Where we dined this week...
It's been nine years since Bjorn Shen created his own little world of Middle-Eastern fare, that's well not the most authentic spot if you had actually dined there before. And if you haven't, you should definitely re-evaluate your dining choices. On closer inspection, Artichoke is in fact, what Shen's bedroom would look like in a perfect world. It's adorned with references from the most ludicrous (yet very essential) films like You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Stepbrothers, and many more. Nine years on, it's still where most people would return to, again, and again — for good laughs, revelry, and smashing grub. And there are brand new additions to savour, beginning with the mezze. From beetroot borani to a creamy garlic hummus with locally farmed abalone mushrooms, your meal will definitely start off moreish — especially with the bag of Turkish loaves that come with. A certain sea asparagus dish made a striking impression, which comes from Israel and tossed in shallot oil, sprinkled with black pepper and pickled garlic. Shen's crab toast is also the answer to replacing your atypical eggs benedict; it looks just as good, but tastes better. The blue swimmer meat is plied with Greek yoghurt, mayo, chopped chives, and served atop housebaked brioche buns. For more umami, deep-fried chicken skin and ikura complete the dish. Grain bowls? Artichoke comes through with a medley of rocket, onions, lentils, mint, puffed corn, deep-fried cauliflower and basmati rice. It might not be the most Instagrammable dish, but a generous pour of shallot oil certainly made this wholesome mix a winner. Thankfully, while quite a few old-time faves have been replaced in this new menu, the green Harissa prawns are still a mainstay. Clearly, it's hard to find anywhere that serves freshly-grilled prawns sizzling in a pan with a beautiful rich green sambal. It's bold, spicy, and will leave you sniffling. If you're more of a brunch person, call for the chicken kebab, rubbed with a deft combination of spices and cooked over coal. Next to it, laid a side of cabbage salad and a dollop of garlic sauce. Like how we remembered Artichoke to be, there's also a tinge of madness in some of the dishes — like a brunch plate decked with crispy lamb floss and a sunny-side up. It's radical and not to mention, almost like a heart attack on a plate. But is it worth it? Well, yes, if you're into greasy crunchy lamb bits making its way onto a toasted Turkish bread slice. For sweets, besides the signature date pudding, we found our new favourite — a Baklava cheesecake, as light and airy that a cheesecake should be. Treated with rhubarb, topped with toasted pistachios, orange blossom honey, and dried edible rose petals to which Shen references as a smell that reminds you of kissing your grandmother's face. Sounds just about right, from the man himself. —JS
Hero dish: Cauliflower Kushari
Estimated calories: 302
161 Middle Road, Tel: 6336 6949
Opening hours: (Tues-Fri) 4pm-9.45pm, (Sat-Sun) 11.30am-2.45pm, 4pm-9.45pm
There's a certain joy in reaping sophisticated dishes for a fee that's priced close to what you would get at a fast casual chain. The Masses, helmed by chef Dylan Ong, rises up to that order. And yes, there are no frills to this place - it's humbly furbished but easy on the eyes - just like most places we know. Except that this spot is backed up by inventive dishes of European techniques, repped with Asian flavours. A defining narrative that has set The Masses apart, from well the rest, with celebrities flocking in — from local actress Sheila Sim to frontman of Death Cab for Cutie, Benjamin Gibbard who dined there recently (led by local songbird Charlie Lim) during the band's gig in Singapore this year. At The Masses, it's hard to keep up with the revolving menu, which is in its eighth iteration, given that the restaurant has only been around for 30 months. A restless culinary directive you can definitely resonate with after meeting Ong, who is as spunky and effervescent that a chef can be. A set of tea eggs start off the meal, that are delightfully soft, bouncy, and infused in a piquant tea broth. Adorning the golden halves are also caviar, yellow ebiko, and a touch of olive oil. For texture, the eggs are served over a bed of potato chips. To pay tribute to his Teochew lineage, Ong created a pork trotter jelly, that's inspired by terrine. And while the idea of cold pork trotters might