Butterfish, the most recently opened of the trio of restaurants under the Meadowlark Management umbrella, offers fun, fresh, and flavorful bites in an eclectic, open space right in the heart of the Blackstone District. Matt Carper and Matt Moser are co-owners of the three hot spots, bringing their love of quality ingredients cooked with care to discerning Omaha diners.
Carper and Moser met a decade ago while working at Blue Sushi, part of the Flagship group. At the time, Jose Vega, an enthusiastic, talented sushi chef, was busily working his way up through the ranks, quietly creating flavor-packed, creative dishes with great fan following on behalf of the establishment.
At Butterfish, the three are collaborating on an Asian dining concept in which Moser, as Executive Chef, effortlessly marries his traditional French culinary training with fresh local ingredients and an Asian flair, creating unique dishes with quality ingredients that keep patrons returning for more. Vega heads up the sushi bar, rolling out light, well-balanced fare with names befitting the quirky nature of the place. The intriguing Green Worm, spicy No Way Jose, and perfectly balanced Firefly rolls are currently featured on the menu.
When possible, the chefs source all ingredients from local farmers and purveyors. “Dean (from Plum Creek Farms) delivers chicken weekly – so we know it is fresh,” remarked Carper. “High quality ingredients bring the best flavor, and the closer they are grown the better.” Flavor Country Farms provides locally grown mushrooms and microgreens, with some greens grown specifically for Butterfish based on desired flavor objectives. For example, micro cilantro or wasabi greens pull double duty on the creative plates, making efficient use of visual, olfactory, and flavor profiles. Local beef, chicken, pork, honey, and produce are also sought out and coveted by the kitchens at Butterfish.
Moser preserves abundant produce, making it available during the dearth of winter, simultaneously creating new and interesting flavor profiles that add just the right pop to a particular dish, evoking summer when the wind is howling.
Because Moser’s kitchen and Vega’s sushi bar use local ingredients, both chefs have the opportunity to be creative and change the menu seasonally, collaboratively developing new ideas with evolving flavor profiles. Working closely with local purveyors makes it easy to showcase seasonable ingredients at their peak, and cross-utilizing ingredients and flavor profiles is both efficient and effective in maintaining a cohesive menu for diners.
Variations on traditional kimchi often accompany dishes, perking up local palates with interesting fermented flavor combinations, most resulting from locally grown produce. Carper’s current favorite dishes include the outstanding Cashew Chicken, and also the Firefly Roll, which he describes as, “A bit like tuna poke atop of an avocado roll.” In passing, he described the egg drop soup, a seemingly simple dish, “To start, the chicken stock takes over twelve hours. Chef Moser uses fresh local eggs and the resulting flavor is ridiculous.”
A full bar provides beer, sake, and signature cocktails, all complimenting the flavors found in the dishes. Happy hour is a great time to try something new, such as the Sunset Sangria, a stunning drink that marries seasonal sake and fizzy rose’, or a Coconut Mojito, a tasty twist on the classic rum cocktail. Both drinks are gorgeous and perfect for enjoying on the patio with friends.
High quality, fun food deserves a happy home, and the space Butterfish occupies is effortlessly cool. Paintings by Andrea Stein grace the walls with quirky, delightful depictions of animals most Omahans can only see at the zoo. To maintain the clean, Asian aesthetic, Carper, Moser and Vega elected to keep the existing concrete wall, providing both visual and tactile texture.
Translucent Soji panels enclose both the floating bar piece and the cozy, private booths that mark the west side of the space. The booths evoke the feel of traditional Asian tea rooms, seating ten diners comfortably in a semi-private, yet airy space. Local makers at Bench created the stacked plywood “rice paper” that envelops the bottom of the bar and is also echoed in the hostess stand. The playlist creates a Friday feel any day of the week — Carper said they play a lot of 80s and 90s hip hop, which perfectly complements the casual vibe.
Reservations are recommended, and plenty of free parking awaits your visit to Butterfish and the Blackstone neighborhood. However, don’t let a lack of reservation keep you from visiting. The cocktail and sushi bar seats are first come, first serve, so do yourself a favor and make time for a Butterfish visit this summer – cocktails and nosh on the patio await!