Never mind they insist they’re the least middle-eastern-like middle eastern restaurant. Its certainly Middle Eastern enough for me; And as it appears on the full houses on both nights I visited, it’s Middle Eastern enough for a whole lotta other people too!
So, you’ll find that the dishes on the menu read relatively familiar, but they will appear a little offbeat. You dig in and recognize it right away… then you get that zing at the tip of your tongue, or an unusual aroma that filled your mouth only after you’ve licked your lips…. What was thaaat?? You sit up, knowing you’re in big trouble cuz that was some good shit! I should’ve worn some elasticized pants, I thought silently to myself; then dig in some more at that unfamiliar familiarity. Be warned. This will happen with every dish.
Artichoke has been serving her eclectic cuisine for many years. But I had never been successful clinching a reservation and I kinda gave up. Lately, it’s been popping back into my head, and I finally made it a point to book early and quick!
The restaurant has a Chef’s Tasting Menu which features many of their house specialties. That’s probably a good option if you don’t wanna study the menu too much! You’ll start with some of the most amazing dips and they come with some lovely warm bread.
The classic Hummus was a smooth sensation! The earthy chickpeas were mashed so fine and silky you could suck it with a straw! One portion was almost not enough for the four of us!
The Babaganoush eggplant will be like no other you’ve tasted. Mashed and drenched in nutty sesame paste topped with sweet pomegranate. Be wowed by the contrasting flavors and textures of soft aubergine against crunchy pomegranate, chivey scallions, earthy sesame paste and aromatic olive oil!
Next comes the Turkish Onion Dip, sweet caramelized onions blended in creamy feta. A little smokey, a little zesty, and a little herbal bitterness came together real nice indeed.
In the Crab Tzatziki, shreds of sweet juicy crab meat swim in a creamy, yoghurty dressing; befriended by bits of crispy chicken skin (Whoo-hoo!!!) and juicy Ikura roe. My God, this was so, so good, I could eat it on its own with a big old spoon!!
I’d not normally order Hash Browns. I mean, Hash Browns? Just shouts McDonald’s for me! But since it came with the tasting menu…. (shrug>>) This would be my first Hash Brown in a loooong time! Here we go… They formed some mashed potato into a brick. Fried the little fella and served it with a large dollop of sour cream and spices. Crisp like a chip on the outside and fluffy like cotton on the inside. The piping hot spud and cold sour cream were criminally delicious together! Let’s put it this way…, I will never look at Hash Browns the same again!!
Roasted Cauliflower Mandi– I don’t fancy cauliflower too much unless they’re roasted. So imagine my delight when this gigantic flower bud appeared roasted gorgeously golden and smelling heavenly of tart yogurt and toasty nuts! Surrounding the big brown tender cauliflower was a moat of fragrant long grained rice mixed with sweet pomegranate. Plus a mildly spicy sauce that’s put there to make you eat more!! No carbs? Not tonight!!
The ultimate highlight of the meal for me was the Squid Ink Couscous. Tender soft pearl Couscous sit in a sea of black squid ink infused with savory flavors from clams and squids and prawns. The barley textured couscous is a brilliant diversion from pasta or rice. It has a soft chewy bite and takes in the flavors like a sponge! I’ve dreamt of it nonstop days after! No, it doesn’t look the prettiest but it is a MUST order!
For mains, there was Black Angus Ali Nazik slathered in yoghurt, and 12-Hour Lamb Steak served on a bed of garbanzos beans. If you’re big on meats, these will not disappoint.
The one dish that stood out and you mustn’t miss out on ordering is the Green Harissa Prawns. Large tiger prawns grilled and served on mildly spicy Harissa sauce. You could taste a mix of peppers, garlic and chili in there. And every swipe of that crunchy sweet prawn in that spicy tingling sauce beckons another swipe! When we were outta prawns, we went back into the bread basket and finished up the sauce with cold bread!
The aptly named Fried Chicken should have been named Super Fried Chicken cuz that’s how it was! Super crunchy. Super flavorful. Super tender. Super delicious. Eaten with the sorcerous toum garlic whip, a concoction of garlic and egg white, beaten to a luxuriously thick cream, so every bite of crispy chicken is tinged with a garlicky, lemony, creamy finish. The toum was so good we asked for more. And then more! And if we had more bread, I’ll bet they’ll go diving in it too!!
If you only have room for one dessert. It has to be their specialty Date Pudding. No compromise. Be warned. It is heavy, and it will need that said room. But trust me, it’s worth losing a Jean button (or gaining a pound!) for this sticky, gooey, smokey cake pudding drenched in coffee and nuts and cream. It’s very sweet, in a very good way. It is exotically intense. And it’s certainly raised the bar for any old classic pudding!
However, if you have room for more than one dessert, the Malabi, a white chocolate pudding, with sweet watermelon cubes flavored in fragrant rose syrup is a natural second choice. This is way lighter but not less intriguing. The chilled pudding is silky smooth and melts in your mouth like a dream. Also very sweet. Nothing beats refreshing watermelon after a heavy meal and Artichoke’s come with lovely scents of rose water! God forbid they serve just watermelon! I never imagined watermelon and pudding together… Felt a little strange…, those two…, a couple…? But you know what, turned out it was pretty damn brilliant!
I’m already excited as I think about returning again to Artichoke. The food’s great. The service great. The ambience is surely Middle Eastern enough without pushing it! Beautiful outdoor dining in the courtyard and comfy indoor air conditioning for the likes of me! Hopefully, I’ll gather enough Lamb fans to try out the famous Lambgasm, a slow roast lamb at 2.4kg that requires a 48-hour advance preorder. Slow roast, 48 hours, lamb. Already sounds irresistable, doesn’t it?
ARTICHOKE @ 161 Middle Road Singapore 188878 . Phone +65 63366949
Disclaimer- This is not a sponsored post.