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Expat Reporter Arisa Chang Reviews Peranakan Fusion Restaurant Cherki
29 March 2023
A little hidden gem located on the ground level of Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, Cherki offers modern Peranakan cuisine with a lovely bar concept. Cherki’s menu offers many mains with linguine as well as blue pea rice.
A one-of-a-kind Peranakan bar in town, Cherki‘s drink menu offers 15 cocktails, 4 mocktails plus beer, wine, shooters, and spirits. This is a serious bar, not just a side business like most restaurants.
Interesting bar snacks with a Peranakan twist like the Chili Beef Rendang Fries, Buah Keluak Chicken Wings, Satay Chicken Taco, Truffle Duck Popiah and more are well priced between $14-$16. Tantalising to the taste buds, a clever way to discover new tastes while sipping on cocktails.
I chose Violet Sky to kick start my meal. It was surprisingly delightful compared with many other mocktails I had tried in the past. From memory, most mocktails were filled with heavy syrup but Violet Sky was ultra-refreshingly infused with Lemongrass and Yuzu.
Such a great start to the hot day and a perfect match to the Peranakan food in which I was about to indulge in. Sylvia (my other Expat Choice partner in crime) and I had the Cherki Ngor Hiang ($16) as a starter. Ngor Hiang is the famous five spice roll with a crispy fried soya sheet on the outside and spiced flavoured mince on the inside.
Cherki Uses minced pork with a twist of duck pate and foie fat. As you can imagine, it was delicious! A perfect bar snack to go with drinks, if not as an entrée.
Diving straight into mains, we chose Rendang Beef Cheeks ($26), Braised Pongteh Lamb Shank ($28), Laksa Lobster Linguine ($30), and Sambal Crab Fried Rice (part of the lunch set). Yes, there were just two of us but we had food for four!
Too hard to resist when presented with a massive array of choices, so we decided to tuck in as if there was no tomorrow.
Rendang Beef Cheeks, my all time favourite, was served on a beautiful blue-tone round plate, alongside blue pea rice, achar (pickles), and homemade sambal. It was a visual delight! The rendang was mild on spice, easy for anyone to enjoy.
The texture of the beef cheeks was so tender that it melted in my mouth. Do not ask for a rice downsize or you may regret it as I did. It’s a great dish to savour at the end, when you can polish the remaining sauce off the plate.
Braised Pongteh (Nyonya style) Lamb Shank was cooked fork tender, falling off the bone as I dug into it. Flavour wise it was on the sweet side, slowly braised in fermented soya beans and dark soya sauce with palm sugar. I feel this would be ideal to pair with a higher acidity or bitter cocktail like Bellvine Mojito or Westside Journey.
The Cherki Laksa Lobster Linguine was another popular choice. A generous half lobster in shell was served with a big dollop of linguine swirled around and soaked in thickened Laksa sauce, with more lobster chunks and tofu puffs atop. It satisfied my craving for Laksa but didn’t leave bursting with enthusiasm as it was a dry Laksa, with no soup to slurp.
We both felt the last main to be served, Sambal Crab Fried Rice, was impressive despite the signature mains that preceded this. Surprise surprise! A delightful fragrance emanated from the homemade Sambal, mildly spicy and tangy. It complemented perfectly well with sweet crab meat mixed in the rice.
Both Sylvia and I were so full after a spoonful that we decided to take it away, a chance to devour it another time on its own. Leaving space for dessert, we were glad to have done so.
From three dessert choices, we had Kaya & Gula Melaka Tiramisu ($14) and Rice Pancakes with Banana Sauce ($16). The tiramisu felt like it came out of a dream. Really well put together with a caramelised brown sugar flavour. Kaya played a subtle role in it while Gula Melaka shone no matter where it was immersed. This star creation was excellent and I could trade this over the traditional tiramisu without a doubt.
Rice Pancakes, also known as Apom Berkuah, is a popular Nyonya dessert made with rice flour and coconut milk, with a beautiful blue hue in the center that used natural extracts of blue pea flowers. The pancake itself was fluffy and springy, full of aroma and a touch of natural sweetness from the rice itself. Soaking up the rich and thickened banana sauce, it almost danced a melody on my palate. The sauce itself was heaven. Made of palm sugar and coconut milk, I would call this the Nyonya version of sea salt caramel. Despite the word “banana”, I didn’t taste the banana. Accompanied by 5 generous pancakes, a perfect plate for sharing if you so wish.
Cherki’s take on Nyonya cuisine was light on spice which made sense. A better bet to go with drinks and to cater for a broader customer range than simply Peranakan die-hard foodies.
The perfect spot for those who are looking for set lunch meals during the week, small bites with drinks after work or simply a proper feast with friends. It is a one-stop-f0r-all restaurant serving multiple occasions.
So if you are looking for a place to hang out in town on Friday night and would like to try something new, check out Cherki for great fare at great prices.
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