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Old 26th May 2019, 01:31 PM   #1
yflyer
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Default Singapore Dining - Last Dinner at Magic Square

This thread is about a restaurant that you and I will no longer be able to dine at.

Magic Square, a pop-up located in an old single storey building at Portsdown Road, closed earlier this month, May 2019, at the end of a year-long project, and with it, an exciting chapter of Singapore's evolving culinary narrative has ended.



Magic Square must have been one of the most exciting things to happen in the Singapore dining scene in recent years: an incubator for young, promising chefs, offering fine, creative cuisine, for a very reasonable price, in a great setting and with a unique dining format. How fine? I would say that purely in terms of the quality of the individual dishes served, there were dishes we sampled at Magic Square which would not have been out of place in a one-star Michelin joint (Not that stars matter all that much...).

This was only ever meant to be a one year project (With the limited lease of the venue being one factor), the brainchild of Tan Ken Loon, whose other restaurants, such as the Naked Finn, have already made waves in the local dining scene.

The objective of Magic Square was to give 3 promising young chefs an opportunity to develop and showcase their talent. From Day One, the focus was on the cuisine with all other unessential elements stripped out: there was minimal advertising and marketing, furniture was from Ikea, kitchen equipment was sponsored by Miele. There wasn't event a proper sign on at the entrance: this hand-scribbled sheet of paper on the door was it!



But what Magic Square provided was amazing cuisine, and a refreshingly interactive (and delicious) end-to-end dining experience that made loyal fans out of many who dined there (Myself and Mrs yflyer included).

This was a fixed set / degustation dinner menu, 9 courses for S$78++, offered in two seatings at fixed timings: 6pm-8pm and 8.15pm-10.15pm.

You dined at a communal table in a large dining hall in Portsdown Road...



...with the chefs introducing each dish to the table as it was served...



The kitchen was an open kitchen right next to the dining hall where you could see the chefs at work prepping the ingredients, plating the courses.







No bar or wines by the glass, but a couple of wine fridges with a selection of red and white wines available for purchase by the bottle.

The 3 chefs, Abel Su, Desmond Shen and Marcus Leow rotated each month, as head chef and creator of the menus, with the other 2 assisting when it was not their turn. Mid way through the project Marcus left the project for health reasons, and on came Sook Yi who joined the project as the new 3rd chef.



Mrs yflyer and I became aware of Magic Square through a mutual friend, fairly late in their 12 month journey, but once we began dining there, it became a regular monthly dinner.

The menu changed every month: so each time we dined there we made a reservation for next month, and evidently so did many others. Almost every dinner we had there was a full house.

What we also found remarkable about our dinners there was the fact that, as we were all dining at a communal table, there was often conversation with the diners seated near you, even if they were total strangers. And every single time we dined there, we had absolutely interesting, and occasionally, quite notable, seatmates dining with us -- the conversations we had at the table were invariably interesting, and that aspect of dinners at Magic Square -- that spontaneous interaction, also became part of the experience for us.

Mrs yflyer and I dined on the last official night of the one year project, on 30 April this year. Ours was the 6pm seating...I suspect the very last dinner seating at 8.15pm was an even more lively affair. I say last "official" evening because a short extension of the lease saw a few additional dinners hosted in May before doors finally closed earlier this month.

But as I said at the start, this was the end of one chapter: Magic Square v1. I believe Ken Loon and his team are already looking at plans for Magic Square v2, and if that happens, you can be sure that Mrs yflyer and I will be among the first in line to revisit the Magic Square experience!

Last edited by yflyer; 27th May 2019 at 07:48 PM..
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Old 26th May 2019, 01:52 PM   #2
yflyer
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This was the April 2019 menu...



Before dinner began, I headed to the wine fridge and consulted Gabriel, our host for the evening, on what wines would work for dinner, and settled on a bottle of Chenin Blanc...



I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow of each dish, but here are pictures to give you an idea of the artistry and refinement behind each course...and each tasted as good as it looked!



