It’s not often we get a pop-up restaurant from the US city of Detroit coming to the UAE; even less often that it’s got a name as cool as Guns + Butter.
So make sure you check out this four-nights-only opportunity to sample the work of Craig Lieckfelt, the chef behind the concept, which began in his home city of Detroit as a way to test the waters for a restaurant, and has now become, in his words, “nomadic”. It’s already been in Singapore and Mumbai.
“I had a eureka moment that it could be nomadic in nature,” said the chef, speaking in Dubai as he prepared for the first of four nights of dinners. “We’ve continued to learn different cultures and cuisines, and all of this is in preparation to opening the brick and mortar restaurant in the summer of 2014.”
Although his food style is inspired by Detroit — not a place typically on culinary radars — he admits it’s eclectic, thanks to the city’s own diverse population. It has a solidly Midwestern feel, however, as Lieckfelt describes how he takes a hometown dish of perogi and kielbasa (a potato pasty and smoked sausage) and turns the hearty nap-inducing dish into something suitable for a six-course tasting menu.
“It is my most memorable dish growing up. I take the sausage and make a stock of it and then finish it with butter, creating a kielbasa beurre fondu. Instead of this large doughy pastry, I take the same ingredients and make a dumpling and steam it. It fits on a soup spoon and is very light and airy, in a sauce of kielbasa. You have the same experience but it has a different effect on you and your body in terms of how full you feel.”
In Dubai, he’s got other dishes on the menu, however, with inputs from Yael Mejia of Baker and Spice, who is hosting the pop-up at her Al Manzil outlet.
“One of the dishes is a wild prawn dish, the tails will poach gently in a lemon butter sauce. Next is some squash that I am going to make a soup out of, flavouring it with miso and adding pumpkin seeds. The main is a rack of lamb, with a silky eggplant with spice elements of ginger, garlic and green Thai chilli, and also an incredible in-house labneh. I like using yoghurt and I feel like [labneh] is taking yoghurt to a whole other spectrum. I’m going to take that and smoke it and serve it with the lamb itself.”
If you’re wondering where the name comes from, it’s not related to Guns’n’Roses (although there is a rock’n’roll element: the pop-up is in Dubai thanks to Rolling Stone Middle East publisher Waref Hawasli). Guns and butter is a term used to refer to how a country uses its resources — investing in defence or in production of soft goods. It’s a tribute to an old economics teacher who always used the phrase, but also has a deeper meaning.
“It took more meaning in as far as how it speaks to my generation, because to be completely honest with you, my whole adult life we have been at war. We have been trying to promote spending more on butter than on guns.”