This Middle-Eastern restaurant is actually quite hidden as it is not exactly visible from the main road. My advice is that once you have seen Objectifs, which is a visual arts centre in Singapore and is visible from the main road, turn into it and you’ll see it. Artichoke.
We sat down with Bjorn Shen, the head chef and founder of Artichoke, to find out more about this quirky fresh restaurant.
He started out Artichoke in 2010 – it’s unique then and still relevant today. Shen is also a thrifty fella. He only uses second-hand equipments and furnitures (which is why the furnitures are quite mismatched), how thrifty!
So we asked, with the popularity of cafes in Singapore, why Middle Eastern food? Interestingly, most of his middle-eastern cooking was not learnt in the Middle East, but was learnt from his Middle Eastern friends’ mothers. He would learning how to cook their unique Middle-Eastern dishes during their visit when he was studying in Australia. He has learnt how to cook Persian and Arabian food, and even worked as a sous-chef in a Greek restaurant in Australia.
The funniest story would have to be how he came up with the name of the restaurant. “We couldn’t get a name that everyone could agree on. So I grabbed the Food: The Definitive Guide Book, which is basically a food encyclopaedia. I closed my eyes, open a page randomly, and the first word that I landed on was… ‘Beginning’. But no. So I tried a second time and it landed on the word “artichoke”, and that’s how we came up with the restaurant’s name.”
Middle Eastern food may be hard to appreciate, so what Shen did was “shut out the parts that we think Singaporeans will not like” and add only the good parts. The result? Phenomenal. I actually genuinely loved every single dish that we were served here. We tried their Brunch menu here which we heard is superb.
The Cauliflower Sabbich ($23++) has got to be the best dish here. I also heard it’s actually a Brunch favourite and customers love it too. What’s so good about a dish that has cauliflowers you might think, but it’s exactly because of the fried cauliflowers that brings out that smokey flavour of the dish, , smoked egg, hummus, labneh, Israeli salad (sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes & schumech which is dried berries) truffled tahini, coriander zhoug (green), pita bread –> brunch favourite
The Lamb Shakshouka ($26++) is another of the regulars’ favourite. Served in a sizzling skillet, this Middle Eastern dish consists of slow cooked lamb shoulder, 2 baked eggs topped with spiced tomato sauce, green chilli harissa and kewpie yoghurt! It even comes with pita bread for you to dip into that savoury sauce.
How can an eggplant dish look this good? You’ll be surprised to know that this dish tastes palatable as well! The Imam Bayildi ($23++) is actually traditionally known as roasted eggplants stuffed with garlic, tomatoes and onions. This dish tries to switch it up a notch by adding mushrooms from our local Kranji farm, haloumi cheese, lavosh crackers and a bed of burnt pepper sauce.
There’s simply no bad dish here at Artichoke, because our last dish tastes heavenly as well. The Bacon & Crab Toast ($25++) consists of spiced crab pate with a rare thick slab of maple glazed bacon, along with a fried egg atop a piece of rye sourdough. What makes this dish unique is the nori harissa (Tunisian chilli pepper paste) which is a blend of chillis with other ingredients to make this dish extra flavourful and appetising!
Why not order some drinks to cool yourself after eating all these insanely good and savoury dishes? You can try their signature Artichoke Lemonade ($6++) which is a blend of lemon juice and strawberries that is sure to quench your thirst!
If you’re looking for a glass of alcohol, you can also try a nice glass of Sangria (1 glass: $11++/ Full bottle: $45++) which matches perfectly with their Brunch menu!
If you haven’t tried Middle-Eastern food, this is a good place to start.
161 Middle Road
Dinner: Tue-Sat (6:30pm – 10:30pm)
Brunch: Sat & Sun (11:30pm-3:30pm)