“We believe that the most enjoyable meals are those that are shared. These thoughts are reflected in our menu, which is made up of communal shared plates.
So round up a bunch of people, order a mix of dishes, and enjoy a little bit of this and a little bit of that, rather than 25 bites of the same thing. Feel free to order more than once.”
This pretty much sums up the dining concept behind Artichoke Cafe…
Artichoke Cafe’s premises used to house the now-defunct My Secret Garden and while the restaurant has changed, the interior remains very much the same as before, minimalistic and uncluttered. Like The White Rabbit @ Dempsey, the compound housing Artichoke used to be a small chapel as well, adding to the surreal tranquility and serenity echoing throughout the premises.
Artichoke is helmed by Chef Bjorn Shen, whose fiery passion and masterful cooking shows up evidently in his successful endeavor, effectively putting Moorish Cuisine on the Singapore map. There’s no easy explanation to Moorish Cuisine, a cuisine borne of diverse sources and if you are just slightly more attentive, you might just be able to pick out the African, Middle Eastern and even Spanish influences.
We started off with Moorish Dips ($16+), a tasting of 3 Arabian dips with bread. My favourite was the Roasted Carrot Dip, sweetly spiced with cumin, rosewater and walnuts. The Labneh or Homemade Yoghurt Cream Cheese with house blended Za’atar was good as well, not to sour and extra creamy. From their glossary, I found out that Za’atar refers to a fragrant condiment made from sesame seeds, sumac wild thyme. The third dip is the Hummus, or Chickpea puree with tahini (sesame paste), lemon and sumac. It’s decent but I have had smoother ones elsewhere (thinking of Sofra Turkish Cuisine).
Upon request of C, the Forgotten Grain Salad ($15+) has now returned back on their menu. It’s a really healthy dish, made up of an observable mixture of Wild Rice, Cracked Wheat, Quinoa, Pomegrenate, Nuts, Capers and Sunflower Seeds. Personally, it reminds me much of hamster food for the health conscious for whom I am not.
A dinner special scribbled on the chalkboard not part of the regular menu, Chef Bjorn was kind enough to offer us a complimentary Spiced Chickpea & Spinach Stew with Crumbled Feta Cheese ($15+).
A new item on their menu, Artichoke’s Char-Grilled Local Calamari ($22+) with Cucumber, Aioli & Lime is one of the best renditions of squid I have ever had, springy, juicy and zesty. Marinated with their own ras el hanout (literally means “top of the shop” or the best blend of spices a spice vendor has to offer), this is really the bomb!
We see some Spanish influence from the Pan-Roasted Red Snapper Fillets with Piquillo Pepper Salsa ($28+). The skin is seared well and the fish is fresh.
Admit it, we all have a weakness for Mac & Cheese ($40+). The one served here is an upgraded version though, containing tender Stewed Beef, Kashkaval Cheese, Organic Mushroom and a hint of White Truffle Oil. Whole baby vine tomatoes scattered in the dish helps relieve any excess cheesiness and the portion is large enough to be shared amongst 2-3 pax as a main.
The Date Pudding ($14+) here has officially become my favourite dessert around. Served with Smoked Milk Custard, Cocoa, Peanut Caramel & Sea Salt, it deviates slightly off track from the simple warm sticky date pudding with caramel sauce.
The Homemade Baklava ($15+) is a Sweet Arabic Pastry with Almonds, Pistachio, Walnuts, Filo Pastry, Honey Syrup & Orange Blossom Honey Gelato. Tasting much like Honey Stars with the crunchy nuts and honey gelato, it was fantastic as well though all 5 of us had a preference for the date pudding.
This concluded one of my most memorable meals this year and I’m positive I will be back in a jiffy.
SMU Gourmet Club organized a dinner event at Artichoke Cafe about 2 months back which I attended as well but have yet to post on. So the 2nd half of this post will be mainly pictorial to give you a better sense of what else Artichoke has to offer.
Artichoke Cafe + Bar
161 Middle Road
Tel: +65 6336 6949