Friday, 2 November 2018

Food Tasting: Artichoke

Seated right in the middle of the busy Middle Road, yet ironically, located rather inconspicuously while being in the heart of Singapore's Arts and Heritage district, is Artichoke, a Middle-Eastern inspired restaurant set up in 2010, with a backdrop setting of street art, 60's soul and 90's hiphop.

Bjorn Shen, chef-owner of Artichoke and also author of the Artichoke cookbook, shouldn't be a new face to all, for he was very recently featured as one of the resident judges on MasterChef Singapore. Over the 14 years of his culinary journey, he has accumulated an impressive list of industry accolades, including ‘Chef of the Year 2013’ ­ SC Global,
‘Rising Chef of The Year 2015’ finalist ­ World Gourmet Summit, ‘Best Local Chef 2016’ ­ SG
Readers’ Choice Awards, ‘Singapore's Best 20 Chefs 2016’ ­ World Gourmet Summit, and 'Chef of The Year 2018’ finalist­  World Gourmet Summit. 
Other than being featured as judge on MasterChef Singapore, Bjorn has also participated in programmes such as MasterChef Asia, Secret Eats, and has taken up lead roles on Eat List Star Season 2 and The Ultimate Brocation.

Artichoke is probably the least authentic Middle-Eastern restaurant you would have encounter, for the food is fun and creative; drawing inspiration from the Middle-Eastern flavours and ingredients rather than being traditional. So here comes what truly matters; food, oh glorious food!

The first round of food, Mezzes and taster, that was served to the table was actually enough to fill our tummy and leave us satiated, no joke.

Mezzes (from top, clockwise): Turkish Toast, Iraqi-spiced Mushrooms, Burnt Miso Hummus, Samphire (sea asparagus, lebneh, shallots), Beetroot Borani (yoghurt, pistachio dukkah, dill)Babaganoush (smoked eggplant, pomegranate teriyaki sauce, pomegranate and sesame seeds)

I have to give a special shoutout the those two bags of Turkish toasts. They are so good, omg.
I tend to secretly judge a restaurant by the most basic food, bread, for I'm a huge bread-lover, and Artichoke has totally aced it. Specially served in paper bag to keep them warm, these toasts has a lovely crust on the outside and chewy on the inside, typical of a gourmet artisan bread.

My favourite of the lot has to be the burnt miso hummus, for the addition of miso has added so much more depth to the flavour of an otherwise normal, standard hummus. The rich and creamy texture of the hummus, paired with the crusty, chewy Turkish toast was definitely the best combination, ever.

Taster (middle): Devils on Horseback
wagyu ham with dried apricot, labneh, mint, almond

It's probably a shame that I have to give this a miss (I don't take beef), for this was very well received at the table. It was a new dish that has yet to be launched officially on their menu though. But judging from how much the rest of the bloggers (and their +1s) loved this, I'm pretty sure this would make it to their menu pretty soon, so do keep a lookout for this!

Jerusalem Salad
crumbled falafel, tofu tahini, mango amba

This is probably the kind of salad you will not choose to eat when on a diet. 
The tofu tahini gave the salad a creamy, rich texture and the mango amba helped to tone down the richness with a "pickle-y" mango flavour. I personally felt that it's a waste that the falafel (deep-fried ball/patty made from ground chickpeas/fava beans) was so thoroughly crumbled that I hardly tasted them. 

Fried Cauliflower Salad
fried cauliflower, 5-min egg, miso hummus, labneh, Isreali salad, tahini, skhug, mago amba, toast

Yet another cheatday-worthy kind of salad. Those fried cauliflower got OYHZ going for seconds when she's usually not a fan of her veggies, and there's nothing surprising about that because they were so so so good! Imagine a vegetable that taste almost like... chips! Although not exactly crisp and crunchy like your typical deep fried food, the cauliflower florets were definitely fried till the point where they have the charred flavour that is so addictive. 
This is THE SALAD you absolutely have to give it a try, even if you usually hate salads. I'm not even exaggerating. 


