksgiving dessert was just a throw in because they needed to serve dessert.  And as we had expected, the dessert kind of was a throw-in.  The pie was just a pie, nothing special or distinct about it at all.  But, by then we were pretty full from dinner anyways so we didn’t really miss dessert that night.

When we originally made a reservation at the Butterfly Restaurant for Thanksgiving, we had thought we’d be dining at a modern Asian restaurant serving Asian fusion cuisine.  When I found out that they were actually going to have a set Thanksgiving dinner menu rather than being able to order off the regular menu, I was disappointed as I wasn’t sure how the food would be.  But by this time, it was so late in the game that we didn’t really have another choice for dinner so we figured we’d make the best of it.  Imagine our surprise when we ended up dining on the most spectacular Thanksgiving meal either my husband or I had ever had.  The meal was the perfect fusion of classic Thanksgiving fare with a modern Asian twist.  Every last bite of every course was spectacular and left me wanting to come back to Butterfly Restaurant in the future to see what the food off of their regular menu tastes like.  My husband and I agreed that we’d never hesitate in coming to Butterfly Restaurant again in the future.

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