Middle Eastern Deliciousness

Middle Eastern Deliciousness

Featuring Artichoke, Sideways, Wheeler's Estate, Pita Pan (Marina Bay Sands), Fat Prince, Tabbouleh (Arab Street), The Ottomani, Le Bistrot de l'Olive, House Of Kebab, Nefertiti Restaurant & Cafe
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

MEDIA TASTING
For some reason, this dish of Sea Asparagus has taken up permanent residence in my head ever since I had a taste of it.
I must admit, I didn’t expect to get so hung up on the innocuous looking thing but the taste of those scallion oil-tossed briney, crunchy and succulent strands from the salt marshes of Israel with creamy labneh, pickled garlic slices, freshly ground black pepper and buckwheat is something I can’t forget.
A trip back to Artichoke needs to happen soon I reckon.

LAUNCH DINNER PARTY

The @FatPrinceSg has fattened so to speak, having taken over the space that use to house its sibling - The Ottomani. To celebrate the expansion, a party was thrown and many beautiful people made up the guest list. And then there was me, who accepted the invitation from the GM Mike Pekarsky and Accela the PR agency because I was curious about the food.

As the space is designed for groups to chill out over food and drinks, the menu of modern Middle Eastern dishes are formatted to be shared. Ordering the following would undoubtedly make for an enjoyable dinner:

1. Cured Salmon Crudo - I loved how the unexpected sweetness from the pomegranate molasses and smoked date purée complemented the fish.

2. Roasted Candied Beetroot with preserved lemon, mulled honey, smoked yoghurt and Ottoman spice - A lovely appetiser of the bright and juicy vein.

3. Eggplant Meet Yoghurt - Accompanied by Turkish flatbread and sprinkled with sultana raisins, the dip has a smokiness which is beguiling.

4. Duck Pastilla - All were very impressed by the delicious creation of thin filo pastry filled with shredded confit duck, vegetables and almonds. Served hot, it was plated with a carrot purée and duck jus.

5. Lamb Shoulder - Seasoned in Turkish spices, then braised overnight in the specially-built earth oven fueled by charcoal and lychee wood, the star dish of The Ottomani now calls the Fat Prince home. Lamb-lovers, you should rejoice.

6. Charred Shishito - Even if you are only having drinks, get this pan of mini chilli peppers with anchovy, preserved lemon and walnut to nibble.
7. Couscous with Crunchy Chicken Skin - Clever combo of lemon juice-dressed grains with pieces of deepfried sinfulness.

8. Chocolate Halva - A thick chocolate mousse embellished in spiced pumpkin, cacao nibs and almond tuille layer - decadence in every bite.

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H O S T E D
Things heat up when you get to the main course in the NEW Modern Middle Eastern set menu at The Ottomani.
Designed for sharing, there is a delightful sounding vegetarian option that showcases local roots, sweet potato dumplings and acuka (a type of walnut and pepper paste - thanks google!) but as always, it is the meats that draw me more. For selection are Tiberias Snapper, Omega lamb shoulder, 150-day-aged Beef Brisket and Kurobuta pork collar. They are all pit-roasted, a process that imbues them with a distinctive smokiness that adds to their overall flavour.
Shown above is the pork collar. It’s actually served uncut but I wanted to show what the blackened hunk of meat looks like on the inside. Having been marinated in Turkish coffee and Szechuan pepper, this leaner cut is not exactly very moist but it is cooked till tender and possesses a caramelised sweetness and quiet heat. Make sure to swoosh each piece through the puddle of zhoug to feel the fireworks of bright spiciness in the mouth as you chew on it.

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Every meal here starts with a complimentary piece of bread and smoked date butter, both housemade. The bread is chewy and fragrant but that spread is the real scene-stealer. It’s like butter that got all hot and bothered with a really sexy jam. What’s more, the smokiness even manages to finds its way up your olfactory passages as you munch on the bread and butter.

