Quirky name aside, my best friends had been raving about the modern Australian cuisine at Cheek by Jowl for the longest time. That’s even before it scored its first Michelin star earlier this year. So Sean and I figured it was high time to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s been quite a year for Chef Rishi Naleendra. He opened the restaurant in February 2016, and just one year later, he’s scored his first Michelin star. Let’s find out why.
On first impression, the place is contemporary, chic but laid back. I liked the semi-open kitchen concept where we could catch glimpses of the chefs working their fiery magic.
We went for the 5-course meal, reasonably priced at S$88.
Despite how it sounded, our appetiser of Oyster Smoked Tomato turned out to be rather unique.
The oyster was incredibly fresh and well-chilled, more buttery than briny (my favourite kind!). But it was really the tomato that wow-ed us. Instead of a cliched mignonette or cocktail sauce, the delicate melt-in-your-mouth texture of the tomato actually really packed a potent punch! It went perfectly with the oyster. An impressive start to the meal.
Next came the Smoked Mackerel with horseradish, pickles and green pea.
I must admit, this was rather underwhelming. There was nothing too outstanding about the smoked mackerel. While it went well with the creamy pea sauce, was not particularly memorable. Although to be fair, i’m not usually a fan of mushy textures so don’t let me influence you. You might still enjoy it.
Up next, this medium rare Lamb Rump with Smoked Eggplant, globe artichoke tempura and caper berries.
We loved the flavours that came together in this one. The slight game-y flavour of the lamb balanced off with the eggplant crispy outside, and soft inside. I also always appreciate a bit of tanginess to a heavy dish and the caper berries brought that balance to the plate.
On to seafood! This is the Blue Cod (with scales on), caramelised onion puree, Japanese puffed braised rice, and leek.
The tender meat slid off the bone and i loved that toasted slightly smokey flavour from the puffed rice. Delicious but not quite unforgettable.
This next dish was though.
Behold the Roasted Pigeon, with chestnut puree, mushroom powder, pickled mushrooms, and mint.
This delightful pigeon was done to absolute perfection! Completely de-boned so all you get is this succulent tender meat, that lost none of that juicy flavour. It was well-seasoned, and the combination of the creamy chestnut puree and the umami flavour of the mushrooms… it was just a huge party in our mouths. This got our unanimous vote for best dish of the evening.
And now, it’s time for desserts.
Here’s the Burnt Pear with Hay Panna Cotta, pear sorbet and salted caramel.
Salted caramel can come off a little overwhelming if not done right in a dessert combination. But paired with a light pear sorbet, and a semi-sweet hay panna cotta, was just right. It had a wonderful mix of textures with the sweet, firm pear and a buttery crumble.
Overall, I definitely recommend Cheek by Jowl for quality, excellent dishes that’s as easy on the belly as it is on the wallet. If you’re not a big eater, you can definitely opt for the 2 and 3-course options for $68 and $78 respectively. Let me know how you found your experience!