Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Restaurant review: Artichoke, Singapore


This is a restaurant I have been meaning to check out for the longest time! I'm so glad I finally managed to cross it off my list (which I obviously did before the Phase 2 Heightened Alert Covid-19 restrictions kicked in!). 

In our household, we love Middle Eastern food. We rustle up Mezze-style grazing platters pretty often and not just while entertaining but also as part of our regular weekend or sometimes even weekday menu. It is something our children look forward to as well. I am yet to feature Middle Eastern recipes on the blog and it is something that I fully intend to do in the near future. 

Rich, fragrant, vibrant and comforting are all words that can describe the wonderful creations of the Middle East. Bread has been the primary food staple in the Arab-Muslim world but others include rice, barley, lentils, rye and wheat. The flatbreads are made with flour, softened with olive oil and can entirely replace the need for cutlery! Freshly baked pita bread is an integral component of this cuisine. Middle Easterners also eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, dairy products and rice. Religion has impacted the cuisine by making lamb the primary meat. Traditional spices include cumin, caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, sumac, isot, oregano, mint, nigella seeds and spice blends, including za’atar, ras el hanout and baharat. If you are familiar with this cuisine you will recognize the commonly featured ingredients like olives and olive oil, honey, rose water, orange blossom water, pistachios, sesame seeds, dates, chickpeas, mint and parsley. Popular dishes include hummus, moutabel, labneh, falafel, grilled halloumi, tabbouleh, foul medammas, fattoush, kebabs, dolma, doner kebab, shish tawook, shawarma, manakeesh, mulukhiyah and baklava. 

Located in the heart of Singapore's Arts and Heritage district, Artichoke offers non-traditional Middle Eastern food and unapologetically so! At the helm of Artichoke is chef-owner Bjorn Shen, who has been tickling the Singapore palate with fun and creative dishes inspired from the Middle East. Artichoke is said to be an extension of the chef's eccentric personality. 

Expect the unexpected at Artichoke so go with an open mind and empty belly. For more traditional and standard Middle-Eastern fare, you can always head over to Arab street! At Artichoke, imagine funky grub like the 'Thicc'-kest hashbrown you have ever seen, green harissa prawns, chipotle baba ganoush, an unconventional date pudding, all served to a backdrop of 60’s soul and 90’s hip-hop.

We had reserved a table for four on a Saturday afternoon. We parked the car a few blocks away from our destination. While walking towards the restaurant, we caught sight of charming shophouses and street art, the latter of which grabbed our attention as it is not a commonly sighted feature of Singapore. 




You can completely miss the restaurant if you aren't looking for it! Artichoke is hidden in an enclave between a brightly colored art gallery and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). If you were expecting a large or posh food establishment, you will be in for a surprise. Instead, Artichoke has an enigmatic, quirky and cosy vibe.

There is outdoor seating in a charming cobblestone courtyard and indoor seating in the main part of the restaurant as well as an adjoining small and more private enclosed space. 



The interiors have vibrant and eclectic decor elements inspired from the Middle East. I particularly liked the the printed upholstery on the seats, the tiled flooring and the quirky cutlery clock. I did notice some areas of the restaurant look dated and worn out and could do with some refurbishing. 




I already assumed that Artichoke was popular based on the word of mouth recommendations I had received. That notion was reinforced when I saw how difficult it was to get a reservation especially on the weekend! When we arrived at the restaurant it was mostly empty but tables started to fill up rapidly and by the time we left the restaurant was operating at full capacity. People were chatting, laughing, enjoying their meal and having a good time. 

The kids don't like being cooped up indoors when we go to restaurants so every now and then they kept stepping out into the courtyard. My husband and I spent some time mulling over the menu, asking the staff for recommendations and ended up ordering the following items,

Pink Lemonade ($7)


This is a very nice looking cold beverage made with freshly-squeezed lemon juice, soda, thyme syrup and sumac and garnished with bitter dried lime and a sprig of thyme. 

The drink is refreshing and not very sweet. Sumac is a tangy spice made from the dried and ground berries of the wild sumac flower with a sour, acidic flavor that compliments the lemon juice quite well.

