The Black Swan review: New head chef Alysia Chan reinvents chophouse favourites with minimal food waste
Time of resurgence
By now, the stalwart of Cecil Street, has to go to The Black Swan. In the sea of skyscrapers down on the Central Business District, the restaurant has retained its prevalance — thanks to its Art Deco trimmings. The alluring glamour of the restored Kwangtung Provincial Bank Building has never aged a day — but with six whole years fleeting by, the chophouse was mayhap due for a timely resurgence — especially where the food and beverage program was concerned.
The reformed menu, under the steely hands of new head chef Alysia Chan (previously from Cocotte and Meatsmith), pulsates with bold daring techniques in tandem with a minimal-waste modus operandi. Most chophouses stake on quality cuts of meat, perfect grills and defining sauces, but Chan's approach ripples throughout the entire table fare. Even with regards to the greens.
Beginning with the snacks: polenta chips — so crisp and tasty they could be savoured on their own — but why should they? Turns out the accompanying dip is the real hero — circling in the form of a pine nut and broccoli (where the typical unwanted stem serves its purpose) hummus. Steak trimmings are also weaved in a special place — the beef tallow ends up whipped in the beef fat butter, served with grilled sourdough toast. The combination is sublime like when the perfect peanut glues to the perfect jelly, but we advise you to go easy on the complex carbs. There are more goodies to stomach here.
Chan also favours venus clams — very much. You can either opt for the fleshy shellfish to be tossed in a reduced formula of bacon and beer or if you're ravenous — her marinara-based crab and venus clam trofie pasta is a moreish pan to devour. Think al dente twirls deftly doused in a sticky mixture of sauce and generous pickings of seafood. It's no wonder this is an instant favourite come lunchtime. Another understated winner in our books, the black barley and corn risotto tucked under a grilled Maine lobster. In a perfect world, we would have a full portion of the cheesy black grains without the huge crustacean stealing its thunder.
Those who like charcuterie will delight in the selects of lardo, wagyu bresaola, 'nduja (a spicy spreadable pork salumi), while those who don't can take heart in the main event — the steaks. Chan's preference strays from usual suspects, instead she seeks out underrated producers and secondary cuts (like the Mishima Reserve Wagyu Ultra Flat Iron and Westholme Wagyu Bavetette) grilled over bincho-tan where smokey juices are sealed in. In our books? Sauces are optional. But what isn't should be the charred sugarloaf cabbage where you'll see the underrated vegetable adding a crunchy dose of sweetness cloyed with smoked scamorza polenta, sofrito, and crispy quinoa. Square that off with your heady slab of steak, and all will be well. We promise.
If you've room for dessert, order the Twix tart — an elevation of Chan's favourite childhood candy bar that weaves in dark chocolate ganache and and sea salt caramel filling. If not, take a swig of the Cecil Sour (a creation from bar manager Joanna Lee) a tall glass of sloe gin that's mixed with housemade berry shrub, raspberry, and lined with aromatic floral notes. You'll leave on a high, that's for sure.
19 Cecil St, Tel: 6438 3757
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri) 11.30am-11.30pm, (Sat) 5pm-11.30pm