The Place Not a restaurant per se, Magic Square at Portsdown Road feels more like a private home dining space in a colonial style setting. Planned to be a one year pop up, the concept of Magic Square is to give young Singaporean chefs a platform to run their own restaurant. With a different menu each month by three main head chefs Marcus, Abel and Desmond, take turns to curate a completely different menu, giving diners more reasons to return. The three main chefs, all under 30, also boasts an impressive resume of previous culinary experiences in the likes of Michelin-starred Odette, Whitegrass and Blackwattle. The owners of Magic Square are behind Naked Finn at Gillman Barracks.
The space here feels like a page off from the Ikea catalogue, a fact the restaurant manager professed, with a long communal 18-seater taking centrestage. The team is very lean, with the chefs and the restaurant manager, essentially a four men team running the whole show from kitchen preparations to service and explanation of the dishes.
The Food Priced at S$78 per person for dinner, the 9-course affair has only two seatings for dinner, with a pretty tight service time of two hours. My experience was with Chef Desmond this month, focusing on primarily seafood dishes and the grills.
The first starter is the Jambu with rempah curd, which is rather Asian influenced especially with the punch of the rempah. The jambu and tamarind flavours are quite refreshing.
Next up is the Grilled Prawn heads with chrysanthemum and pomelo, where the sweetness of the Japanese amaebi is evident. The chrysanthemum is also infused with wild flower honey so there’s a tinge of seeetness in the yellow petals as well.
The Beef Tartare Salad is one of my favourite dishes. Mixed with fermented rice, there is a crispy betel leaf over the beef tartare, which I really enjoyed too and goes well together with the beef tartare.
The next dish is a local Gar Fish, cured and grilled on charcoal. The flavour is quite light, where you get slight hints of lemongrass vinegar on the fish. It does remind me of otah though.
This is one of the crowd’s favourite, the locally inspired Mantou and Curry. The mantou here is glazed with caramel fish sauce, paired with cauliflower cury with ricotta. This dish is very savoury, and when it’s served after the series of relatively light dishes prior, it was very welcoming. The curry sauce flavour is not so heavy so it is easy to go with the mantou.
The next dish is the Manila Clams served with ‘mee sua’, which is grilled and served with deep fried kailan. The clams is almost secondary here when there is the fried mee sua to steal the thunder.
For mains, I had the Japanese Aomori Beef, a grain fed beef marinated with fermented rice. Its not the most highly marbled beef so the flavour is not that intense for me. The beef was also slightly overdone – which the chef conceded to the diners that this is due to the constraint of the kitchen. There is a small dose of chocolatey sauce by the side, which didn’t go well for me.
For desserts, there are two parts to it. The first last is the Grilled Mango where the Pakistan mango is marinated with kaffir lime oil and served with yogurt. I initially thought that this is a savoury dish as the presentation looks like one. The flavours work well for me and I was surprised by the taste of the grilled mango.
The last course and dessert is the Kulfi with pumpkin ‘orh ni’ topped with cardamom crumbs. I’m not a fan of Indian kulfi as it’s usually overly sweet for me, but this version is surprisingly mild. The pumpkin ‘orh ni’ provides a nice juxtaposition by combining influences from two different ethnic groups in one dessert. It was a happy ending.
Rants The Portsdown location is charming, though it is a good 15-20 minutes walk from the nearest One North MRT Station if you are not driving.
Will I Return Again? At the price of S$78 per person for 9-courses, Magic Square is worth a try if you have always been wanting to have a private chef dining experience. I would also see it as a good test-bed for aspiring chefs and it is no doubt an excellent platform for them to hone their culinary skills and business acumen. While there is still much room for improvement in terms of plating and overall flavours, I enjoyed the meal and have already booked my next slot.
Taste bud: 3.5/5
Hole in the pocket: 3.5/5
Overall Experience: 3.5/5
5B Portsdown Road
Tel: +65 8181 0102
Tuesday to Saturday: 6pm to 8pm & 8:15pm to 10:15pm
Closed on Sunday & Monday
Ranted by The Ranter