I've resisted going to Artichoke, despite hearing rave reviews all over. You see, I'm not a big fan of lamb, nor herbs like cilantro/parsley/coriander leaves, all of which feature heavily in Artichoke's menu of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Despite the initial reticence, I still went there anyway, and kept an open mind. Dinner fortuitously turned out surprisingly awesome. There was a deft finesse about the food at Artichoke, with a harmonious mesh of flavours and a refined symmetry in everything. For sure Artichoke's going down as one of 2016's bests eats.
PSA: For first-timers to Artichoke, it's at the junction of Waterloo Street and Middle Road; the little restaurant is tucked away in a nook behind this bright yellow heritage chalet-looking building, opposite Fortune Centre and next to the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations ("SCWO") along Waterloo Street. Park along Waterloo Street or Fortune Centre.
A must-try, the Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder ($38), drenched in a toum garlic sauce studded with tomatoes and dirty onions, was pure heaven. It was sumptuous and hearty and rich but balanced, with meat so soft it practically fell off the bone. Lamb-lovers (that's you, Izzy), take note; this was one of the very best lamb I've ever had in my life.
The Wagyu Beef Intercostals ($30) was exquisite, the riblets were twice-cooked for maximum flavour and succulence, spiked with pink peppercorns, chermoula spices, and dirty onions, and sided by a green chilli harissa dip.
The Smoked Chicken ($30), succulent and perfumed with the heady scent of the grill, was set atop a coriander-leaves tainted baharat cous cous and refreshed by toum garlic whip. This was quite the hit as well.
The luscious Chargrilled Duroc Pork Collar ($28) cooked shish-kebab style was a perfect shade of pink and refreshed by a chilly cucumber basil cacik.
The Greenland Halibut Fish Fingers ($28), coated thinly in a chickpea batter, and sided by a moreish squid ink tartare and fruity pomegranate ketchup, was obsessively good.
The Hot Skillet Prawns ($38) was a quartet of humongous prawns, fat and swimmingly fresh, drenched in saucy green chilli harissa cream, and sprinkled with fried onions and coriander. So good even I braved the coriander and lapped this up.
The Duck Adana Kebab Tacos ($18 per pair) may not have received the same amount of love as the preceding dishes, but I liked it well enough. It was texturally meaty, and its intense potency was countered by crisp apple strips, shaved radish, a drizzling of lively garlic chive oil and creamy avocado hummus.
To break up the monotony of the meat-centric meal, we had the Charred Broccoli ($16) strewn with a piquant hodgepodge of miso vinaigrette, crumbed feta, pickled garlic, pickled shimeiji and mint. So good we ordered seconds.
Whoever said brussel sprouts are the worst have never had tabbouleh, and in particular, Artichoke's Brassica Tabbouleh ($18), a platter of blistered spheres tossed with cauliflower grains, pickled roasted red onions, almonds and topped with a good dollop of labneh ranch. Absolutely scrumptious stuff.
The Hummus ($8) a blend of chickpea and tahini topped with pickled cucumber and radish and a light shower of sumac spice, was superb too, and addictively good with the freshly baked Pita Bread ($4.50 for 2).
Another superb mezze was the Fresh Figs ($10) which juicy sweetness was enhanced by creamy goat's cheese, pomegranate glaze, and za'atar.
Artichoke also has a decent wine list; we got a Zenato Valpolicella ($72.50) at the waiter's recommendation, a medium-bodied Italian red that paired beautifully with the lamb and fish.
Artichoke Cafe & Bar
161 Middle Road
Tel: 6336 6949
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 6.30pm to 9.30pm for dinner;
Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for brunch; 6.30pm to 9.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for brunch only;
Closed on Mondays