Looking for a second opinion on that Michelin-starred restaurant people won’t stop talking about? Introducing the Mitchell Lin Guide, where JUNK re-reviews Singapore’s Michelin-rated dining establishments. 100% local. 100% honest.
Cheek by Jowl
We started off wary… Impressively, it’s a full house on a Monday night. And seven courses at $118. It all seems too reasonable, too promising. We can’t let our expectations get too high.
After some snacks, we rolled into an appetiser of an Oyster with Smoked Tomato Granita. The icy cold granita was full of rich smokiness and full-bodied tomato flavour. A fitting end to the oyster’s life and a cold appetizer actually served cold. Other restaurants please take note.
A Confit of Octopus with Chervil and Black Garlic Purée arrived next. With its distinctive texture, octopus tends to dominate, so while it was delicious, it turned out as expected. More importantly, the quality and reliability of the dish felt like a pair of safe hands guiding us into the rest of the meal – we found ourselves settling in, and letting our guards down a little bit.
Which made the Venison Tartar with Picked Walnuts and Zucchini that followed all the more unexpected. While this dish was perhaps a bit over-dressed, it was very satisfying for the way that your teeth first sank through the chunky pieces of raw venison and then found the more nibbly slices of par-cooked zucchini. Food the mouth remembers, not so much the tongue. Intriguing.
Next, we were served Roasted Quail with Ceps and Chestnut Purée. There are shades of old-school cooking here; our first bite of the pink-cooked quail took us back to a time when fine dining was a bit more honest and straightforward; less wrapped up in its own tropes and trends. Covered in a lovely pan-seared crust, the quail was densely gamey, salty, oily and completely delicious. To offset it – fresh mint and the sour bite of pickled cucumber shavings.
The Barramundi with Corn and Broccolini that followed was a fantastic chaser for the rich, meaty quail. The mild, tender barramundi and the brightness of the sweet corn niblets come together to leave delicate vanilla notes dancing around the end of your nose, while the charred broccoli add an earthy smoke to the dish.
The second round of snacks arrived just before the final main. First, a chewy cheese ball that reminded us of a pão de queijo – a.k.a. those Brazilian cheese bread-mochi things. The cheese ball came dusted with nostril-bothering sweet paprika and an espuma of 14-month-old Comte. Stop press. This is cheese on cheese. We could eat this all night, so… we had double servings. Alongside that delight, a cob of corn, cooked in a fermented chilli paste and rolled in crunchy, puffed millet. Sweet, spicy, crackling corn. Snack success.
Then, to finish the mains, we had a Pork Tenderloin with Apple Purée and Caramelized Kohlrabi. After surreptitiously googling “kohlrabi”, we found space in our rapidly filling bellies for sweet pork, tart apple sauce, and the caramelly kohlrabi (it’s a German turnip). An elegant segue into dessert.
Though the menu advertised seven courses, we were served two desserts. Extra food – that’s a trick you can always use to win us over. First, we tucked into the Pickled Pear with Pear Sorbet and Goat Cheese Parfait. Remarkably, it came across as a cold “haw flake”-flavoured dish – probably unintended, but an entirely lovely result.
The final dessert of Liquorice Pudding with Blackberry Sorbet and Coconut Cream could have been a risky choice to close to the meal, but the warm pudding turned out to have a comfortingly dense texture – similar to that of “huat kueh”. And while thankfully not too overwhelming, the liquorice had a light saccharine sweetness that mingled pleasantly with the blackberry sorbet, bringing the meal to a very delicate, botanical end.
Photos taken with the Huawei P20 Pro.
Read the rest of the Mitchell Lin Guide here.
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