The next course had bottle gourd in a clear broth...





Eggplant with trout roe...



Aji and mehikari and smoked taramasalata and toast...absolutely memorable...



Fermented mushroom custard, topped with raw mushrooms...a very subtle dish with refined flavours...


Last edited by yflyer; 26th May 2019 at 02:54 PM..
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Old 26th May 2019, 03:02 PM   #3
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Some of the dishes had a fun, whimsical element...the next dish of sweetbreads came in a bag, which you shook up with the garnishings...



...and then ate from the bag with a toothpick...



The most substantial course with Iberico pork, with a side of rice...



...a deeply satisfying dish...



A lot of effort was invested into making memorable desserts as well...

A pristine white disc of soursop...



Rosemary ice cream with laver and pickled lemon...



At this final dinner on 30 April, Ken Loon opened and closed the meal with this thoughts and reflections on the year, and his thoughts on Magic Square v2, which we hope will come to fruition sooner rather than later!

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Old 26th May 2019, 03:20 PM   #4
yflyer
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I also wanted to share the menu from March 2019, as further evidence of the level of inspiration and execution that was achieved at Magic Square...



Each dinner at Magic Square began the same way, with Gabriel, our likeable host, outlining the philosophy and principles behind Magic Square...



A bottle of white wine from Loire to accompany our meal...



Hokkaido scallop with white fungus...



Mozambique lobster...



A locally inspired dish of "cheong fun" with gado gado sauce...



Japanese turnip, with flavours of roast chicken...



An inspired creation of "man tou" prata and gravy...their take on roti prata...





A delicious duck liver tart...



By then, we were well underway on our 2nd bottle of wine for the evening, a Chateauneuf du Pape...

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Old 26th May 2019, 03:21 PM   #5
yflyer
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The next dish was memorable: 10 day aged local duck, where we could see the prep for this dish taking place in the open kitchen as we dined on earlier courses...



As Facebook, Instagram and social media were a key part of the marketing for Magic Square, diners were encouraged to post pictures of the food on Instagram, and were welcome to snap pics of the chefs at work as well...



While many guests snapped away at the beautiful creations on the plates, not many guests were "thick skinned" enough to head to the open kitchen to snap pictures, with yours truly of course being one of a few exceptions...



The end result...lip-smacking delicious...



The first dessert, Osmanthus marshmallow with persimmon...



The March 2019 dinner menu ended with a 2nd dessert: Corn miso budding, smoked caramel and burnt bread...


Last edited by yflyer; 26th May 2019 at 03:39 PM..
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Old 26th May 2019, 03:37 PM   #6
yflyer
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Final thoughts...

Magic Square v1 was a year-long pop-up which I think really brought something new to the dining scene in Singapore.

It had a very specific vision and mission, and if you bought into this vision of dinner, then a meal there would be an evening to remember.

Who would enjoy a meal at Magic Square? My impression is that Magic Square is targeted squarely at lovers of good food and the idea of dining as entertainment in its own right. Business dinner? Forget it -- the only business at hand was feasting on what was on your plate in front of you. Also probably not the place if you wanted to spend the evening gazing romantically into your date/partner's eyes. This was not the place to bring children either (No toddlers or children admitted), although older children, especially "foodie" kids, were made to feel very welcome!

Here, it was about putting together a meal that satisfied both heart and mind, with cuisine and the chefs behind it taking centre stage, with almost all extraneous elements stripped out.

I am sure it was incredibly tough work for all involved, especially the gifted chefs Desmond, Abel, Marcus and Sook Yi, not to mention host/manager Gabriel, but I think the end result was worth it: by the end of the 12 months, I think Magic Square v1 had amassed a very loyal following of delighted diners. I am sure that a stint at Magic Square would also look great on the CV of the young chefs involved -- all of whom I think have a great career ahead of them whatever their next endeavour.

I am really looking forward to Magic Square v2 when it starts up...

Thanks for reading!

Last edited by yflyer; 27th May 2019 at 07:47 PM..
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