Head chef Alysia Chan is putting broccoli stems, unwanted beer and steak fat to good use. Prepare thy bellies
It is a Tuesday evening, and art-deco style chophouse The Black Swan along Cecil Street is buzzing. It’s not the newest kid on the block, but the six-year-old steakhouse by The Lo & Behold Group is celebrating a new menu – one that’s spearheaded by a new chef who isn’t a fan of seeing unwanted food being tossed to the trash.
Meet head chef Alysia Chan, the mastermind behind The Black Swan’s new nose-to-tail dining concept. Armed with butchery knowledge gained from her past stints at modern steakhouse Meat Smith and Sydney’s Feather and Bone Providore, Chan has come up with a new modus operandi for the chophouse that she now runs: to minimise food wastage and respect the ingredients and producers she works with.
The Broccoli and Pine Nut Hummus with Polenta Chips and Beef Fat Butter offer diners a good first peek into Chan’s waste-minimising practices. Here, broccoli stems, which are usually discarded, are blended with carrot leaves, sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts to form a nutty, creamy hummus. The butter, on the other hand, is the result of whipping beef fat rendered from steak trimmings – making for a rich, delicious spread on crunchy sourdough that is baked in-house.
But save some bread for the Venus Clam. Chan uses the remnants of a Stella Artois keg to create a light yet creamy broth for these fresh Vietnamese clams, which are further seasoned with bacon bits. To enjoy the dish to its fullest, don’t leave the broth neglected once you’re done with the clams. Instead, soak it up with your remaining sourdough slices.
And while the Venus Clam packs the right amount of punch with its brininess, the same can’t be said for the Crab and Venus Clam Trofie Pasta. The rich-looking, umami-loaded sauce which the pasta is bathed in is surprisingly bland. The squid ink pangrattato that’s speckled all over the carbs also doesn’t give the dish much of a kick.
Faring a whole lot better is the Grilled Maine Lobster, Chan’s modern interpretation of a classic. The lobster’s flesh has been conveniently separated from its shell, so all that’s required of you is to grab a fork and dig the meat out. The dish would have hit the spot if the meat was sweeter and less dry, but making up for this is a side of spicy romesco sauce. The burnt orange-coloured gravy lends a sharp tang to the crustacean, and also to the rather mellow black bean and corn risotto that comes paired with the lobster.
And when steak comes to play, Chan does away with the usual suspects, but that doesn’t mean carnivores aren’t in for a treat. Secondary cuts grilled over Binchō-tan are a highlight here, and the Mishima Reserve Wagyu Ultra Flat Iron (of a marbling score of eight) is enjoyable. The flat iron is cut from the shoulder of the cow, and the steak is perfectly charred on the outside and seasoned on the inside, with a juicy, pink center to boot. Choose to pair your steak with peppercorn sauce, but I’d recommend sticking to sweet, smoky slivers of roasted garlic.
We call it a day with the Roasted Pineapple, where a sweet brown butter ice cream rests atop thick chunks of slightly charred pineapple, and Strawberry and Rhubarb Tart, a pastry of sorts that’s crowned with a mix of custard, lemon curd and crème fraiche. The brown butter ice cream is a winner here, and I equally enjoy the marriage of sweet and sour flavours of the fruit tart.
Chef Chan has definitely got the restaurant on the right track, with most of her dishes leaving us impressed. The Black Swan is hardly just ‘another outpost with a sustainability-centric ethos’. Chan has backed her culinary creations with enough finesse, serving up flavours and techniques in equal measure, and maybe with a little fine-tuning, we’re certain she’ll see more familiar faces in her territory.
The Black Swan
19 Cecil Street
Tel: +65 6438 3757