Artichoke, Singapore: Dishing out Funky, Contemporary Vegetarian & Vegan Middle Eastern Food
There a few things that draw you to Artichoke instantly. Firstly, they call themselves a middle eastern inspired restaurant and are more than eager to let you know that their cuisine isn’t quite authentic. So, while the menu draws on middle-eastern flavours, it is far from traditional and that is the fun part. At the helm is chef-owner Bjorn Shen, who’s been slinging out plates of tasty food since 2010. Chef Bjorn has several accolades to his name, including Singapore’s Best 20 Chefs 2016 (World Gourmet Summit) and being resident judge for the inaugural Masterchef Singapore in 2018.
Located in the heart of Singapore’s Arts and Heritage district, Artichoke is housed in a brightly coloured yellow building. The signage is a wooden pallet propped by some crates and the place opens into a courtyard with relaxed seating, great music and a funky vibe. I loved the understated style of this restaurant; pretty much setting the mood and tone for the evening. I couldn’t wait to get started.
The perfect way to kick-off a meal at Artichoke is with some vegetarian Mezze. “Flooded Hummus”, Miso, Tehina, Skhug, Sultanas (S$12++) is a mildly spiced and tasty chickpea dip, we wiped the plate clean. The addition of sultanas, miso and Skhug is a nice twist that goes to show that Chef Bjorn is no stickler for the traditional. I have to admit that I just found out that Skhug is a hot sauce of chili pepper, garlic and coriander that finds its origin in Yemeni cuisine. *The hummus is vegan.
Beetroot Borani, 3-Nut Dukka, Dill is visually and aromatically appetising, the dish will surely win over even the beetroot skeptics on all counts. The sweetness of the beetroot blends well with the cream cheese, the end result being quite a treat. Don’t forget to order a Bread “Bag” of freshly baked Turkish bread to go with those dips.
Another great appetiser is Sea Asparagus, Labneh, Shallot, Buckwheat (S$12). The dish felt very fresh with minimal enhancements to the original flavour. The asparagus is flown in from Israel, it contains a lot of natural sea salt as it is grown on sea beds. I loved the flavours and the crunch that buckwheat adds.
An absolute gem at Artichoke is Turkish Eggplant “Imam Bayildi”, Pine Nuts, Yoghurt (S$12++). The dish of grilled eggplant on a tomato base is loaded with caramelised onions that create a tangy, sweet symphony. A must try for eggplant lovers (or not), this was one of the most loved dishes of the night. *Vegan.
Rounding up the appetisers was Abalone Mushroom, Fried Egg Puree and Parmesan – flavourful with the puree being surprisingly light.
Moving on to mains, Grilled Haloumi Cheese, Charred Cucumber Saksuka (S$22++) has big pieces of nicely grilled haloumi cheese on a bed of capsicum-onion-tomato-cucumber shakshouka, the fusion worked quite well for my taste buds.
Fried Cauliflower, Almonds, Whipped Sesame Tofu (S$20++) is a dish of deep-fried cauliflower, slightly sweetish and clearly power packed. The dish is topped with a dressing of whipped tofu and tahini and was another huge favourite at our table. *The dish is vegan.
Diana’s Tabbouleh of Pumpkin, Baby Corn, Beans, Yoghurt is a flavourful dish with a hearty philosophy behind it. This dish blends the 3 sisters of farming (crops that grow well side by side) — corn, beans and squash, with chopped fresh veggies, quinoa, mint and dill rounding up the ingredients. Also thrown in is fried quinoa to add some crunch. Although the dish is quite good, I would have preferred it sans the crunch. But then a friend loved the dish for its crunch. The tabbouleh comes topped with a tangy yogurt dressing that can be removed or served on the side upon request. *Can be done vegan upon request.
A dish that isn’t on the menu but was served as part of the day’s specials is Mushrooms Grilled & Skewered. The dish reminded me of back home, with its Indian influence. The mushrooms have a spicy after-taste and are pepped up further with a spicy “chutney” of coriander and mint. Yum!
Rounding off the mains and my absolute favourite dish of the day was Kushari – Egyptian Crazy Rice, Puffed Corn (S$16++). Another one of Chef Bjorn’s whacky creations, this rice indeed has a lot of crazy to it. Think rice mixed with lentils, macaroni and vermicelli, you heard me! Also mixed in are onions, parsley, spring onions and puffed corn. This is one fabulous dish of rice, that appealed to the biggest rice-critics in our group and was polished off in no time. *The dish is vegan.
What’s a good meal without a great dessert? The Date Pudding, Smoked Milk, Cashew Caramel, Coffee Jelly (S$16++) was a surprise, quite different from what we were expecting. The cake is soft and spongy, and sits pretty on a bed of smoked condensed milk with a generous addition of coffee jelly and caramel. The milk was a tad too sweet for me, but the sweet lovers rejoiced.
Overall, Artichoke was an amazing experience; so much so that I was disappointed with myself that I hadn’t discovered this gem before. They serve a great weekend brunch but they tend to be packed, so make sure you book in advance. The casual seating, the fun vibe, detailing of the food, the exciting taste and textures and the attentive service made our experience top notch. The restaurant has a great selection of vegetarian and vegan grub and is a great place for communal dining. Where possible, dishes can be customised to accommodate dietary restrictions.
Artichoke is not your regular hangout; Chef Bjorn challenges the ordinary and provides you with a menu and experience that is unique and truly worth going back for.
Artichoke: 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978. P: +65 6336 6949, Website
Preethi & Ganesh are our favourite writer-photographer duo. While Preethi is juggling two hats being mom to a naughty and adorable three-nager, and working as a HR Marketer; Ganesh is a Technology Sales Professional by week and a sports enthusiastic and passionate photographer over the weekend. While Preethi is a foodie, music lover, ardent toastmaster and a travel buff; Ganesh enjoys running (6 full marathons and counting) and plays cricket for a Singapore League team. Luckily for us, they share a common love for all things food (as long as its vegetarian) and enjoy working together on articles – his captures add the spice to her words.