Saturday, July 18, 2020

Restaurant review: Arkadaş Cafe, Singapore


This blog post has been in the pipeline for three years. I really have no explanation for not doing it sooner. 

The cuisine of the Middle East is diverse while having a degree of homogeneity. It includes Arab, Iranian, Jewish, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Georgian, Kurdish, Cypriot and Turkish cuisines. Fresh, wholesome, rich and aromatic are some adjectives that pop into mind when I think of this cuisine. It is commonly associated with an ample use of olive oil, parsley, pita bread, sesame seeds, chickpeas, mint and rice.

My husband and I are very fond of Middle Eastern food. From an appetizer point of view, I love the concept of dipping warm bread and colorful vegetables in an assortment of savoury dips and condiments with various cheeses on the side!

There are several Middle Eastern restaurants in Singapore that we frequent such as Al-Hamra, Alaturka, Beirut Grill, Sofra, Shiraz, Shabestan and Urban Bites. Pistachio and Artichoke have been on our list on a long time but we haven't gotten around to checking them out. Hopefully soon!

Aside from going to restaurants, we also cook several of our favourite dishes at home. We love putting together homemade mezze snacking platters with hummus, baba ganoush/moutabel, tzatziki, muhammara, tabbouleh, falafel, pita, toum, vegetable sticks, feta cheese, olives, nuts, dried apricots and fresh figs. Our children also love this concept of communal dining and the wide selection they get to choose from. 

We went to Arkadaş Café, a café in Fusionopolis serving authentic Turkish cuisine, a few years ago for lunch, and since then, we have been there several times. Whenever our twins have a birthday party invitation on Saturday afternoon, our domestic helper takes them and the three of them end up having lunch at the party which gives me and the husband a few hours for a lunch date and we tend to pick Arkadaş Café. We can enjoy grown-up conversation, a delicious lunch and be back home by the time the girls are back!


What I really like about the café is that it isn't too far for us, I like the casual and chilled out vibe, the  extensive menu choices, the unpretentious homely food and the more than reasonable prices.

To get there, the nearest MRT station is One North on the Circle Line and it is less than a kilometer walk away from there. We go by car and usually park in one of the nearby buildings of Fusionopolis. 

The café is surprisingly spacious which is not quite evident when you see it from the outside. The glass windows and high ceiling make the space airy and bright. The interiors are very plain and minimalist with the color scheme dominated by green, white and brown. I have spotted some Turkey tourism posters adorning the walls. Considering the imposing building it is housed in and the lovely tropical surroundings, the décor could definitely do with some sprucing up.

My husband who had been to Arkadaş Café with his colleagues a couple of times previously, told me that the founder and chef is former personal chef to the Turkish Ambassador to Singapore for 22 years. With those credentials, I think authenticity of the food is pretty much a given!

I have heard that on weekdays the café can get quite crowded (considering the bustling location) but on weekends, it is relatively quieter. 



The menu has an impressive range of drinks (none of them alcoholic by the way), appetizers, mains and a few desserts. You can try Turkish coffee or tea, homemade ayran, Middle Eastern dips, bread such as pide and pita, salads, wraps/rolls,/sandwich musakka, kebabs, baked rice, grilled meats and traditional desserts like baklava and künefe. Note that there are plenty of vegetarian and a few vegan options in the appetizer section but only two in the main course section. 

I managed to dig out a few pictures from our previous visits and putting together my thoughts on this café. 

Here are some of the dishes that I commonly order,

Turkish Tea ($2.00)
I prefer to order Turkish tea at the end of the meal to enjoy with dessert, usually baklava or künefe (you can see it in the picture I have at the end of the baklava).

This is a light, aromatic and refreshing beverage served in an adorable glass cup. You can adjust the sweetness to your liking. Hot Turkish tea would be the perfect drink on a rainy day!

Recommended!

Ayran ($3.00)
Being considered as a national drink in Turkey, is a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt.

I was expecting something similar to our savoury Indian lassi. On the first sip, I felt it was overwhelmingly sour but as I continued to drink it, I somewhat got accustomed to it and quite enjoyed it. But a word of caution that this drink might not be to everyone's liking. 


