Isaac Tan (below), head chef of famed steakhouse Bedrock Grill & Bar, talks to Female about the art of steak and the challenge of comfort food.
Isaac Tan’s favourite thing about being a chef: the job comes with many opportunities to learn more about his favourite subject, food. “Plus I get to eat all the time, at any hour of the day!” he quips.
Jokes aside, this is a man who takes learning seriously. While Bedrock Bar & Grill was still in the planning stages, Tan travelled across the US, visiting steakhouses (including the famous Cut in Las Vegas) and sampling various steaks cooked in different ways. After much careful observation (and plenty of eating), he decided that steaks at Bedrock would be slow-grilled over a charcoal and wood fire. (Many other restaurants broil their steaks, which is a much faster way of cooking them.)
“While the meat is cooking over the grill, the fat drips onto the fire and creates smoke – that’s how you get that smoky flavour. And grilling it slowly allows us to really control the doneness of the meat,” he explains.
Tan isn’t just particular about the way the meat is cooked – he’s also a bit of a control freak when it comes to what it’s eaten with. Bedrock’s steaks come with five sauces – red wine sauce, bearnaise, wholegrain whiskey mustard, chimicurri sauce and chilli oil. The last is Tan’s very own concoction, a reaction against every chef’s horror – customers asking for chilli sauce to eat their meat with. “People kept asking for chilli sauce,” he sighs. “So in the end I made my own.” Like Bedrock’s steaks, the chilli oil is painstakingly made – chilli padi is bought fresh and dried in the kitchen over two days, then chopped up, combined with bacon and simmered in olive oil for a whole day, and steeped overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
But it’s not just the steaks at Bedrock that get fussed over. Even the casual-seeming mac and cheese (below) is the result of much careful consideration: a thinner pasta instead of the usual elbow variety is used (“It absorbs the sauce better,” Tan explains) and, to get a rich flavour, he uses not one but four cheeses, including blue cheese – and none of that awful processed cheddar-cheese sauce.
“Comfort food is the hardest kind to prepare,” he says. “Everyone’s got an idea of what it should be, and, as a chef, you really have to understand the dish and why people like it.”
And here’s comfort of a different kind. Most chefs aren’t likely to say this, but Tan reckons you can get a pretty great steak done at home, as long as you have the right pan and a bit of know-how.
Chef Isaac Tan’s tips for cooking steak at home:
1. Get a cast-iron pan. (Tan says this is a non-negotiable.)
2. Choose a boneless cut like sirloin or ribeye – these will cook evenly. Make sure the cut isn’t too thick – about 3cm maximum.
3. Pat the steak dry and season liberally with salt and pepper to get a good crust. For seasonings, try
4. Sear steak with beef fat or regular cooking oil.
5. Flip. Add cold butter, thyme and garlic cloves. Continually baste the steak with the melted butter.
6. Flip constantly so that the steak cooks evenly.
7. Allow the meat to rest for as long as you’ve cooked it for. (“Never skip this step,” says Tan. “It’s essential to get the juices evenly distributed throughout the steak.”)
No Bedrock chilli oil for that, but you’ll figure something out.
Or just go to Bedrock Bar & Grill, at #01-05 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites, 96 Somerset Road (6238-0054).