Restaurant Review: Communal Dining Continues To Be Exciting At Artichoke With Its Marvellous Middle Eastern Cuisine
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And leading the culinary force is newly-minted judge of the upcoming MasterChef Singapore Chef Bjorn Shen
It was sad news for all fried chicken fans when Bird Bird flew its coop late of last year with no plans of returning. The highly-competitive culture of the restaurant business is seemingly the reason behind the fried chicken joint’s closure, as further elaborated by its owner-Chef Bjorn Shen that “seven in 10 restaurants and cafés in Singapore don’t make it past the first couple of years”.’
But like they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
For Chef Bjorn, who has since shrugged the setback of Bird Bird aside, it was perhaps giving him a breather of time to take on the newly-appointed role as one of three judges on the inaugural MasterChef Singapore, set to premiere in September 2018. He stars alongside Audra Morrice, an ex-judge on MasterChef Asia, and Damian D’Silva, Executive Chef of Eurasian-Peranakan restaurant Folklore.
While destined for greater things, the grinning chef’s affectionate for his first-born of Artichoke remains boundless, seeing how he has returned to the funky dining abode to give you a taste of his self-coined culinary style of ‘dudestronomy’ through a parade of Middle Eastern dishes.
It is wise to kick things off with Artichoke’s mezze dips. With favourites such as smoked eggplant-based Babaganoush ($10) and the spicy chickpea-based Burnt Miso Hummus ($10) still on the menu, we made room in our hearts for the new and appetising Iraqi Spiced Mushrooms ($12) of fried egg puree, topped with shaved parmesan.
Mentaiko Taramasalata ($18)
Our only gripe is the need of ordering the kinda-compulsory Turkish bread ($4.50) to go with the mezze dips. Therefore, the Mentaiko Taramasalata ($18) makes for a fitting alternative, where you get to slather two slabs of charcoal-fired garlic bread with luscious cod roe dip. The saltiness of the roe and the garlic punch of the bread were a match-made in heaven.
Still on the topic of divine dips and awesome sauces, order the Hot Skillet Prawns ($38), where massive prawns are presented swimming in a gloriously piquant green harissa. Pro tip: Save some bread for the harissa. You’d want to mop every drop up.
For carnivores, Artichoke’s serves up a mean selection of meats to quell that bloodlust.
The Lambgasm ($240)
Go big with The Lambgasm ($240) – a massive hunk of 2.5kg bone-in lamb shoulder that is slow-cooked till fall-of-the-bone tender. Opting for this meaty dish (a three-day advanced order is required) may also treat you to Chef Bjorn’s big personality, who personally come bearing the lamb in a silver platter, before indulging you with the theatrics of tearing the meat apart and showering the now-shredded pieces with a fistful of seasoning. The ‘smelly’ lamb flavour is subtle in this one, which may either delight or disappoint based on your personal preference. Those who prefer a more punchy lamb dish will certainly take delight in the Lamb Adana ($28), where it gives the Turkish kebab justice with meat that is juicy and oh-so flavourful.
Other meaty delights to keep an eye out for are the Iberico Pork Collar ($34) doused with Coca-Cola caramel, alongside BJ’s Favourite Steak ($36) that baptised a beefy Australian flank in za’atar butter.
Baklava Croissants ($7 per piece)
Whipped with honey and pelted with a fistful of pistachio bits, Artichoke’s beastly Baklava Croissants ($7 per piece) serves as a sweet conclusion where we were granted of the pastry’s flavours and textures. The restaurant bakes its Greek pastries daily, each touting sturdier, yet still very buttery layers for a gratifyingly change from the usual flaky iterations. Not bad for a midday pick-me-up, if you happened to be in the neighbourhood.
Address: 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978
Contact No.: 6336 6949