Craving food from the lands of Greece, Turkey, and Morocco? You won’t find as many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern joints in Singapore as you would Japanese or Italian restaurants – but there's no denying that the cuisine, heavily influenced by Ottoman Empire, is slowly gaining favour here thanks to its fragrant blend of spices and expert use of the grill. Here are our top picks on where to dine Mediterranean and Middle Eastern in Singapore.
This cosy 30-seater is easy to overlook, occupying a small unit in the basement of Zhongshan mall. The restaurant is helmed by Egyptian Chef Khaled Elelimi, who cut his teeth at renowned hotel chains like Shangri-La and Four Seasons. Known for its selection of quality meats, Pistachio's mixed grill for two – a selection of beef and chicken kebabs and lamb chops served with saffron rice is a popular choice, as is the Tomahawk steak with roasted potatoes. It's not on the à la carte menu and has to be ordered three days in advance.
You’ll be forgiven for wanting to dine here solely based on appearances – the establishment’s aesthetic evokes serious Santorini vibes so you can feel like you're on a Greek vacay. Seafood is king here. And the restaurant’s sea-to-table approach means that seafood is flown into Singapore overnight the moment it leaves the Grecian ports of Thessaloniki and Chalkida. Don’t miss the lavraki (European seabass, $9.30/100g) and the light and succulent langoustines ($60).The lunch set menu is a steal as well – a mezze platter or salad, main course and dessert is priced at $32.
It’s commonly said that no one does desserts quite like the Turkish, and we’re inclined to agree. If you’ve got an unrelenting sweet tooth, satiate your cravings at Sofra. The Shaw Tower diner has been serving up Turkish delights such as sutlach ($5.90), a Turkish rice pudding and baklava ($5.90), homemade filo pastry filled with pistachios, and kanafeh ($7.50), cheese pastry baked between two layers of kadaiff (shredded phyllo dough) soaked in syrup.
Hidden behind the buzzy café-bar Fat Prince lies The Ottomani – an opulent, Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant where you can luxuriate on a plush couch while enjoying a meal fit for royalty. Start the meal with a plate of thinly sliced Hokkaido scallops ($24) served with fennel, mojama (salt-cured tuna) and pomelo amba, a tangy that gives a dish some acidity. The cabbage sprouts ($28) cooked over charcoal is another winner. Each mouthful offers a different experience with the mingling of flavours between the sweet potato dumplings, leek kashk and sweet macadamia nuts.
Conveniently nestled in the CBD, Fill a Pita is a much-welcomed respite for worker bees looking to break away from a diet of salad and rice bowls. The joint has some of the best hummus in town, with an undeniable creamy, smooth texture. The menu is also completely vegetarian and halal, with no butter, eggs or milk added ─ great for foodies with dietary restrictions.
Best for bigger groups, Taverna-style Souvlaki Gyromania draws crowds for its fresh salads and generous portions made by its friendly Greek owner. Highlights include the chicken gyros ($18.80) and pita bread ($3.30), crunchy and well-seasoned with paprika, sea salt and oregano best spread with melitzanosalata ($15.80), smoked eggplant with garlic and pepper – not forgetting the baklava ($15.80) for dessert.
Artichoke sits on the edge of the Bugis district, within the protective bounds of historical Sculpture Square. The eatery takes up one of the inner former chapel buildings, so despite being situated merely a few feet away from bustling Waterloo Street and Middle Road, the patio and slope-roofed L-shaped structure is almost immune to the throngs and the street traffic’s dust. The food here is comforting Moorish-Middle Eastern, with playful touches – as expected from chef Bjorn Shen. Expect to be blown away by dishes like the lamb adana ($28) and Iberico pork ($34).
Qasr is a chill after-work hangout with good music, a wide selection of spirits and solid mezzes courtesy of head chef Ghazi Georges Khanashat. Start off with Lebanese classics such as Tabbouleh ($10), a light salad of bulgur wheat, chopped parsley, tomato, onions and fresh mint and the shawarma ($24) that comes with your choice of sliced lamb, chicken or beef wrapped in bread and served with fries. We vote for the lamb. Oh, and there’s complimentary wine for the ladies on Thursdays too.
Awarded a Bib Gourmand in 2016’s Micheline Guide, this Arab street-establishment is one of our favourites thanks to its extensive variety kebabs. The Karisik Kebab ($42) is a popular choice, but opt for the Ispanakli Pide ($18) to accompany your meats. It's the Turkish equivalent of a pizza filled with spinach and cheese. Also try the large Meze Tarbagi ($28), a cold appetiser platter packed with hummus, babakanus, saksuka patlican salata, ezme, yaprak sarmasi & rus salatasi, served with piping hot Turkish lavash bread.
The closure of eateries like Pasha and Pastilla Cafe left a palpable gap in the Moroccan dining scene here. Fortunately, Deli Moroccan still remains as a sturdy player. We dig the ever-reliable service, reasonable prices, and highlights such as its tajine plates – slow-cooked stew of meats, fruits and vegetables – like the lamb tajine with apricot ($15), which is sweet, spicy and savoury all at once.
Executive chef Mohammed Hosseini has spent more than 16 years focusing on Persian cuisine culminating in Shabestan, a fine dining restaurant that showcases its heritage. Rice features heavily on the menu – expertly balanced with spices like saffron, fresh herbs and dried fruits. Try the Bahalla Polo Mahicheh ($49), a lamb shank with flavorful Persian rice, lima beans and fresh dill, and end your meal with a luxurious scoop of Persian saffron ice cream ($8), an original recipe of pistachio, cream and saffron. The private dining room accommodates up to 26 people – making it ideal for corporate events or large birthdays.