It’s not easy thinking of where to bring my food-loving boyfriend to on special occasions. Italian’s a no-no for him and European food in general is not his preference. Flo loves local flavours but isn’t quite so keen on Peranakan food so places like Folklore and Candlenut i.e. more upscaled restaurants with a local twist are out. I also ruled out Labyrinth since that’s where I brought him for his birthday last year.

After asking different groups of friends, Cheek by Jowl seemed worth a visit since quite a few had only good things to say about it. I was still hemming and hawing the day of the reservation but I met Flo at the bus stop by his office as planned and off we went a few streets down to Boon Tat Street.

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We were promptly seated within the cosy restaurant which quickly filled up. It’s not so much an intimate place I would say with tables rather close to each other, but not so close that you can listen in on your neighbour’s conversations. Maybe just snippets of it if you pay attention.

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We were treated to pre-dinner snacks of Marinated Olives.

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Slightly tart and juicy. Olives have never been my thing but I had one of these round balls and while I didn’t fall in love with it, I found it nice enough. I’m sure olive fans will find extreme pleasure in these though.

What Flo and I thoroughly enjoyed were these warm, fluffy, chewy, ping-pong-sized balls of cheesy bread accompanied by 14 month old Comte Cheese.

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They seem to be free-flow as we were offered a second round, to which Flo happily nodded. We were then asked if wanted a third serving but we practised much restraint and managed to utter a ‘No, Thank You‘ lest we filled up before the food arrived.

So GOOD though!

I wonder if they would taste even better if the cheese was injected into the bread to form a molten centre oozing out when bitten into. Mmm…. 

Ok carrying on.

I opted for the Vegetarian start of Jerusalem Artichoke, Shimeiji Mushroom, Artichoke Crisps and Onion Consommé. It was a toss up between this and the Artic Char but since I knew I was going for the fish main, I decided to leave the char for another time. Yes, there HAS to be another time!

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The clear onion consommé was rich and sweet with flavour. The earthy mushrooms, silky in texture, bore a wonderful contrast to the crispy artichoke skins and creamy artichoke foam layered on top. What I really liked was the use of white fungus beneath the blanket of foam which created a spongy crunchy texture. This starter was exceptionally punchy and very hearty.

Flo began with the Roasted Quail with Chestnuts, Mushrooms and Mint.

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The game bird was cooked beautifully pink and was incredibly flavoursome from the forkful my sweet Flo gave me to try. The mint was refreshing, but not overpowering. Flo especially enjoyed the thinly shaved green apple on top that helped cut the richness of the meat.

My main of Barramundi with Leeks, Caramelised Onion, Bonito Butter and Puffed Rice came with a wonderfully crisp skin – I likey! 

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The fish was fresh, moist and meaty. It was well seasoned and its light flavour was enhanced by the sweetness of the onions, the slight sharpness from the leeks and rounded off by the smooth, creaminess of the butter. I didn’t think much of the puffed rice at first sight but it gave a lovely crunch to every bite, breaking the soft textures of the dish overall.

Flo was in ‘Meat Heaven’ not knowing which main to go for. The two men on our right were heartily cutting into their Beef and Lamb dishes respectively when we first arrived, and then there was the Kangaroo waving at Flo as well.

Flo ended up opting for the Lamb Rump with Smoked Eggplant, Globe Artichoke and Caper Berries.

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I’ve always said that the lamb we had in Germany was by far the best I’ve had so far. After a taste of Cheek’s lamb, I beg to differ. This was again, cooked perfectly pink so that it remained incredibly tender and flavoursome. I loved that the lamb was not gamey at all. It leaned a little to the salty side but apart from that slight heavy handed-ness on the salt, Flo licked his plate clean in no time. Even the eggplant – a vegetable he doesn’t take to very much, went promptly into his stomach.

Since I went with the 2-course menu, this was Flo’s pick for dessert for his third course. Cherries, Coconut Sorbet, Burnt Coconut Husk and Sichuan Pepper.

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Who would have thunk that sour cherries, coconut, and sichuan peppers would make for such a glorious dessert?! The burnt coconut husk was woven, I believe, into the lightest crispest meringue that wasn’t too sweet at all. The slight tartness of the cherries balanced beautifully with the sweet coconut sorbet and the sprinkle of pepper created just a bit of heat that woke the palate. Flo’s declared this the best dessert he has ever tasted.

I had just paid for the bill when the service staff came out to present Flo with his birthday dessert. I’d almost forgotten about it and was probably more surprised than Flo.

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It was a decadent, rich slab of Chocolate Truffle Cake that was perfectly dark and smooth. Looks like I’ll have to declare it someone’s birthday every visit to Cheek just to get my hands, and lips, on this cake every time.

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Yup! He even swiped the cake into the ganache writing for the extra sauce.

Happy boyfriend, happy life!

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Hahaha. I have no idea why he has his eyes opened wider like that but nice photo of me so up it goes!

Overall, we were both blown away by the food at Cheek by Jowl. For a 1-Star Michelin restaurant, their prices were affordable, the quality of food was amazing and we liked the unpretentious vibe. That being said, service was ok – attentive enough, friendly enough, enough enough.

I’m glad the birthday boy enjoyed dinner and that our expectations having been ramped up by all the rave reviews from my friends were met, possibly surpassed. We definitely preferred Cheek by Jowl to Meta, and Kimme, and Restaurant Labyrinth – all of which were very good, just that this was even better in our opinion.

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