Chef Floyd Cardoz's new Tribeca restaurant, White Street, is getting a lot of attention lately. Some of that is due to Cardoz's high-profile media mogul partners in the project, Dan Abrams and Dave Zinczenko. And its celebrity clientele, most notably including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who visited just last week. Then, there's the food, described by the New York Post as "a New American menu with Indian accents," and some striking dietary restrictions to boot — "no butter and no cream."
As you can probably imagine, a visit by the outwardly health-conscious first couple to some high-falutin' "no butter" restaurant in Manhattan made great fodder for the right-wing blogosphere. But, for fans of traditional Indian cooking, the anti-butter thing may be equally polarizing.
How can an Indian-American chef, raised in Bombay, eschew such a key ingredient? Butter — specifically the clarified kind, or ghee, as it's called — is an important base element in many Indian dishes.
To hear Cardoz tell it, he's never been a fan of this particular type of fat, as he recently pointed out to one skeptic on Twitter:
— Floyd Cardoz (@floydcardoz) September 30, 2014
In an interview with Grub Street last week, Cardoz delved into the dairy issue a little deeper: "I don’t use cream and butter in my food. I don’t believe you need to. I use spices and I use acids to make food interesting."
Of course, Cardoz hasn't always been so adamant about his anti-butter stance.
This is the same guy, after all, who shared with Serious Eats an ultra-rich Chicken Tikki Makhani recipe, calling for a whole stick of the unsalted stuff — and a good dose of cream, too. And, what about that butter-roasted chicken with cilantro and mint in Food & Wine, so thoroughly rubbed with the good stuff, both on top of the bird's skin and underneath it, too?
Oh, and that oat risotto that so wowed Ruth Reichl on Top Chef Masters in 2011? MyVeronaNJ.com asked for the recipe. Sure enough, there's butter in that, as well: three tablespoons to start, and another three to finish.
Even Cardoz's recipe for spiced corn on the cob isn't complete without a few brush strokes of great-tasting melted butter.
UPDATE: Cardoz tells Food Republic that he mostly stopped cooking with butter after he left Lespinasse more than 18 years ago — and even refused to serve creamed spinach at Tabla out of his dislike for butter and cream. "If I do use butter, it's a very miniscule amount," he says. The buttery recipes published under his name are generally from his days as a young cook, he adds. And that oat risotto? "It's three tablespoons of butter in a gallon of oatmeal," he says. "So, it's not very much."
Maybe acid and spice is enough to flavor most of the things on Cardoz's White Street menu. But what about the braised short ribs with Anson Mills grits?
No butter on the grits? Why, that's a sure-fire recipe for the blues. Just ask Big Bill Morganfield:
Read more about New York chefs on Food Republic: