Middle Eastern Deliciousness

Middle Eastern Deliciousness

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

(Hosted) @miznonsg is less than a month old but it is already packing in the crowds. News of the opening of the Israeli brand was out on the streets early on and the excitement in our city had been palpable. My friend Zhenia, who joined me at the lunch, was hyped up as she had heard so much about Miznon from her friends overseas.
Singapore’s outlet is located on Stanley Street, and the casual eatery seems to crackle with an infectious energy (also the reason why I kept the ambient sounds as the video soundtrack 😊). My guess is Executive Chef @orhakmimi is the source because that man radiates an irrepressible joy. You can spot him easily - he’s the tall dude who thinks nothing of spontaneously breaking into a dance in the kitchen 😄.
For our tasting, he told us sit back and wait to be fed, and moments later, a succession of items (I swear each was more delicious than the one before) landed in front of us. First, a large, freshly baked #pita with little tubs of tahini, as if to let us know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly how amazing they get their basics. Then Chef @owjiewei brought the “Hot Chickpeas” ($16). He had ladled them straight from the pot onto a plate smeared with tahini, and dressed them up with a hard-boiled egg, raw onions, tomatoes and zhug (a spicy paste made from green chillies, olive oil and salt). The flavours in that plate danced with verve on our palates and provided the first clue to how vegetarians would have a field day at #Miznon. Our impression was confirmed when more exuberantly flavourful vegetarian items came our way, namely the roasted “Batata” ($12, sweet potatoes from New Zealand paired with sour cream and Atlantic sea salt), the “Bag Of Beans” ($12, a mix of cold Haricots verts, French beans and snap peas tossed in garlic, lemon, olive oil and sea salt which is aptly nicknamed “the healthiest fries” by Chef Or), and the “Run Over Potato” ($11, a tuber baked with butter, garlic and herbs, then flattened and served with sour cream). The parade of vegetables ended strongly with the devastatingly delicious “Ratatouille” ($17). Having been charred a little, the eggplant, carrot and onions cooked in a light tomato sauce were sweetness personified, and like the dish of “Hot Chickpeas”, came with a hard-boiled egg, tahini and zhug.
After that, Chef Or assembled two #Pitas for us to share: the “Chicken Liver” and “Abu Kebab”. Both came in the fluffiest pitas I’d ever seen and delivered must-close-eyes level of tastiness. While the former brimmed with seared chicken liver (it’s so creamy), tahini, spring onions, Japanese cucumber, salsa and zhug, the latter was crammed full of perfectly-seasoned meatballs of lamb and beef (made fresh daily on site), tahini, parsley, onions, salsa and zhug.
When we saw the Hraime ($26), a Spicy Moroccan Barramundi Stew, we had to have it too. It was really appetising with the smoky tomato gravy elevated by dollops of tahini and zhug for fragrant creaminess and a spike of bright spiciness. Highly recommended, especially if you like fish.

Thank you again Violet, Natalie and @sixthsensepr for arranging this hosted meal. We love the food at @miznonsg and will surely return very soon!

This was gorgeous - so vibrant in colour and packed with four (it was it five?) kinds of freshly-made mezzes with salad and pickles. The selection of mezzes are changed every week or so if I am not wrong.

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Despite not being into lamb, I had been swept off my feet by this Crispy Lamb Floss at the media tasting a few weeks ago. Naturally, I had to order it when I revisited Artichoke with family members for brunch last Saturday.
Although it was recommended for us to mix the extremely tasty dryish-style meat with the hummus and fried egg before eating, I actually liked them as separate components more. The aroma and complex flavours in the meat were more apparent when I ate it by itself.

Anytime a Shakshuka appears on a menu, I will order it as T.H. likes it a lot.
We find Artichoke’s particularly delicious as the two eggs are simmered in a rich, thick tomato gravy beefed up with peppers, green chillies and skhug. There is wonderful oomph and body which is best savoured with the thick slice of grilled sourdough served alongside. What’s more, you get to choose between roasted lamb and halloumi cheese to be added in too. I think whichever you go for will not disappoint but my preference has always been for the cheese as I love the good chew it brings to the dish.

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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.

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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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