“It’s never too early for champagne.” I replied in jest when asked if 10am was a tad too premature for a tipple. And it was also not too early for a splendid lunch and masterclass hosted by The Butchers Club in their private dining facility nestled in the industrial heart of MacPherson. Started in the Tin Wan area of Hong Kong, The Butchers Club rapidly expanded to other parts such as Central and Wan Chai. It made its first foray into Singapore with The Butchers Club Burger at River Valley.The masterclass was one of a series of activities commemorating the 20th year anniversary of the World Gourmet Summit. It was held in collaboration with Food For Live TV and Brand New Media.
Chef Tom Brimble kicked things off with a hors d’oeuvre he attributed to his British grandmother – a mini Yorkshire pudding. It came with a delightful twist as perched atop were delicate pieces of 40-day dry-aged sous-vide American prime rib instead of how it is typically presented in a Sunday roast. The Yorkshire pudding — filled with a savoury foie gras jus — was crispy and a delightful golden brown.
We chewed over our tender amuse-bouche and Chef Aarik Persaud’s words as he explained The Butchers Club’s philosophy. Each piece of beef is dry-aged in an industrial freezer, in some cases up to over 100 days. The ageing process develops a hard, mouldy crust enhancing the flavour of the beef with notes of blue cheese, smoke and mushroom. The natural enzymes within the meat also help to break down chewy connective tissue, lending a softer texture. We were taken on a tour of the climate-controlled fridge, where each cut is wrapped in a cloth to absorb moisture and blood. Curated from Australia and United States, the meat all had well-defined marbling.
We were then treated to the appetiser — a delightful misnomer — a platter filled with 40-day dry-aged natural pasture fed strip loin, steak tare tartare, beef sausages and house baked rye bread. The rye was forgettable, and the tartare, underwhelming. The rest of the plate, however, made up for that. The sausages were well seasoned and had an excellent texture but the star of the platter was indisputably the steak, which had nutty and smoky flavors and balanced well with the tanginess of the house-made mustard.
One frequently associates the phrase “Midwestern nice” with the courteous gentility of Midwesterners but it should also apply to the exceptional cuts of USDA prime meat shipped from the agricultural heart of the United States. Our lunch came from Nebraska, where 90% of the farms are family-owned. These small farms see themselves as true stewards of the Great Plains, with frequent pasture rotation and soil testing to ensure that their land can be kept pristine for their descendants to take over. Dr Chris Calkins, a faculty member specialising in meat science with the University of Nebraska, explained how the cows are fed corn 3-4 months before being sent to the slaughterhouse; this adds marbling and enhances the flavour profile of the meat
And that attention to detail was evident from the 30-day aged ribeye, which I felt was the star of the night. The meat was a beautifully intense pink and had an excellent sear. It was juicy, sinewy and gave off smoky notes. It paired well with the Adega de Borba Reserva 2011. My only gripe was that the seasoning could have been more consistent, but that is to quibble.
In contrast, the 90-day aged loin was comparatively less sinewy; it cut like hot knife through butter. The deep pink centre glistened with moisture, and true to appearance, was juicy. Unlike most loins, it was exceptionally flavourful.
We ended the meal with a dram of Macallan 12 and a root beer float – vanilla ice cream, whisky and brown sugar.
Someone asked half wistfully and half rhetorically where the beef was in the dessert, deriving some self-comfort that there was milk in the ice cream. It was clear that even after four courses of beef, the participants still pined for more.
The masterclass was a good balance between tasting and exploring the process of dry-ageing and it left me a convert for dry-aged meat.
Like wine and dry-aged beef, I hope that The Butchers Club gets better with age and cements its standing as the finest purveyor of dry-aged beef in the Asia-Pacific. With the Michelin Guide making its way to Singapore later this year, the steaks have never been higher.
Whatsnext.sg would like to thank the The Butchers Club, Food For Live TV, and Brand New Media for hosting the masterclass and the invite, as part of the World Gourmet Summit 2016. Special thanks also goes to the Nebraska Beef Council who brought their expertise in raising and cultivating cows.