One Michelin-starred Cheek by Jowl has closed and in its place, a bistro named Cheek has opened after a minor refurbishment lasting no more than a few days.
Sporting a new logo and new shelves at the entrance as well as olive green banquette booth seats, Cheek exudes more warmth than before although its vibes are just as convivial and its lighting just as dim.
With the rebranding, owners Rishi Naleendra and Manuela Toniolo have introduced an la carte menu consisting of repackaged favourites as well as bistro classics. With this change, they no longer serve complimentary snacks but you will still find former Cheek by Jowl favouritea like oyster with smoked tomato granita and pedron peppers available on the menu alongside new items like sour dough, all for the price of $6 each.
On that note, no snacking at Cheek is complete without Naleendra’s repackaged classic of chicken liver parfait swirls with dates jam on waffles topped with pickled mustard, an unusual melange of sweet, slightly pungent, somewhat acidic flavours that work together to create a whole handsomer than the sum of its parts.
But as far as comfort food goes, you can’t do better than burrata ($22) and steak tartare ($26).
Naleendra serves his mound of burrata with heirloom tomatoes, yes, but also with a riot of crispy shallots and a light dressing of fermented green chilli for that kick of pizzazz one doesn’t get from the garden variety burrata dish.
His beef tartare is just as unique, arriving enveloped in barely discernible smoked maple butter and topped with toasty puffed millet. One could eat it on its own or with the company of olive oil coated endives. Anyone wanting to break the monotony of a one-dimensional textured steak tartare will do well to take notes now.
Even if the above were great, the crowning glory goes to Naleendra’s lamb ribs ($25). The slow-cooked ribs are glazed in honey and balsamic so that they arrive with an intense sweetness that beckons with acidity, and are served alongside burnt eggplant and yoghurt puree with a touch of mint oil.
Moving on to bigger plates, grilled ribeye steak ($68) served with peppercorns, an exhilarating if heady Cafe de Paris sauce and an assortment of grill-marked mushrooms like eryngi is a hearty option for sharing.
If you rather not be deprived, the Spanish mackerel ($32) with compressed sliced zucchini and a dollop of basil-zucchini puree with salads on the side is a wholesome – if safe – choice for one.
Hopefully, you’re not considering leaving without so much as inhaling the desserts. I can’t speak for the chocolate tart ($18) but the ice cream-like goat’s cheese parfait ($15) with fresh berries and a pinkish crumble of strawberry-infused chocolate is unusually light and mood-lifting.
Until the fine-dining restaurant opens in the neighbourhood, this might just be where you want to while away your time with Amoy Street’s most amiable power couple.