Contemporary Australian fare without a sticker shock
Claim to fame: Barramundi with bonito butter, kombu-seasoned puffed Japanese rice and charred leak
Reason to go: The reasonably priced chef’s menu
To look out for: Pickled sardines with celery and sea grapes in sardine bone broth
In our wanderlusting world there’s a Sri Lanka native cooking forward-thinking Australian fare in Singapore. Rishi Naleendra spent 11 solid years picking up tricks across Australian restaurants like Tetsuya’s and Yellow, before settling in this city’s Central Business District, working alongside his wife, Manuela Toniolo, as chef-owner of crowd-pleasing Cheek by Jowl.
You might consider the seasonally changing à la carte menu, but you’ll really want to opt for Naleendra’s five-course chef’s menu, which is a steal at S$88 per person. After an opening snack of Coffin Bay oyster in Sherry gastrique topped with smoked tomato granita, he may field a delicate mound of New Zealand venison tartare topped with shiso leaves, pickled cashew nuts and wasabi-spiked zucchini purée, drizzled with fermented plum dressing; or a local barramundi flanked by kombu-seasoned puffed Japanese rice, charred leek and an arresting dollop of bonito butter. The menu gets even more exciting when Naleendra has access to ingredients like fresh Brittany sardines, which he pickles and serves as slivers on a mound of celery salad with sea grapes and smoked cream basking in a heady sardine bone broth spiked with Shao Xing wine; or lamb’s tongue, brined, then seared and served alongside herbed yoghurt with cracked wheat underneath sheaths of braised endive. Each of these courses make us wish we could lick our plates clean as their puddles of intoxicating sauce, be it bonito butter, fermented plum dressing or smoked cream have a tendency to almost outshine the dishes’ star cast.
Set in a shop house unit smack bang in the Central Business District, the eatery is small and convivial, with the best seats right by the counter that abuts an open kitchen. Toniolo offers spot-on wine recommendations from the tightly curated list of mostly natural wines.