Cheek Bistro review: Casual fun plates and bold flavours, reinterpreted by chef Rishi Naleendra
The best is yet to come
After two years of impressing diners with distinctive modern riffs on Aussie plates, chef Rishi Naleendra and his wife, Manuela Toniolo are ready for more. Even if Cheek Bistro, previously known as Cheek by Jowl, might be dubbed the younger alter ego of its previous image. It's a brave new direction; especially since Naleendra is trading in his Michelin star for the better good of his game plan this year. We're talking a second restaurant opening that's set on a higher and finer price point, equipped with a lounge, dining room and more. A toothy grin on Naleendra's face while he enthused about his imminent baby, also tells us that there are surprises to be unveiled there.
Which is why Cheek Bistro is now here; modelling a playful mien in its menu. Lunch hour on a weekday and the place was in full swing; with no empty table left in sight. It almost seems like nothing has changed.
But it has. Slight alterations to the décor can be visibly noticed like wood furnishings, statement botanicals, oversized bulbs. With the all-new à la carte menu, everything has had a do-over, with the exception of fresh oysters.
In a very millennial fashion, waffles start off the experience. Except they're not loaded with whipped cream and bacon but are smeared with chicken liver parfait, encasing a sweet date jam and pickled mustard seeds. A divine combination, bursting with umami. Most dishes here are portioned for sharing, so make your way to small plates next. We tasted the beef tartare, specifically a Westholme rump that lets on a chunky bite, marinated in smoked maple butter and vinaigrette. To complete the dish, puffed millet goes on top, elevating the raw beef with a smokey touch. It's also better savoured on an endive leaf. If you're an artichoke person, Cheek does a tempura style, married with marinated feta and chickpeas.
Those in search of mains, order the lamb ribs, especially if you're not a fan of overcooked Iberico pork chops. The cattle comes from a sustainable farm, Mottainai, and the cut is glazed on top, with a burnt eggplant yoghurt dip and mint oil on the side. A molten mouthfeel sealed the deal for us, and it became a challenge resisting the urge to cut another bite. Your choice of sides is also pretty apparent here. Naleendra continues to be a maestro of greens with a good healthy dose of charred broccolini doused in a delectable dressing of watercress, chives, tarragon and tossed with toasted almonds. You certainly won't be hard-pressed to eat your vegetables here, that's for sure.
21 Boon Tat St, Tel: 6221 1911
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri) 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm, (Sat) 6pm-10.30pm