From the team that brought you Cheek by Jowl comes a casual dining bistro. Cheek Bistro boasts a pedigree that everyone expected them to get that elusive star. (PS: they got that in the latest 2019 Michelin guide)
Nestled on a side street off Telok Ayer in Chinatown, this unassuming 40-seat restaurant with exposed-brick walls and funky local art earned a Michelin star in 2017 for its creative and very modern Australian fare. The ethos is simple: straightforward ingredients and surprising presentation. After 3 years in operations, Cheek by Jowl ended its operations on 28 Feb.
Fans of Cheek by Jowl do not need to be too disappointed, as the current space is converted into a casual bistro – also helmed by Chef Rishi Naleendra. In a nod to Cheek by Jowl, Cheek Bistro is its cheekier younger sibling by Chef Rishi and his wife Manuela Toniolo. It flaunts a more playful personality, whether through its concept or vibe. Small or large sharing plates showcase familiar flavours but in exciting guises, such as with bold flavour combinations or unconventional executions.
The new (yet familiar) menu
The newly christened Cheek Bistro now comes with a youthful team in its kitchen. Head chef Jay Teo and restaurant manager Muhammad Muhaimen have ascended to the same roles once held by the Naleendras at Cheek by Jowl. Both aren’t new to the Cheek family, having worked at the Michelin-starred establishment prior to the renovation. In some ways, the team holds on to tried-and-tested inspirations though they aren’t beholden to any of it. As Naleendra takes a back seat, the youthful team are provided with some creative opportunity with food and drinks here.
The smoked tomato granita is full of umami and lends its smoky sweetness to the briny oyster, while keeping it satisfyingly cold.
Of course, you can also have the oysters freshly shucked and al natural.
The layer of very fine nori was a delightful savoury foil to the clean-tasting Smoked Mackerel. Even more so when whooshed through the light horseradish cream, and interspersed with bites of the crisp, cool shaved fennel.
Sourdough & Butter
This bread was a disappointment. Butter was meh and too salty.
The classic duo of Burrata and heirloom tomatoes is accented with green chilli that’s been fermented for seven days to provide a piquant punch and added complexity.
Burrata adopts a fun East-meets-West approach here. There’s the citrusy sauce of fermented green chilli, brightening up the usual medley of green and red heirloom tomatoes and dashes of olive oil. Fried shallot rings and bundles of coriander are thrown in for good measure, backing up the marriage of creamy stracciatella and fresh spice.
Beautifully crisp of skin, the Barramundi is ideal for anyone who is partial to fish. It comes in a good size cut that’s thick and tastes really fresh. But what propels the one here to the next level are the braised leeks and umami mussel-based sauce beneath. They give this dish a unique-to-Cheek distinction. The accompanying pumpkin salad also plays a part as the mixed leaves come tossed in a dressing that’s deliciously nuanced.
Iberico Pork Chop
I admit I am partial to porcine courses but seriously this Iberico pork chop is so good! The pork is cooked perfectly succulent with a slight blush, and the luscious fat cap is rendered beautifully. The apple sauce was the perfect accompaniment. The fat to meat ratio was good and all three of us didn’t hesitate to chow down the fatty parts too.
What to go with the main course and charred Broccolini with toasted almonds and salted anchovies. The charred broccolini has been salted lightly but when I accidentally bit into the anchovies, not only the saltiness sent shockwaves, the fishiness was a wake-up call.
So there really isn’t much to change on a cosmetic front. In two weeks of renovations, Cheek welcomed few, yet notable, changes. The stiff leather banquettes go for plush, Chartreuse green booths. The bistro’s a little bit brighter, with more plants and sees a couple of paintings by Naleendra. The sole chandelier by the dining counter seats is now replaced by simple industrial pendant lights.
21 Boon Tat Street, Singapore 069620
Tel : +(65) 6221 1911
Date Visited : Aug 2019
Michelin Singapore guide : 1 Star 2019