After a meal at this place, my first thought was ‘wow, what an apt name for this one year long pop-up restaurant’. Because the food truly feels like magic – how the flavours and ingredients blended together seamlessly to give my palate a wonderful time.
We experienced the August menu, a 9-course creation by the youngest chef of the lot – Desmond Shen. The menu was inspired by his childhood and heritage and was a delightful Indian-Chinese-European fusion with a mix of locally sourced and imported ingredients.
Magic Square is an incubator project that aims to give (three handpicked) young chefs a platform to hone their talents in creating menus and gain experience in how to run a restaurant.
It’s got a bit of a shoestring budget and space (Ikea furniture and a sign that is handwritten on paper), but it feels like all the money you pay goes into the food. Which is honestly, great.
Dishes-wise, everything was well balanced – heavy vs light flavours, acidic vs alkaline and the amount of protein vs fibre. I really liked the sweet shrimp salad soaked in homemade chrysanthemum vinegar which had a lovely seafood flavour that was complemented by the fruity pomelo and cooling white fungus.
The raw beef salad was one example of how the chefs made sure that the ingredients were fully utilised, for sustainable use of produce – the trimmings from the short rib that was used in a later course was used for this salad, and parts of the scallops that were in a course two months ago were used to cure for a homemade XO sauce, which was absolutely lovely.
The fourth course was a fish that Chef Shen said he ‘used to catch at East Coast Park’. Whaaaaat? Okay, but apparently these were bought from the Jurong Fishery Port, not caught. At 4am (do they even sleep?!).
As this is a fish that is not naturally flavourful, the chef made a paste out of half the fish and seasoned it with lemongrass vinegar, before laying the actual fish on top of it. It tasted a little like otah (a non-spicy version), and was really delicious!
And this, oh my, this was truly the highlight of the meal. The rather unassuming mantou-prata lovechild bread was a superbly enjoyable confection of a crispy, sweet exterior and impossibly soft and fluffy insides. When dipped into the oily, rich curried cauliflower paste topped with fried florets, it was simply heavenly.
I had to stop myself from licking the bowl, I swear.
For the next dish, I felt that the clams were cooked really well – steamed till the juices were oozing out into the sauce yet with enough retained within the flesh but the mee sua plancha could have maybe been a little crunchier.
The crispy kai lan went so well with the dish though, and the seaweed puree was just bursting with flavour.
The beef course was next – apparently the beef (or the sauce?) was cooked for 24 hours – the meat was tender and flavourful, but a little on the dry side (as smoked meats do tend to be).
The mole sauce seriously packed a punch though, with a strong spice, heady fermented taste and rich chocolatey-ness. It was a great complement to the meat, in small doses.
The first of the two desserts was a hot one – a grilled mango that was slightly sweet and paired with a sour yet refreshing warm Kaffir lime soup. I rather enjoyed this, it was comforting.
Finally, the meal ended with a interesting mix of a kulfi ice cream (Indian style ice cream) with tamarind crumbs on top of a pumpkin orh nee paste.
The herbal-ness / spiciness (?) of the kulfi and tamarind were not really my kind of thing in dessert, but the orh nee was pretty delicious and I finished most of this creamy dish, anyway.
As my first ‘home style’, communal style kind of dining, Magic Square was quite the experience for me – something different yet kind of familiar and cosy. I would recommend giving it a try before it disappears!
田 Magic Square
5B Portsdown Rd, #01-02
Tel: 8181 0102 (SMS for reservations)
Open from Tuesday to Saturday for two seatings at: 6pm to 8pm and 8.15pm to 10.15pm.