Nestled within the heart of Balestier at Zhongshan Mall, lies a quaint, Middle-eastern restaurant named Pistachio. Owned and helmed by Chef Khaled Elelimi, former Middle-Eastern Chef at the Shangri-La hotel, Pistachio features a selection of Khaled’s culinary specialties, limited mostly by the restaurant’s small kitchen and team.
I was not entirely surprised when Chef Khaled chose the name Pistachio. Since his days at the Shangri-La, I’ve somehow associated the tasty nut with Chef’s cuisine, having had the opportunity to try some of the most fantastic of desserts made with it. For Chef, however, Pistachios are also a sign of good luck and joy, a legacy of its fabled use in both the Middle East and China.
For the casual visitor first visit to Pistachoi, the restaurant’s café-like setting and indoor, al-fresco location would not in any way suggest the histories embedded within the place. Chef Khaled’s experience ranges from cooking in some of the world’s top hotels to dignitaries who visit. Safe to say, those who know of Khaled’s cuisine will follow it.
I started off dinner with a gourmet’s serving of Pita Bread ($4), Hummus ($7), Baba Ghannoush ($7) and Labneh ($7) to share. The homemade pita bread was served warm and toasty, perfect for dipping into the sides. It has been a very long time since I had a portion of hummus and I’ve been dreaming about it. The puree of chickpeas, tahini and swish of lemon juice was so sublime and earthy that I couldn’t stop myself from having single, delicate dip. Similarly, the Baba Ghannoush was divinely smoky and hearty, with the bits of pomengranate adding a touch of both colour and spritely sweetness. This was a perfect starter, and one which I will come back for.
For my next dish, I gamely asked Chef if I could have a portion of both Couscous ($5) and the Moroccan Lamb Sausages ($6.90; 3 pieces). He then prepared a simple but special creation off the menu, where the dish was perhaps a simplified version of the Moroccan Couscous Royale for Two ($38). Before serve, one is required to pour over the couscous a richly hued vegetable stock, greatly allowing the savoury flavours to steep within. It complemented the slightly drier but slightly gamey flavoured lamb sausages well.
The first main of the night, Spaghetti Aglio Olio Alexandria ($28), was impressive when served. The dish usually comes with a serving of 3 king prawns which are rubbed with a special paste of Arisa before being grilled to present flavours of mild chilli, aromatic spice with a breadth of hearty, fragrant earthiness. The prawns were decently cooked till a good texture and sweetness, but the aglio olio was a little too well-done for my liking.
The second main of Lamb Chops with Moussaka ($28) was just as uniquely marinated, and it comes served a tender medium. There was little to no gaminess from the lamb and the portion comes with a side of Moussaka – a dish made with baked eggplant, potato and capsicum.
Um Ali – Traditional Egyptian Pastry Pudding with Mixed nuts, baked with cream and topped with pistachio.
Pistachio serves up interesting fare that is quite unique and not commonly found in Singapore. I generally enjoyed the dinner, and could see many customers tucking into its hearty portions. Still, due to its small kitchen team, the wait at times could be a bugbear for some, but worth it when considering the effort and detail that goes into each dish. I would make a return visit, especially for the homemade pita bread and its sides. And there is more on the menu that I have yet to try.
|20 Ah Hood Road
#01-15 Zhongshan Mall
Reservations: 626 6400
11.30am till 9pm (last order)