Chef Rishi Naleendra takes you on an epicurean adventure with his rendition of fresh oysters, venison, duck confit, waffles and...laksa ice cream?
There are countless reasons why we love our office area – one in particular, its convenient proximity to great food. We’ve got Maxwell and Amoy Street food centres, a slew of Korean restos and countless coffee joints to satiate every hipster out there. Joining the Telok Ayer line-up, and adding to our list of lunchtime venues is Cheek by Jowl, the latest, highly-talked-about addition to the Unlisted Collection’s group of restaurants.
At the helm is Chef Rishi Naleendra, whose journey started at the Taxi Dining Room in Melbourne. He worked his way up to Brent Savage’s Yellow, where he served as a pastry chef before eventually moving to Singapore to head Maca. A serendipitous meeting with Loh Lik Peng, Founder of Unlisted Collection, and Sorrel’s sudden closure precipitated the opportunity for Chef Rishi to work in a place of his own. And by his side on this culinary adventure is his wife, Manuela Toniolo, who serves as restaurant manager. It’s this close, chummy relationship between the two that inspired the name “Cheek by Jowl” – cute eh?
And you will find yourself sitting – indeed, cheek by jowl – if you pop by for a quick afternoon lunch. Unlike its predecessor Sorrel, Cheek by Jowl’s entrance has been opened up, making the space brighter and less claustrophobic during the lunchtime rush.
Our first foray into Chef Rishi’s tasting menu set the tone early: fresh oysters set on ice, served with crystallised smoked tomato. We’re not exactly sure what culinary sorcery went behind the gravel-like bits of tomato, but its tartness contrasted nicely with the fresh Coffin Bay oysters. An interesting acidic replacement for the usual splash of lemon juice.
Much like the first dish, our second menu item offered its own little culinary quirks. It was a dish of seared trout served with a cucumber-yuzu sauce, buttermilk cream and cubes of compressed cucumber. The trout was light, and paired with the sauce and cucumber, made for a refreshing light bite.
Our appetites whet, we got pretty darn excited when we got a whiff of our next dish: roast pumpkin with kale and a creamy pumpkin sauce. It was rich, hearty and quite a change of pace from the rather light trout and cucumber dish that came before it. What followed, was a toothsome lamb shoulder that fell apart with the slightest of pressure. Seriously, we could have cut into this one with nothing sharper than a butter knife. On the side was roast parsnip that added a bit of sweetness to this very rich dish.
Naturally, we expected to end things off with something sweet, but we were quite surprised with our ‘dessert’. Astonishment arrived in the form of laksa leaf ice cream with coconut, pomelo and a spicy green chilli sauce. It was quite the curious epilogue – the spiciness contrasting with the cold laksa leaf ice cream; the acidity in the pomelo added to the myriad of juxtaposing flavours. While certainly interesting, we wouldn’t be in any rush to try this one more than once.
If you’re not one for fancy-schmancy dress-to-the-nines type dining affairs, but want to be a little more adventurous in your dining, Cheek By Jowl is set to stun. Leave your culinary preconceptions at the door and let Chef Rishi take you on a culinary journey that is as odd as it is delicious.
Cheek by Jowl, 21 Boon Tat Street, Singapore 069620. p. 6211 1911.