Yet another eatery that belongs to Unlisted Collection (which also owns other fine-dining establishments such as Restaurant Ember, Pollen and 5th Quarters), Cheek by Jowl takes over Sorrel, which was also a concept by the same group located within the same space.
Helmed by head chef Rishi Naleendra formerly from MACA at Tanglin Post Office, his portfolio includes having worked at Tetsuya in Australia amongst other establishments in Australia where he came from. Cheek by Jowl emphasises on contemporary Australian fare, served in a casual setting. Design elements exude classiness, yet comfortable without being too pretentious being close to nature; wood accents used for most of their furniture, and potted plants above the booth seating. Opened for both lunch and dinner, lunch diners have the option to have either the Set Lunch menu (2 courses at $30++ or 3 courses at $38++; most of the items of which comes from the ala-carte menu) or items from the ala-carte menu, which is also the only menu available during dinner hours.
Going for the 3 course set lunch menu, we have decided to go for the Wild Venison as a starter. Inspired to replicate a tartare dish to a certain extent, there is also Fermented Plums, and a Zucchini Wasabi Puree used in this dish. Venison came pretty tender without any gamey flavour, while the tangy flavour of the Fermented Plums were able to give it the tartare-like touch. What intrigued us more was the Zucchini Wasabi Puree; the taste of wasabi was pretty evident throughout the puree, but it was really interesting for how it did not seem to carry any bit of numbing sensation along with it. Rather than being numbing, the use of black pepper in this dish seemed to have injected a peppery spiciness that replaced the usual numbness that is supposed to be there, making the dish feel rather interesting.
For the mains, we picked the Barramundi. Sure, the Barramundi is well-executed; the fish flaky with a crisp skin without feeling too dry but apart from that, the fish did seem to lack any wow-factor that might catch one upon the first bite. Coming with Charred Scallion, Turnips and Burnt Lemon, there is also a White Onion puree underneath the fish that gives the dish a subtly sweet flavour. This went well with the Charred Scallion, which is the black-coloured puree as seen in the photo; umami with a lightly smoky flavour, yet earthy at the same time. I quite like the charred greens on top as well, which were crunchy and juicy.
For dessert, we decided to go for the Coconut, which also came with other interesting elements such as Laksa Leaf Ice-Cream, Pomelo and Green Chilli. Being a dessert with a Eastern influence, this was a daring play of flavours. The highlight here seemed to be more of the Laksa Leaf Ice-Cream; no doubt the coconut ice-cream tasted pretty great where it was both creamy and refreshing, but the latter gave a rather strange sensation that worked, tasting much like the Laksa we have grown up with, yet with a cold sensation that brings unfamiliarity to this iconic flavour we know. Green Chili puree was also another surprise element here, where you could actually taste that same exact flavour that first hits you when you bite a chilli raw, yet comes with a mild spiciness that indeed gives this dessert its own character; after all spicy desserts are a rarity around. Pomelo chunks were added for a tangy burst of flavours. A pretty interesting dessert that might not hit everybody, but surely does give the taste buds a trip to the unknown with its daring play of flavours and the combination.
(Confit Duck Leg)
One of the head chef’s signature dishes at MACA was their Duck & Waffles. This dish is being brought over to Cheek by Jowl, and also is a permanent feature on the menu here. The Confit Duck Leg here sees an Asian twist; rather than just being purely a duck confit, the duck confit comes with a Five Spice Caramel Sauce. Strong flavours of cinnamon and Star Anise can be detected in the sauce, which is sticky and coats the Duck leg, giving it the sweetness with an Asian twist. Duck Confit was tender with streaky meat, and the skin was crisp; tasted pretty savoury. The accompanying waffles were sublime; soft and fluffy with a crisp exterior that was plush inside, carrying a buttermilk fragrance with a tinge of sweetness. Even the greens were not neglected; they tasted pretty much similar to the mix of greens usually found in Banh Mi; tangy and lightly spicy with red chilli and pretty refreshing with coriander.
Our dining experience at Cheek by Jowl was a pleasant one. Despite us sitting at the table outside the restaurant facing the main road (the seats were chosen by us for photography’s sake even though they offered us seats inside and even showed us the spot with the best lighting; kudos to that!), they were pretty prompt in clearing our plates when we finished our courses, refilling our glasses even though they were half full and even having small talks with us. They were also pretty patient in explaining the various elements in the dishes to us as well. For their food, the adventurous play of flavours here with infusion of local elements into western fare may not suit everyone’s taste buds, though I must say that I was rather satisfied by the meal and impressed with their creativity. At this price point for lunch, Cheek by Jowl is a good place to hit for the occasional splurge; even a good place to hit for a casual business lunch destination. I would certainly return again for the food; there are a few dishes that I am pretty interested to try!
Cheek by Jowl
21 Boon Tat Street