It's a long way to the top

It’s a common joke among F&B folk that restaurants here don’t last long, traded humorously over drinks, but always with a tinge of bitter resignation muttered sotto voce. Rent, competition, and a short attention span from local diners make a deathly combo that can shut a new place in a matter of months.

For a moment, it seemed like even those touched by the grace of the Michelin gods weren’t spared. Two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Andre and three-Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon came and went; then in February, modern Australian restaurant Cheek by Jowl—which maintained its single Michelin star for two years running—announced its closure by the end of the month.

But when one door closes, another opens—sometimes in the exact same spot. Barely a few weeks after the establishment’s closure, chef-owner Rishi Naleendra and his wife Manuela Toniolo have opened a brand new bistro in its place. Still on 21 Boon Tat Street, Cheek Bistro retains a part of its predecessor’s name, and correspondingly will continue to offer modern Australian fare—though in a more casual, convivial setting focusing on hearty bistro cooking.

Rishi Naleendra and Manuela Toniolo

No longer dominated by tasting menus, the new bistro will feature a la carte dishes and sharing plates for more relaxed ordering. Menu highlights include Beef Tartare with Millet; Smoked Maple and Endives; Lamb Ribs; and Goat Cheese Parfait, complemented with a wine list of over 80 labels.

Open since Mar 12, the new kitchen is helmed by a young culinary team that trained under Chef Naleendra at Cheek by Jowl. The Cheek essence preserved, the journey to Michelin-starred status is unfortunately reset. But the Sri Lanka-born chef, who was first talent-spotted by his now-partner, Unlisted Collection’s Loh Lik Peng, is unruffled.

"We earned our Michelin stars together in the last two years. Now, Cheek Bistro is where (the team) can fully express their culinary perspectives and continue to excite palates," he said.

Additional plans to open a second, fine-dining modern Australian restaurant on Amoy Street in June is also in the works.

Cheek Bistro is located at 21 Boon Tat Street, and open from 12-3pm, 6-10:30pm (Mon-Fri) and 6-10:30pm (Sat). Reservations available at