Artichoke Cafe & Bar – Moorish Weekend Brunch

24 08 2014

With cafe culture quickly catching on in Singapore, it’s getting real difficult to find a decent weekend brunch spot that doesn’t have a constant horde of diners waiting in line and breathing down your neck. In fact, I’m literally scratching my head on where to go for Sunday brunch tomorrow with no reservations. It’s times like this when one returns to spots that are tried and tested, where hype has gradually died down through the years.

I have been to Artichoke on 2 or 3 other occasions for dinner and have not been disappointed yet. It’s one of the few cafes in Singapore that dish out Moorish cuisine, which share some similarities and elements from dishes in North Africa, Middle East and the Mediterranean.

I’m a sucker for any brunch item on the menu that has stewed or baked eggs, so I ordered the Lamb Shakshouka ($26++) that was a lovely mess of stewed Eggs, tomato sauce, roast lamb, kashkaval cheese (a type of sheep cheese), pistachio dukka (a powdery mix of nuts and spices), eaten with pita. I swore I tasted hints of curry inside as well and it worked out to be an amazingly hearty dish.  The only downside (if at all), is the fact that it was too heavy a brunch dish and I left about 1/4 of it unfinished.

My dining counterpart R had the Cauliflower Sabbich ($22++), a cute construction of fried cauliflower, smoked egg, hummus, labneh (yoghurt), israeli salad, truffled tahini (sesame dip), zhoug (a spicy relish made from herbs, parsley and chili), over a serving of pita. The flavor packs a punch and for a moment, made me forget that this was almost an entirely vegetarian dish, which I would have normally steered clear from.

Grilled Haloumi Cheese ($10++)

Of course, no meal here is complete without the Date Pudding ($14++), served with burnt milk custard, coffee jelly, peanut caramel and smoked salt. It’s one of the signature dishes here and has been on the menu for as long as I can remember. Definitely something that I always look forward to when visiting Artichoke and one of my recommendations to anyone asking for where to get a memorable date pudding experience.

Artichoke Cafe & Bar

161 Middle Road, Sculpture Square, Singapore 188978 

Tel: +65 6336 6949

Original Sin – Going Vegetarian for Once

12 03 2013

While I’d like to think myself as a rather adventurous foodie, I always chose to steer away from one particular type of cuisine; vegetarian. I guess the perception that vegetables taste bad still holds true for most people. For me at least, my daily intake of vegetables is purely for the sole purpose of playing the role of roughage. My recent visit to Original Sin however did make rethink the validity of such a loosely accepted notion.

Having been around for the past 14 years, Original Sin has established itself as one of the most well-known vegetarian eateries around. It offers Mediterranean cuisine that surprisingly rivals even non-vegetarian Mediterranean restaurants I have been to in both tastiness and quality.

We started off with the Mezze Platter ($22++), which is a typical Middle Eastern selection of dips, in this case consisting of Hummus (a dip made from chickpea), pumpkin & carrot dip, Baba Ganoush (an eggplant dip), Yogurt tzatziki, Falafal balls (A deep fried patty made from chickpea), served with pita bread. On the whole, it was pretty good, especially the Baba Ganoush that had a heavier than usual garlicky taste that I liked and the pita bread which was served freshly baked and crisp.

The Magic Mushroom ($18++) was a baked Portobello mushroom with ricotta cheese, spinach, pesto, topped with a tomato basil sauce and mozzarella. It came across as more Italian than Mediterranean but still made for a simple delightful starter.

The pan fried Haloumi ($18++) served with salad greens, roasted capsicum, lentils, cucumber and mint salad was my favourite dish of the meal. Haloumi is a type of Cheese and tasted similar to savoury fried fish roe, both in terms of taste and texture and went well with the starchy lentils.

For Mains, we had the Vegetable Tandoori ($26++), which was a dish of char-grilled button mushroom, brinjal, capsicum, onion and tofu marinated in tandoori spices served with yoghurt, mango chutney and rice. Pretty decent with a moderate spice level.

The Bosco Misto ($26++) was very tasty as well. It was basically spinach, feta and tofu patties, coated with crushed almonds and sesame seeds, served with asparagus in a button mushroom plum sauce. The patties reminded me of flavourful crispy croquettes and I loved it.

My least favourite was the Capsicum Quinoa ($26++), or roasted capsicum stuffed with spiced quinoa, carrot, chickpea and mint with tzatiki, pickled grape, onion, cherry tomato and olive salad. Compared to the other mains, the flavours from this dish was a lot more subdued, with the yoghurt more or less drowning out most of the other flavours. Having had the tzatiki from the mezza platter earlier on, this felt rather boring.