I know, they look exactly like some pan-fried taukwa, but haloumi is actually a semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes cow's too. As it has a high melting point, haloumi is usually served fried or grilled. 

My first taste of haloumi cheese, and frankly speaking I felt a little.... cheated? This is not your typical rich, creamy and oozy goodness, which I was totally expecting of a cheese. Well, any cheese. Instead, the texture of haloumi deviates more towards fishcake and taukwa (firm beancurd), albeit a more savoury and chewy version. 

Squid Ink Couscous
with squid, clams and preserved lemon 

Yet again, my first taste of couscous, and they reminded me of barley. The blackness probably makes the dish seems a little too funky, but overall the taste of this dish was pretty mild and manageable. This was like the child that came out of a marriage between paella and risotto, if you can get what I'm trying to say. 

Golden Pomfret
charcoal-grilled locally farmed pomfret, with sweet onion chermoula & barbecued lemon

I was so loving the fish, for they were so well grilled. The skin were nicely charred but the flesh still tender and juicy. Even though the fish was pretty flavourful on its own, pairing it up with the sweet onion chermoula just brings the entire dish up to a whole new level. 

Hot Skillet Prawns
with green harissa, split cream and charred onions

The prawns were obviously huge, and extremely fresh. Nothing beats a mouthful of thick-fleshed, juicy prawn that's generously doused in an amazingly flavourful spicy condiment (green harissa). And you know what's better? Green Harissa is also supposedly to a real metabolism booster. 

Smoked Chicken
smoked chicken with toum garlic whip & pickles

I have to be really honest about this, that I did not bother with tasting the pickles, nor the toum garlic whip. And that's because the chicken itself was just so damn good on its own, and it seems like adding any other condiment to it will not be doing it justice!
The flavourful flesh was so tender and juicy (yet not to the point of being slimey) that it got all of us hooked at first bite. Definitely a seemingly simple and basic dish that totally swept us off our feet.

Lamb Shoulder
twice cooked lamb in milk sauce

The twice cooked lamb are so soft and tender, that the flesh was literally just falling apart with just a poke of the fork, I kid you not. I'm quite a big fan of lamb/mutton to begin with, so the usual gamey-ness doesn't really bother me. But honestly speaking, even though this dish was definitely very rich and rather strong in flavour (it's lamb in milk sauce, do you expect anything mild?), it's not that particularly gamey. Well, at least, not for me. I just loved this!

Lastly, let's not forget the most important thing that sweeten up the deal. Desserts!

Soft Serve Ice Cream (Sea Salt Burnt Honey)

This was like salted caramel soft serve, but better! I always find that the sweetness of caramel comes with a sickly-sweet aftertaste, which was absent in this burnt honey flavour. Moreover, the sweetness of honey also has more depth to its flavour, giving this soft serve a more subtly exquisite taste.

Date Pudding

I always "eat" desserts with my eyes first, and I'm not going to lie that the appearance of this date pudding did disappoint me a little. But people, the existence of this date pudding is to teach you a very important (albeit cliche) life lesson: do not judge a book by its cover.
The date pudding was more of a bread pudding, sponge cake texture, that was obviously drenched (or rather, partially submerged) in a concoction of smoked milk custard sauce with sea salt and bits of coffee jelly, and then topped with cashew caramel and cocoa powder.
Sweetness level of this dessert was definitely on the high end, so if you're the kind of person who enjoys "not-so-sweet" sweet dessert, then the rich flavour of this date pudding might be an overkill for you.

Malabi Split

Now, this is the kind of dessert I would first feast with my eyes, then feed to my camera, before getting them all into my belly. However, the coconut vanilla pudding was very coconuty, which I'm definitely not a fan of, but would have gone well with the subtle peppery flavour of pink peppercorn and tangy flavour of the strawberry ice. I personally love the strawberry ice though. I mean, strawberries with a popsicle texture, what's not to love about that, right?

Artichoke is located at 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978
Opens Tuesday to Friday from 1600 - 2230 
Saturday & Sunday from 1130 - 2230

For more information, visit their FB page or Instagram  

Till then,
Mia Foo


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