be too much of a risky thing to order, his interpretation borders on a tart refresher, instead of a gamey mess. The chilled pork belly and gelatinous pig's skin is treated well with crunchy chicharron and a chili sauce sorbet to brighten things up. This wave of additions also rings in an all-new foie gras dish — one that's deep fried and wrapped in a spring roll. It's crisp and fragrant, with spot-on condiments like hoisin sauce, shallots marmalade, and lemon rind to balance out the flavours. Those who are wary of lamb, don't be here. Ong does a mean homemade char siew sauce that is the very essence to the Australian lamb rib — along with the char from some valued time on the binchotan grill. Caramelised and fork tender, you can easily savour this on its own. But if you're looking for more bursts of surprises, dunk each slab in a dip made from mint and sour cream. —JS
Hero dish: Deep fried foie gras spring roll
Estimated calories: 391
85 Beach Road, #01-02, Tel: 6266 0061
Opening hours: (Sun, Mon, Tues, Thurs) 12pm-10pm, (Wed, Fri, Sat)12pm-12am
Trattoria Pizzeria Logic
Joining a sparse stable of restaurants offering authentic Italian fare is, surprisingly, a new pizza chain from Japan. Yes, we thought the same — could a Japanese chain really serve up authentic Neapolitan pizza? The answer is a resounding yes. The Japanese are known for their perfectionism and dedication to craft, so we weren't surprised when informed that the Pizzaolio behind their recipes was Junichi Shoji, the 2012 winner of the Napoli Pizza World Championship; Grand Chef Atsushi Terashima was also trained in Tuscany, allowing him insight into crafting authentic Italian cuisine. Chef Shoji's expertise was beautifully translated into the first pizza of the day, their signature pizza margherita D.O.C. The woodfire baked crust achieved an immaculate ratio between airy crispiness and chewiness, and their mozzarella, basil and cherry tomatoes are top notch, evident from the D.O.C. label which indicates adherence to stringent guidelines for imported ingredients and preparation methods laid out by the Italian government — talk about authentic. The other pizza we tried was the pizza leone that was specially made for Singapore taste buds, containing ricotta, ham, jalapeno and... pineapple. Regardless of personal opinions on the validity of pineapple as a pizza topping, this exclusive was intriguing with its mix of sweetness and spiciness. Beyond their specialty of pizza, Logic also has a good pasta selection, with our favourite being their paccheri with Neapolitan meat sauce. The meat sauce was rich, and the accompanying meatball and short ribs were immensely flavourful with perfect-cooked textures. However, we found the pasta a tad chewy. They also offer an array of delectable Italian desserts, including a decadent tiramisu that delivered strong whiffs of coffee and cocoa aroma — a satisfying end to the meal. — EM
Hero dish: Pizza margherita D.O.C.
Estimated calories: 190 per slice
20 Craig Rd, #01-03, Tel: 6226 2250
Opening hours: (Mon-Sat) 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm, (Sun) 12pm-3pm, 5pm-10pm
Where we're looking to dine...
White collared workers at Raffles Place will be familiar with its previous name 'Osteria Art', the classy Italian restaurant has just underwent through a rebranding. While the interior has yet to be rehashed, the menu definitely has, making way for more fusion fuelled East meets West flavours. Michellin-star head chef Beppe de Vito has also cut the menu options in half, now with lunch and dinner tasting options, with the aim to focus more on quality in the trattoria.
1 St Andrew's Rd, #05-03
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 12noon to 2.30pm, 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Saturday: 6.30pm to 10.30pm
The newest watering hole to be introduced to the COMO Dempsey repertoire, COMO Club will be one to please for light bites and aperitif drinks to whet your appetite. Situated in Dempsey Road alongside fan-favourites of COMO Cuisine and The Dempsey Cookhouse, it offers a Michelin-starred menu that is a combination of tapas-styled dishes from its sister restaurants. Perfect for a pre-dinner nibble or weekend brunch.
Block 17 Dempsey Road
Opening hours: 12 pm - 3.30 pm (Lunch on Mon to Sun), 6 pm - 10 pm (Dinner on Sun to Thurs) or 6 pm - 10.30 pm (Dinner on Fri to Sat)
*All calorie tabulations are derived from MyFitnessPal and are estimated per serving.