Apple Tea ($2.00)
I usually always order the Apple tea. It is cold, sweet, fruity and refreshing. Again, you can adjust the sweetness to your preference. With the relentless heat of Singapore, it is just the drink to accompany a meal. 


Peynirli Borek ($7.90)
This is a parcel kind of pastry filled with cheese. Flaky pastry encasing gooey cheese and topped with toasted sesame seeds. You really can't go wrong, can you?

The last time I ordered Peynirli Borek, I also ordered my favourite Ordov Tabagi and soup of the day which happened to be a creamy and flavourful lentil soup. 


Yaprak Sarma ($9.90)
This appetizer consists of rice with pine nuts, raisin, onion & extra virgin olive oil wrapped in grape leaves.

I love this dish. The combination of textures and flavours makes it a really great appetizer. 


Ordov Tabagi ($13.90)
This platter consists of yaprak sarma, hummus, eggplant salad, stuffed pepper, cheese topped with extra virgin olive oil.

I've already mentioned that the yaprak sarma is good. The hummus is creamy and balanced without being overwhelmed by tahini (just the way I like it) and the smoky mashed eggplant, stuffed pepper and creamy cheese are all delicious. I love combining different things from the platter to make each bite taste slightly different from the other. The pide bread is warm, soft, fluffy and thick. The perfect vehicle to mop up those delectable creamy dips.

Recommended! 


Falafel Rolls ($10)
Here you have falafels made of chickpeas, onion, garlic, tomato, parsley, tahini and extra virgin olive oil, The falafels are encased in a flour wrap with simple salad and sliced white onion.

This is a decent dish. My gripe is that it is dry and also a bit bland. Some kind of sauce or dip on the inside can definitely elevate it. Also, the nondescript salad on the side is meh. 


Baklava ($6.00)
I am a total sucker for baklava. It is a dessert I've been meaning to make at home for the longest time but I've not gotten around to doing it.

On ordering this dessert, we were served four rectangular bite-sized portions of baklava garnished with pistachios. The crunchy and buttery layers of pastry soaked in sugar syrup containing chopped nuts came together in delicious harmony. I usually don't like my desserts too sweet but when it comes to baklava, my sweetness threshold doesn't have any limits! I enjoyed this dessert and I only wished there was more of it 😊

Recommended!


Künefe ($12.90)
Künefe is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry, soaked in sugar syrup, typically layered with unsalted cheese and topped with nuts.

I had never tried or even heard of this dessert before so I was keen to see what it was all about. I must say that I was hooked right from the first bite! This dessert is creamy, subtly sweet and crunchy with the delightful flavour from the pistachios. The cheese helps to cut through the sweetness and surprisingly, it isn't heavy either so makes it both a unique and delectable dessert indeed. The perfect end to our meal. I would most definitely order it again.

Recommended!


Summary
If you are a fan of Turkish food, you should definitely check out Arkadaş Café (if you haven't already!). This little gem in Fusionopolis serves an array of authentic mouth-watering Turkish dishes.  The ambience is informal and laid-back. There is nothing fancy about the décor or the plating of the food but I can vouch for the flavour. The portion sizes are a bit small so keep that in mind when you place the order. I would recommend the Turkish tea, Ordov Tabagi, the Baklava and Künefe. The service has always been quick and efficient when we have visited. The café isn't that crowded on weekends so you can consider stopping by. I would estimate that the price per person would be $25-35 making it a typically mid-range establishment.

I would recommend this café for couples, colleagues, business lunches and small gatherings.

Arkadaş Cafe

Address: 1 Fusionopolis View, #01-02, Sandcrawler Singapore 138577


Tel: (65) 6466 9918

Email: reservation@arkadascafe.sg

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sat : 11.00am 10.00pm
(Last order of the day: 9.15pm)
Closed on Sunday.


Have you been to Arkadaş Café? If so, what are your favourite dishes? Leave a comment to let me know! 


Cheers,
Megha


This is NOT a sponsored post or invited review. All opinions are my own. 

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