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Stupendous hummus alert.
With smoked jalapeños and plenty of garlic amping it up, this housemade beauty is a real diva amongst wallflowers. Unabashed and fabulous, she will stomp your tastebuds in her heels. And you’ll be begging for more.
The price is inclusive of two pieces of woodfired sourdough baked fresh daily on the premises and trust me, they’re very good.
If you want extra bread to mop up the hummus, you have a choice of more sourdough, or opt for pita bread or Turkish bread instead. They each cost $4+.

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After a big Friday/Saturday night out, when your hangover is calling out for something substantial but you don't want anything meaty, this concoction would do nicely.
Artichoke's "Ful Medames" is a vegetarian bean stew that's pumped up with spices, pickles, tahini lemon dressing and fermented butter. Plonked in that pan of mooshiness is a soft-boiled egg for extra protein. Grab one of the accompanying warm grilled Turkish toast to dunk-scoop the piping hot goodness non-stop, direct to your mouth, and you'll start feeling human again very quickly.

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Even though our dinner reservation in their restaurant upstairs was in an hour, I couldn't resist ordering the mezze platter to while away the time.
My advice is to ignore the cutlery and use your hands to enjoy this. Just tear a chunk off the thick poufy pita bread (the three pieces came sprinkled with snow-white sea salt flakes) and use it to wipe and scoop up the hummus, babaganoush and salad to eat. Easy and fun.

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The quivering mound of Yoghurt Muhallebi triggered fond memories of when I first encountered tofu cheesecake. Except that this was even softer because it's basically a lusciously creamy pudding. Furthermore, with exotic toppings that include pecan nuts, it's also far more titillating to the tastebuds. Yet it's apparent how much care has gone into ensuring each component is impeccably harmonised with another, so as to achieve an ambrosial equilibrium. Personally, I was amazed by how perfect a foil the salty, crispy wisps of brown butter kataifi was to the gently sweet orange blossom honey and poached apricots.
Even if you are stuffed to the gills and are ready to wave that little white flag, I recommend the only thing you surrender to is an order of this. Trust me - it's worth it.

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Imagine a vey privileged chicken who has done nought except to lounge around and smoke its life away on the most expensive cigars. That's what went through my mind when I chomped on the Smoked Chicken because its moist meat was thoroughly infused with the most fragrant smokiness. Best way to eat this is with your fingers. Rip off a chunk of the juicy chicken, swish it good in that toum garlic whip, and shove it in your mouth. Repeat.

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With the cacophony of colour and flavours displayed before you, designing your own vegetarian Pita Pocket has never been more fun. Catering to different appetite sizes, you start by selecting either the half pita or the full one, all freshly baked. For the main filling, it's a toss-up between the crispy "falafel" (fried balls of ground vegetables and chickpeas that have been seasoned with herbs and mild spices) and gluten-free "shawarma" (soy-based fake grilled "lamb"). Those who pick the full size pocket have an additional option of "sabich" (hardboiled egg and eggplant) too.
After this comes my favourite part - what to accessorise the Pita Pocket with. If I were to list all that's available, this would be too long a post! Suffice to say, you will be spoiled for choice.

Thanks again for the invitation to the food tasting @pitapansg and @geekyelephant 😊

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Good news for vegetarians: Pita Pan has just launched a few new dishes that uses a delectable Mediterranean rice and lentils as a base. The rendition pictured above comes with mushrooms, egg and strips of gluten-free "shwarma" (the key ingredient is soy actually) and there's more than enough flavour and texture in it to convince the ardent meat-loving me to give this a thumbs-up. Which says a lot.

Thanks @EleanorTay for the invitation to this food tasting session at Pita Pan.

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Burppled about this before but I need to do it again for all of mankind's sake. Please do yourself a favour and try this dish at Artichoke least once in your life. As with the rest of the menu here, it is recommended for sharing but with those gigantic fresh prawns cooked in Head Chef Jonathan Lee's kickass green chilli harissa and cream gravy, I find it So. Damn. Hard.

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