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Cloudstreet serves up a cloud of magic
84 Amoy Street
Tel: 6513 7868
Open for lunch and dinner Mon to Sat: 12pm to 1.30pm; 6pm to 10pm
SOMETHING happens when you step into No 84 Amoy Street.
Before that, Amoy Street seems pretty normal in its traffic-clogged, general chaos kind of way. You know, like the guy who takes his sweet time vacating the valuable parking space you're waiting for, prompting an exchange of opinions about his intellect and where he thinks you should spend the rest of your life in. Then the dustbins, furniture and beer-swigging humans you have to negotiate just to get to the other side. It's all stressful as hell and you don't want to come here for dinner anymore. Until you stumble into No.84 and find yourself in a whole new different dimension.
This is where Amoy Street morphs into Cloudstreet - originally a figment of Rishi Naleendra's imagination but now a trippy alternate reality that's equal parts Alice in Wonderland and Heart of Darkness. There's wonder and foreboding in this dark, antiquated yet mystical realm - in fact, you half expect a waterfall to gush from the dense landscaped jungle that sprouts out of a wall in the middle of the space.
From the attention-grabbing artwork at the entrance; the sumptuous old-world furniture of the bar (Engage your inner John Wick in the Hotel Continental, sipping an espresso from the 400-year-old coffee machine); the raw, dramatic wall-length sketches done by the chef himself; to what looks like a stray hot air balloon that got trapped in the ceiling and decided to stay there, glowing with light trapped within its gold fabric - these are all images that represent Chef Naleendra's headspace. It's whimsical with a dark edge, translated with pinpoint accuracy by his super-talented designer from Grey Matters.
At Cloudstreet - named after an Australian novel that is the chef's favourite book - the design of the restaurant is a crucial backdrop for his food because this is the world according to Rishi Naleendra. He's letting you into his head space and hoping you like the view.
If the original Cheek by Jowl was all modern Aussie with its easy-going breeziness, Cloudstreet is free-wheeling, street-smart savvy interlaced with the chef's Sri Lankan heritage. Years of experience and tasting have sharpened his skill at mixing and matching, so there's something completely natural about wrapping a Coffin Bay oyster in a betel leaf and cooking it over binchotan, serving it in its shell nestled in coconut milk and pearls of finger lime for that jolt of acidity. The brininess is muffled but not muzzled by the leaf, so it comes through loud and clear while the coconut and lime heighten the enjoyment.
Pickled mussels stuffed into a "shell" of algae and squid ink are the creation of one of his Singaporean chefs - a touch funky but a clever doppelganger. Beetroot and goat's cheese are happy together in a sweet and creamy partnership covered in crispy crumbs.
Those are just the opening snacks of the S$198, seven-course degustation with no menu to keep the anticipation going throughout the meal.
First, a lesson in temperature control comes in the form of a cold pea sorbet submerged in a warm, smoked eel broth - milky and intense and a good foil for the icy sorbet, which is complete with a sprinkle of Kaluga Queen sturgeon caviar.
Kohlrabi is whittled down into elongated ribbons, layered with scallop mousse and another layer of nori, pre-soaked in rice wine and vinegar, rolled and sliced into attractive rolls - it's healthy and light, perked up with sweet sour cold kohlrabi juice and sour cream snow for depth.
Venison tartare has a hint of gaminess and earthiness which is easily distracted by the zinginess of sherry vinegar and sweet-sour tomatoes, while crushed cashew nuts waltz in to make a threesome. On top is a blanket of overlapping baby zucchini slices, pressed with a herb oil - so every mouthful is smooth, silky, crunchy and tender at the same time.
From his Sri Lankan playbook is curried millet that keeps its shape and texture without lapsing into mushiness, with crunchy popped grains for good measure. They're a cosy bed for sweet Australian marron, cooked over binchotan with multiple brushes of butter made from the marron coral. The binchotan is the chef's good friend - its smoke-free slow burning embers gently cooking bouncy-fleshed French turbot that's been cured with salt and sugar to drain its excess water, dressed in a rich buttery sauce of black garlic and stock from turbot bones. Parsley puree and dehydrated leaves of Cavolo Nero dusted with nori powder make this dish your edible BFF.
To cleanse your palate is this bewitching combo of funky fermented watermelon juice gently poured like syrup over whipped goat's cheese and herb oil. The funkiness of each cancels each other out and leaves you with this refreshing dessert-like lift.
By now, the tempo usually starts to fall into a novelty-over stupor, but the pace keeps up, especially with the arrival of some of the tastiest mutant bread we've ever tasted. This weird sticky loaf fragrant with liquorice and aniseed and glazed with salted molasses needs to be tasted to be understood. It's so addictive, it competes for attention with the main course of roasted baby lamb, Sri Lankan jackfruit curry, green chilli sambal and mint puree. You need to have a bit of everything in one bite or the equilibrium will be lost. Between the two, the bread comes out slightly ahead, if we have to pick.
Dessert tests the boundaries between savoury and sweet - and you get two of them. Mascarpone parfait with grape sorbet is a little more conventional compared to the genre-bending porcini sponge cake and custard with an intense earthiness coupled with milk ice cream and crisp milk skin. A "truffle" of chocolate is shaved over the top for an amazing aroma. Created by his Singaporean pastry chef, it fits Cloudstreet's DNA of whimsy with a daring edge.
By the end of the night, you're almost floating on a cloud of good vibes, and it's not from over-indulgence in its meticulously curated wine list. Cloudstreet's cooking does not wow in terms of technical prowess or intellectual message. Rather, it engages on a personal level, but still with a sophisticated execution. Chef Naleendra's style is accessible fine dining that comes from his heart. It's dreamy, tasty and heartwarming. If this is what being on a cloud tastes like, maybe we don't want to get off.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior