SINGAPORE — The last time I came to Owen Road, I remember seeing many units boarded up. What they all have in common is a renovation permit stuck to the temporary hoarding that offers vague clues of the F&B outfit we can expect to see in three months—that is, if we’re lucky. You never know these days anymore with delays attributed to manpower shortage and a fragile raw material supply.
But when stars and schedules align, it should not come as much of a surprise to anticipate a brand new restaurant in the blink of one Phase 3 Heightened Alert, one Phase 2, and one Phase 2 Heightened Alert. Yes, we’ve been through a lot as a nation this year, more so for the F&B entrepreneurs at the mercy of the powers-that-be who seem intent on playing a game of musical chairs with dining-in restrictions, adjusting and fine-tuning measures until one eventually sticks.
It is under this collective cloud of uncertainty that Cherry & Oak decided to set up shop at the head of Owen Road, counting as neighbours MIRAGE, Old Hen Kitchen, SYIP, Tingkat PeraMakan, and The Bakehaus. Cherry & Oak is a sophomore project by the same folks behind ASAP & Co, a Halal and Muslim-owned steakhouse at North Bridge Road, serving smoked meats and desserts in a space that, at my last visit, felt much too small for its big, ambitious sights.
Thankfully then for this new, purpose-built outfit at Owen Road that serves up a smoked meat forward menu similar to that at Asap & Co. The space is easily three times that of its cosier cousin. Apart from a more generous seating capacity, it comes with a kitchen that can accommodate a larger kitchen crew and all the culinary ideas they bring. It’s big, bold, and brave and, in many ways, indicative of a booming food concept that Halal diners in Singapore simply can’t get enough of.
The name Cherry & Oak is an ode to the two types of wood used herein the smoking process—cherry for colour and flavour, oak for its temperature stability. When yielded in custom made stainless steel smokers, meats come out sexily and intensely smoked with a flavour that will make you clutch your pearls in disbelief.
Rhetoric aside, the menu here really is, in a word, praiseworthy. There’s a starter of Smoked Wagyu Satay Madura (S$24+) that comes with six sizable sticks of Australian Wagyu cubes marinated in a blend of Madura spices, smoked, and then grilled until a fierce char forms on the exterior. It was served on a shallow pool mix of peanut sauce and kicap manis which acts as a helpful conduit when cutting through all the soft meat and luscious fats. Squeeze the lime, drizzle it all over the meat and call it a day.
A challenge for any restaurant is its serving of Octopus or Squid—two highly temperamental seafood that can fail under the hands of an overzealous chef or a careless apprentice. Here, the Whole Squid with artisanal soy sauce (S$18+) is cause for fanfare with flesh that gives way easily while still retaining bite. It’s gorgeous. She’s slathered in a sauce that’s equal parts sweet and spicy with a tinge of sourness that makes this quite the joy to eat. It comes with a pickled mango salad on the side for balance and acidity and a small saucer of a potent green chilli sauce that will make a spice lover squeal in delight.
All the mains come with a complimentary Nasi Lemak set, symbolic of Cherry & Oak’s collaboration with Walaku. Like everything else in the menu, the Nasi Lemak here has also been smoked for an added depth of flavour, though the winning element in this humble bundle of rice is the salt. I haven’t had Nasi Lemak with a distinct salt seasoning before. A pinch of this greatly helps in bringing out the lemak-ness.
Under the Smoked Sharing Platter portion of the menu, there’s a trio of meat selections that ‘requires 4 hours pre-order’. Take a leap of faith and get your paws on the Whole Irish Duck (S$88+). I understand how tempting it is to go for gold and get the Tomahawk instead, but in all my years of reviewing restaurants, there hasn’t been one that dared to smoke a full-sized whole duck.
Here, it’s marinated with a heady rub of lime, paprika, salt, and pepper and then stuffed into a smoker for at least two hours. The result of that is a hulking duck with immaculate crispy skin up top and tender flesh below. It demands communal enjoyment.
Desserts come by way of soufflés, brûlées, and cheesecake courtesy of a partnership with Brûlée.sg—I highly recommend the Cempedak Creme Brûlée. But in the spirit of all things smoked, I would suggest going for the Baby Dutch Pancake Banana Brûlée (S$13+) with flame-torched caramelised bananas and almonds mascarpone, and maple syrup. While the descriptors suggest an overly saccharine dessert, it feels like the sweetness level here has been highly curated, a feat worth a standing ovation, given the naturally sweet elements of each ingredient in the dish. It makes for an easy eat, though I would have loved for the pancake to be twice as fluffy and airy. Cherry & Oak should take some pointers from the folks at Atlas Coffeehouse and their Butterscotch Banana Pancake.
From the outside, Cherry & Oak has gotten the whole #maincharacter vibe down to a tee. They’re easily the largest restaurant here in terms of square footage with a mise en scene that’s industrial meets utilitarian. There are huge wicker lights hanging from the ceiling, oversized windows where natural lights flood in, black chairs, and wood tables that help unify the space’s thematic theatrics. It’s a great second attempt off of a tried and tested culinary format. You’d be a fool if you gave this one a miss.
95 Owen Rd, S218907
Tue to Sun: 11am – 10pm