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Where to eat in November 2019: Artichoke and Mag’s Wine Kitchen

Hearty, uncompromising cooking at two stalwarts of the scene.

Artichoke

Almost a decade of countercultural culinary continuity and – in chef-owner Bjorn Shen’s own words – “still not dead”. Nine years in the business and Singapore’s “least authentic Middle-Eastern restaurant” is still going strong. Quotable quips aside, Shen’s food is still following the same creed we’ve all come to know and love. Basically – what would a drunk, hungry chef put together at 3am?

There’s a slew of new items on the menu though. Sea asparagus, often playing second fiddle in precious amounts to whatever seafood main, gets to be the star of the show here alongside a potent pickled garlic labneh. There’s also crab toast, which sees a crab-tatzki salad (which we remember from the now-defunct Bird Bird’s days at Frankel Avenue) heaped onto crunchy brioche together with crispy chicken skin and ikura for maximum textural delight. 

  • Crab toast with fried chicken skin and ikura
    Crab toast with fried chicken skin and ikura

Other new highlights include a hashbrown – fluffy inside and crispy outside – that arrives at your table in a Shibuya toast-like slab, topped with sour cream and za’atar; and flavourful rump cap steak smoked in lychee wood and served in an ungodly amount of pooled butter. Order both, insist on paying with cash, and it’s just like being in a weird, Levantian knock-off of Peter Luger.

Brunch too, has some refreshed items. We’re particularly fond of the abodo flakes-inspired lamb floss, which sees pulled lamb shoulder mercilessly seared in a pan until it turns into a crisp, meaty, feathery mass and served with a pool of runny hummus and fried egg. 

Beyond the food, something else is brewing too. Shen’s converting a tiny space hidden within the grounds of Artichoke (we don’t really want to know what it was used for before) into a four-seater, omakase counter where he’ll personally dish out food, and – regretfully – his bawdy sense of humour in equal measure. The first in this series will be feature pizza as the star. 

Sculpture Square, 161 Middle Road. Tel: 6336-6949

 

Mag’s Wine Kitchen

Aesthetically worlds apart, yet similarly enduring is Mag’s Wine Kitchen. In an industry where novelty is necessary currency, Mag’s Wine Kitchen has, with honest, solid cooking, managed to stay above it all for 23 whole years.

Perhaps it’s because of chef-proprietor Magdalene Tang’s insistence on things being done right. In her books, that’s the good-ol’ fashioned way. Stocks patiently watched and simmered; and  sauces painstakingly reduced and intensified. Proper, stick-to-the-ribs demi glace and sinfully rich potato puree comes with tenderloin – once the king of cuts, now quietly vilified by progressives in favour of the “off-cut”. 

  • Mag's Wine Kitchen
    Mag's Wine Kitchen

There is duckling with olives, braised until the skin yields at the merest suggestion of pressure and the meat takes on a profound, deep flavour. There is also creamy risotto topped  with boston lobster that’s been cooked to an incredibly succulent translucence. If it’s in season, you can even get truffles shaved on top of this. 

If it all sounds incredibly rich, it is. There is an old school, calorically-unhindered indulgence at Mag’s, and the idea extends into its French, Old World-heavy wine list that encompasses many of the great reds of the world. 

55 Keong Saik Rd, #01-06. Tel: 6438-3836