Oyster, Smoked Tomato

Some restaurant closures in this town can catch us off-guard. Sorrel is one such surprise. Less than a year after the Unlisted Collection group opened the establishment—and a few months after head chef Johnston Teo’s departure—the restaurant, which we wagered will be a star, announced that it would be ditching its mod-European food for a new concept.

In steps Cheek by Jowl, an eatery serving modern Aussie cuisine. The open-kitchen counter from Sorrel’s days is still here, but the restaurant now has a more casual vibe, thanks to an exposed brick wall and a small bar-seating area at the entrance. Head chef Rishi Naleendra, previously from Maca Restaurant, runs the show in the kitchen.

In today’s modern cuisine game, where chefs seem intent on outdoing each other by combining as many ingredients and textures into a dish, Naleendra’s style can be considered subtle or even austere. Each of his dishes comprises just a few ingredient components, their flavours tied together nicely by sauces and garnishes that never stand out or overwhelm. The Barramundi ($32), a locally reared barramundi paired with charred scallions and turnips, is given a dusting of burnt lemon powder that complements the clean notes of the fish. The Ocean Trout ($22) is blow-torched lightly to crinkle up its skin, before being married with a fragrant combination of yuzu, cucumber and buttermilk.

Desserts stray into a slightly more creative territory: the Coconut ($15), a laksa leaf ice cream dotted with green chilli and pomelo, offers a blend of umami, spicy and citrusy flavours that, surprisingly, works. Our only gripe here would be the ‘small plates for sharing’ idea the restaurant espouses—portions are still rather small vis-à-vis price tags. Food this good should be turned into complete courses, not little bites.

21 Boon Tat Street. Tel: 6221 1911

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