Chef Rishi Naleendra has been buried in work during the past six months. His Michelin-starred restaurant Cheek by Jowl shut at the end of February this year, and was rebuilt at the same place a month later as Cheek Bistro, ran by Chef Jay Teo. Now? It’s just a couple of blocks away from his new Amoy Street playground and Cloudstreet and one of the best-anticipated restaurant openings of the year.
Some have compared the lavishly embellished place to a house. This is particularly true the exclusive dining that seats up to eight – displayed lots of books about the cuisine and an unassuming scroll of ancient Sri Lankan script – that demands a $2000+ minimum spent. What’s worth paying attention to is the big open kitchen supported by deep emerald tiles which were built under a windowed ceiling that blankets the restaurant with natural daylight. Also, this is exactly where Naleendra and his team arrange contemporary plates that are chiefly animated by his estate and culinary.
Our seven-course tasting menu ($198++ each person) begins with a quartet of snacks. A couple you can pick off with your fingers, however, it’s the plated dishes that stimulate one’s appetite and expectations. Gradually grilled binchotan, betel-leaf covered Coffin Bay oysters arrive in their shells in a pool of fresh-pressed coconut milk and finally completed with betel leaf oil and tart, pink finger lime. Last comes a play on temperatures and a novel pairing of caviar and froze fresh pea sorbet, united by a tepid broth of smoked eel.
The courses officially begin with Hokkaido scallop rolled with kohlrabi and nori – definitely a departure from the Carpaccio manner recommended by many nice dining joints. Buried amid a little spicy kohlrabi juice and under a strong dusting of sour cream snow, it preps the palate for the delectable venison tartare. Beneath a layer of finely sliced baby zucchini, charred venison is lifted by a fermented plum. It doesn’t make your stomach feel too heavy, so it’s simple to know why Naleendra has been proud of this dish from the Cheek by Jowl days.
A lot of people love Marron so much after trying it in Margaret River, and its pairing with Sri Lankan yellow curry millet at Cloudstreet truly meets their expectations. Grilled with a glaze marron head butter, the freshness and creaminess of the crustacean are splashed all the more by a mellow and quite restrained but well-spiced curry. However, when it comes to the barbecued French Turbot, it’s the topping of fermented bell pepper cooked with black garlic, pickled onions, and Tuscan kale. That is perfect!
The final savory course is supposed to be the most self-identifying for Naleendra. The grilled lamb saddle comes from Australia, yet the concept is much related to his heritage. He reveals that “When they eat in Sri Lanka, they eat like six different things”. Also, it’s exactly the unique dish in which all the components – a smoky, meaty parcel of roasted young jack fruit, spring onion chutney, and mint-coconut chutney – are split away on the plate.