Recommended 👍

Detoxify ($7.5)


This is a blend of pineapple, celery, carrot, ginger and lime juice that I assume will play some role in detoxifying your system. My husband ordered this drink and he liked it. It wasn't to my liking though since I'm not a fan of anything containing celery. 

Beetroot Borani ($14)
Bag of bread ($4.5)


In a hot shade of pink, this dip is pretty unforgettable! You have beetroots blended with cream cheese with charred radicchio on top and garnished with nuts, seeds, three nut-dukka (an Egyptian and Middle Eastern condiment consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices), olive oil and fresh dill. We ordered a bag of bread to go along with it. 


This dip is smooth, creamy and comforting with earthy sweetness of the beets complimenting the salty tanginess of the cream cheese, smokey bitter hints from the radicchio, grassy undertones from the dill and crunchiness from the nuts and seeds. The warm and crusty bread served as edible cutlery to mop up the moreish dip. 

Recommended! 👍

Tater Tots Harra ($12)


The tater tots was the only "standard" dish we ordered and the only reason was for our children. Their do not yet appreciate sophisticated and complex flavours and so we usually keep their meals simple! 

This starter has crispy tater tots along with sour cream, coriander and garlic ghee. Unfortunately the restaurant was out of sour cream but we ordered it anyway. The tater tots were hot, crispy, fresh tasting and flavourful and the kids polished them off with great gusto. It was a pity that there was no sour cream on the side. I'm sure my husband and I would have enjoyed the dish much more. 

Roasted Cauliflower ($22)


I love cauliflower so despite not being sure if this dish would be satisfying enough, I ordered it as my main meal. 

You have half a head of cauliflower coated with spiced yoghurt and roasted to perfection on a bed of rocket garnished with pomegranate arils and nuts served along with tomato daqqus (a type of Arabic chutney/sauce) and a lemon wedge. I was pleasantly surprised with this dish because you can easily go wrong with cauliflower by over/under cooking it or not infusing enough flavour thus rendering it bland. The cauliflower itself was fork-tender, well seasoned, fragrant and flavourful. The combination of this roasted cauliflower with the peppery rocket, the sweet pomegranate, crunchy nuts and tomato-garlic sauce was unique and appetizing. And without any carb-heavy bread or rice, it made for a light yet satisfying meal. 

Recommended 👍

Date Pudding ($16)


The Date Pudding wasn’t like how I imagined it would be at all. It was such a surprise mixture of flavours and textures that it took me a while to appreciate everything on my spoon. 

You have warm and moist date pudding with squidgy coffee jelly cubes and delightfully salty crunchy cashew brittle; all of which are swimming in a pool of rich luscious smoked milk custard. This unconventional creation may not be the best looking dessert out there but it is rich, exotic, silky, crunchy, sweet and salty all at the same time! 
 
Both I and my husband loved this dessert. We would order it again in a heartbeat 👍

My concluding remarks:
Food that gets people excited and talking no matter traditional or not will always stand the test of time. The fact that the 11-year old Artichoke is still thriving in Singapore's cut-throat dining scene is testament to that. 

We enjoyed a memorable family lunch at Artichoke and I'm sure we will go back. Overall, I felt like the restaurant offers hearty down-to-earth comfort food that has been given an ingenious makeover. The food scores high in terms of flavour and the portion-sizes are pretty good. During our visit, the service was courteous and efficient. The casual and laid-back atmosphere of the restaurant makes it an ideal place to unwind and have a good time. This is a mid-range restaurant and dining here can set you back $40 – $70 per pax. 


I recommend this restaurant for couples, families, business lunches and small groups of friends. 


My rating for this restaurant is,




Artichoke
Address:
161 Middle Road
Singapore 188978

Opening hours:
Tuesdays - Sundays
Dinner 17:00 - 21:30

Weekends
Brunch 11:30 - 14:30

Closed Mondays

​Contact:
Tel: +65 6336 6949
E-mail: hello@artichoke.com.sg


Cheers,
Megha


This is NOT a sponsored post or an invited review

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