The Hazelnut Chocolate Cake ($12++) came highly recommended from our host. It was a good recommendation indeed and despite using dark chocolate, the cake boasted a familiar taste that I likened to Kinder Bueno, probably because of the crispy hazelnut base that felt similar to the crunch you get when you bite into a Kinder Bueno.

The Tiramisu ($12++) didn’t fare quite as well. It wasn’t unpalatable but personally, I found the bitterness accruing from the coffee to be a little too intense.

The meal felt totally atypical for a vegetarian meal. I was surprisingly stuffed and honestly if I had a blindfold on, it would have been difficult to tell that no meat was used in the making of the meal with the highly interactive textures and flavours of the various ingredients used. I guess for once, I wouldn’t mind going vegetarian.

Special thanks to Original Sin for the invitation and hosting the meal.

Original Sin

43 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-62

Tel: +65 6475 5605

Artichoke Cafe + Bar – Putting Moorish Cuisine on the Singapore Map

27 11 2011

“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.

Stuffed Piquillos

Manzanilla Olives and White Anchovies

Beetroot Tzatziki with Dukkah

Hanger Steak with Romesco Sauce

Chickpea & Pork Stew with Blood Sausage

Lamb Shoulder with Toum Garlic Sauce

Bon Appetit!

Artichoke Cafe + Bar

161 Middle Road

Tel: +65 6336 6949

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant – Light-hearted Turkish Cuisine

5 01 2011

Having walked around City Hall possibly thousands of times, you’d think you know all the eating places there but today, I would like to introduce to you one that you would probably not have heard of before – Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant.

One reason why you would probably not have heard of it or seen it is because it is located in Shaw Towers, opposite Suntec City, with super low human traffic, apart from meal times of course where workers around the vicinity would throng down as there are really quite a few reasonably priced eateries here offering very decent food, one of which I would like to highlight would be Ah Loy Thai (my current favourite Thai eatery in Singapore) where u can pig out for much less than $15.

I’m no connoisseur of Turkish cuisine. I only recall having eaten at Sofra once previously and at some other Turkish restaurant in Haji Lane so to me, Turkish food is more or less just Hummus(Chickpea Puree) and Kebabs and that’s more or less what me and my friends ordered.

The Hummus($4.20) doesn’t come with bread so you have to purchase it separately. I would estimate that for every one serving of hummus, 1.5 to 2 servings of the Turkish Bread($2.70) would suffice. I like the Hummus here, it’s really pretty smooth and consistent, looking and even tasting somewhat like Tuna though somehow I prefer the former. The Turkish Bread is also freshly toasted upon ordering so you will never encounter it stale and rubbery.

I ordered the Sultan Kebap($12.50), which was “Mildly Spiced Lamb served with Baked Cheese & Mashed Potatoes”. I had this on my previous visit as well and I have grown quite fond of it. It’s reminiscent of a western lamb stew with very palatable soft and creamy mash.

Being spoilt for choice given the extensiveness of the Menu, KY and M each ordered the Sofra Kebap($15.50). After all, what could be better than ordering a dish with the Restaurant name on it right? I’m less of a bread person than a rice or mash person so I wouldn’t order this as it is actually “Freshly Baked Bread filled with Meat, Walnut, Eggplant, Tomato and Cheese” with a choice of either mixed Beef and Lamb or Chicken for the meat filling. On first bite, you might find this pretty awesome but given the serving size of this dish, it can get pretty dry and boring after a while so I would advise sharing this instead of fighting this battle alone.

T had the Adana Kebap($14.80), comprising of “Spiced Minced Meat over Fire”, with a choice of Mixed Beef & Lamb or Lamb or Chicken as the choice of Meat. Normally, you would find fire cooked meat dry but I felt quite differently about the Adana Kebap which was still pretty moist on cooking. Instead of using skewers, the meat is pierced using a dagger instead, adding dramatism to this dish.

Last but not least, I also had the humble pleasure of sampling the Iskender Kebap($12.80), consisting of “Fine Thin Slices of Doner Kebap with Homemade Crispy Bread in Sofra Special Sauce” with a choice of the Mixed Beef and Lamb or Chicken as the Kebap Meat. Also a decent dish, it’s what I would like to call the Turkish answer to the Chinese Sweet and Sour Meats.

Having a meal here is comparatively cheaper than dining over at most restaurants in Suntec, Marina Square etc, and having the privilege of living in a multicultural society, what’s the harm of stepping out of our comfort zones and trying something different once in a while?

Bon Appetit!



TEL: +65 6291 1433

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