Last night I was invited to a tasting at Black Stump, the Chiram Group’s newest restaurant, located on Stanley Street in Central. I was first drawn to the place by their DiningCity Menu which seemed to offer a pretty decent meal (salad, steak or fish, dessert) for a reasonable price. Specializing in Australian steak and seafood, they also had some items on the menu that I had never tried before, so I decided to go for some of those as well. The ingredients used are fresh and mostly imported from Australia. Focus is directed to the quality of these ingredients, but plating is tasteful and very appetizing. This is what I tried..
First up was the Black Stump Caesar with Smoked Salmon. Fresh, vibrant green leaves of romaine lettuce tossed in some house-made Caesar dressing which was creamy, salty and delicious. There was a lot of dressing, but not enough to make the dish too soupy, and Caesar salads classically should have a generous amount of dressing. A huge portion of nice, thick slices of slippery smooth and very fresh smoked salmon folded all around the salad. Crispy garlic-rubbed crouton cubes and nutty, salty crumbles of parmesan sprinkled over the top. A paper-thin, brittle sliver of VERY thin bacon, which mixed instantly into the dressing when broken, was lain over the top as well. This salad definitely did not disappoint, although there may have been too much salmon on the plate for one person (especially that person who orders salad in an Australian grill) to handle.
Next up, Australian Spanner Crab Cakes with Avocado Salsa. A wonderful little starter, portioned to 3 cakes, which I can definitely recommend. Very plump and soft, the cake split open revealing the beautiful fibrous Australian spanner crab meat inside. The crab was wonderfully sweet and mixed with tiny bits of red pepper, which also gave a nice color to the cake. The bread crumb coating was very thin, not heavy at all, allowing the crab to be the star of the plate. My only criticism was that the oil was a bit too present on the outer crust. It’s not that there was too much oil, but that the latter was too liquid still on the surface. Dabbing a cloth very lightly over the cakes before serving them, to remove the liquid oil, would have gotten rid of this issue. I very much appreciated the fact that there was no heavy, creamy sauce on the cakes. It was served with a very light and refreshing salsa of cubed ripe avocados, red bell peppers and onions, tossed in a very light citrusy vinaigrette. The salsa really woke up the sweetness of the crab, but did not overpower its flavors in the least. It also provided a cool, crisp contrast to the mushy warmth of the cake.
And now for something I had never had before, Black Stump’s signature Kangaroo Strip Loin, be-speckled with thin chips of zucchini and summer squash and served in a tower topped by a sprig of rosemary, with some roasted potato slices and grilled eggplant skewers at the base. The kangaroo meat was served bloody rare, with a nice warm sear on the exterior and was incredibly juicy, tender and moist. It was most similar to a very good quality beef tenderloin in texture, but was a bit milder than beef in flavor. No unique minerality or gaminess of its own, the flavor was pretty basic, but the texture was fantastic. No excess fat anywhere, no mouthful was chewed longer than 5 seconds. The meat was buttery soft and very easy to handle. A salty, thick red wine sauce was served with the kangaroo, boosting its flavor a tad with its own flavor complexity. The vegetables on the side of the kangaroo were pretty nice as well and provided a cool textural contrast, although my eggplant was a bit too tough. All around, a great first experience with kangaroo and it will definitely not be my last.
Next up, Pan-Seared Barramundi on a bed of celeriac puree, vegetables and lemon herb butter. The flesh of the fish was flaky, a little bit meaty and similar to bass, but with a slightly milder flavor. It was very fresh and clean, a product of the clean water it once fluttered around in, while the thin skin was slightly charred, with crunchy edges and a nice salty flavor. The combination of the fish with the celeriac was great, and one I haven’t experienced before. The puree had a very mild sweetness of its own, combined with zingy tones of celery and a bit of root-y earthiness. When combined with the fish, it was like pulling a warm, beige cotton sweater over soft, white shoulders. The flavors harmonized very well, with the sweetness of the root dancing with that of the fish nicely. A thick and creamy lemon herb butter was also available in a miniature ladle on the side. This added a velvety smooth texture and an extra boost of luxury to the fish. It was not too tart to compete with the flavors of either the fish or the puree. Also on the plate was some vibrant green grilled asparagus, plump and explosive cherry tomatoes and a crazy little clump of mushrooms (I think Shimeji, but I might be wrong) which were gummy, with a nice bite and a mild, fungal twang of flavor. A very well-balanced and mild dish, with ingredients harmonizing beautifully.
And another Black Stump signature, Surf and Turf, featuring a desperate romance between an Australian beef tenderloin and a Crystal Bay King Prawn. A bit more char on these proteins than the kangaroo, because their flavors were bold enough to support it. The tenderloin was rare with a sear, deliciously plump and bursting with beefy juice, with very concentrated beef flavor. Nice black grill lines gave it a slightly bitter, smoky tone, which went very nicely with the salty meat. The prawn was truly an impressive little monster. The head came off very easily and the flesh was cooked perfectly – not overcooked or tough in the slightest, but smooth and buttery with a crisp bite to it. Also on the plate were some slippery charred mushrooms stuffed between a few thin layers of summer squash and zucchini, also slightly charred but retaining their moist, healthy freshness. Plump cherry tomatoes on the sprig (which gave the plate a nice right-off-the-backyard-grill vibe) and the same sauce as the kangaroos, except with the beef’s own pan drippings.
And finally, a dessert that truly melted my heart, a Mandarin-infused hot chocolate fondant with ginger ice cream. A plump, fat little tower of soft chocolate cake, which gushed forth thick, gooey hot chocolate in a way similar to how egg yolk flows out of a poached egg, covering everything around it in a velvety smooth blanket of warmth. The chocolate also carried with it a slight sweetness from the mandarin it was infused with, which lightened the heavy flavors but was subtle enough to allow the chocolate to be chocolate. The ginger ice cream, as an extreme contrast to this, was cold with an incredibly strong ginger zest to it that almost made my eyes water. Nothing “ginger-infused” or “hint-of-ginger” about this scoop. It was a direct punch in the face, an assault of ginger, and it went fantastically with the hot semisweet chocolate. A few blueberries were also added for freshness. A perfect way to close a very nice meal.