Part II: Artichoke
Artichoke is the only modern Middle Eastern restaurant I've found in Singapore, but being unique is no reason to love a restaurant. I demand quality!
Artichoke was recommended to us by the chefs at Candlenut, and since they obviously know their way around great food, we trusted them.
I have no idea how Artichoke got the space they're in, but it's a welcome change from eating in another windowless mall basement. Flanked by malls and office towers, the restaurant is housed in a small spot next to a funky former church and an art studio, giving it an enclosed courtyard for diners to sit in.
The restaurant's interior is both bold and homey, much like the food itself. Most of the walls are covered in red and black patterned wallpaper, excluding the back chalkboard wall.
The menu is split into small mezze plates and larger shared plates. We started with three mezze, plus an order of fresh pita bread. The first plate was Beetroot Tzatziki, composed of sweet roasted beets topped with a pistachio dukka, a fat dollop of yogurt, and wormwood. Herbaceous, fresh, creamy—once it was all mixed up into an ugly looking mess, it was killer.
Following the tzatziki came the smoked anchovies. Seeing something smoked in Singapore is rare, so I couldn't resist. The dish was relatively straightforward and simple, with the anchovies resting over cherry tomatoes and olive oil, but the incorporation of seaweed 'caviar' and sumac really hit you with some extra umami.
The final mezze was not good for sharing, mostly because we were just fighting over who got to eat more of it. This was probably the best babaganoush I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Smokey eggplant mixed with sesame, yogurt, and, most importantly, a pomegranate molasses teriyaki. The way the tart sweetness paired with the smokey earthiness—it shut both of us up.
The waitress recommended we get two shared plates, a decision that was made difficult by the fact that all 12 dishes sounded great. The victory ultimately went to the housemade feta 'burrata' and the slow roasted lamb shoulder.
In hindsight, he amount of feta burrata we consumed is fairly disgusting. A mountain of the creamy, salty, sumptuous cheese was set over Turkish toast—a play on Texas toast—plus basil, tomatoes, and pomegranate seeds. It was like the slutty, sexy cousin of a caprese.
I am an absolute glutton for good lamb, especially when it's been braised. Up until this point, the slow roasted lamb shoulder at Kapnos in D.C. was my all-time favorite lamb dish...but that's all changed.
The lamb at Artichoke is absurd. It's a huge bowl filled with meat, tomatoes, dirty onions, zhoug coriander sauce, and a toum garlic sauce. The meat itself was as tender as can be, with a crispy bark on the outside. Once it was all mixed together into a meaty mess, it was just too good. In Pokemon terms, this was like a doner kebab that had reached final form.
To close things out, we had to try one of Artichoke's famed Neh Neh Pops. The Mango Sticky Rice screamed our name: chunk of mango mixed into a coconut rice pudding ice cream, dipped in white chocolate, then sprinkled with toasted coconut flakes and Rice Krispies.
Let that sink in.
It was so nice to be able to go somewhere with this quality of food in such a casual atmosphere. I had a hard time finding a restaurant where I could just hang out and have great food over there—most seemed to be good for one and not the other. Artichoke handled it swimmingly. If you're looking for a fun place to go for dinner, but don't want to miss out on incredible flavors, you must check out Artichoke.