This birthday meal for Florian was planned since December just because I’d read quite a bit about Magic Square. Furthermore, Les happened to have eaten there end of last year and was blown away by the food so with Les vouching for them, I couldn’t resist going there knowing that Flo also enjoys good food leaning more towards Asian flavours.
Magic Square is essentially a pop-up restaurant located at Portsdown Road. Over a period of a year, three hand-picked young chefs were able to use the location to experiment and develop their own menus to be served to guests. While their furnishing is mainly from Ikea and their serving ware from Daiso, the quality of food is hardly scrimped on. A communal table for 18 sits in the middle of a clean but plain space, with the open-kitchen at the front decked in appliances donated by Miele.
My handsome hubsy. A year older and with more love to give!
Gabriel, who manages the space and chefs, texted all us guests to remind us to be there on time as dinner only commenced once everyone had arrived. Flo and I reached promptly at 6pm for the first seating. We were the second to arrive.
We ended up having to wait another 40min for two more groups of people to arrive. Which is totally not Magic Square’s fault. It was annoying though, seeing guests saunter in, so blaze about making a room full of strangers wait for them. Gripes aside, once they were seated, the chefs quickly got into action dishing up the first of nine courses.
Our nine courses were a throwback to the standouts from previous menus as Chef Abel was ill, unfortunately. So it was a mix of dishes that Chefs Abel, Marcus and Desmond had come up with, and without Abel’s presence, we had a young chef who will be going to Singapore’s Pic (from 3-star Michelin Anne-Sophie Pic) at Raffles Hotel to be Sous-chef having previously had stints at Jaan and Odette. Very impressive!
Bean Salad, Turnip Puree, Sambal Hijau.
It was a nice, refreshing start with the crunch of the beans that I really enjoyed.
Nasu, Scallop Miso, Mountain Wasabi.
Both Flo and I didn’t take to this eggplant dish. It seemed slightly underseasoned so the nasu tasted quite plain, even with the miso.
Beef Tartare, Betel Leaf, XO.
I was quite excited about the tartare, but it turned out to be a little too salty with the betel leaf not providing much in the way of flavour.
So, we weren’t too blown away by the first three courses but things picked up thereafter.
Choux Farci, Burnt Onion, Angelica Root.
Chou farci is actually stuffed cabbage and this was amazing. The chicken filling had some bite even after being minced till smooth. The sweet cabbage, though cooked, still retained a bit of crunch and I really enjoyed how the classic French dish married so well with the herbal flavours of angelica root and the bitterness of the burnt onions.
Hairtail, Green Rempah, Candlenut Milk.
The hairtail, a local fish, was very lightly battered and would have tasted amazing even without the sauces. There was something nostalgic in the taste of this fish, but until now, I cannot seem to pinpoint where that nostalgia comes from.
Maitake, Kombu, Ginseng.
Now, don’t ever say that vegetables are bland or boring. This mushroom dish was big and bold in flavour. The meatiness of the Maitake mushrooms made every bite a hearty one and the smokiness of the broth, together with the herbal bitter of the ginseng truly enabled this course to stand out on its own. Flo really loved this one.
Welsh Baby Goat, Turmeric, Pumpkin, Serundeng.
I’m not a fan of red meat, and have high expectations if I were to eat them. Tough, sinewy meat is a huge no-no and a total waste of calories in my opinion so I was a little apprehensive about this course, yet very excited because pumpkin! So this baby goat was slow cooked and as I bit into my first forkful, I cannot tell you how mind-blown I was by its sheer tenderness. It yielded to the bite and had none of that gaminess that often comes with lamb and goat.
Turns out, this meaty dish was my favourite of the night. The surendeng comprising of fried coconut flakes with curry leaves on top complemented both the meat and the pumpkin well. Although for once, I didn’t need the pumpkin. The goat was that good!
Burnt Mango, Kaffir, Whey.
This burnt mango was also very clever. It was cooked until burnt and the cooking of it helped mellow its sweetness while turning the texture of the fruit into something akin to a custard. It had the bitterness from the char, natural sweetness, sour from the whey and citrus from the kaffir. The whey was a little too tart for me so it upset the overall balance ever so slightly.
Coconut Sorbet, White Ruby, Pandan.
This last course to round up our meal was perfect. The coconut sorbet was creamy and smooth and luxurious. Little globs of white ruby provided some chewy while the baby balls of frozen cucumber were quenching and crunchy.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I’m excited to see how these young chefs continue on after their stint at Magic Square. I’d love to see them continue to explore and push the realms of cooking, and would love to see them all succeed doing what inspires them.
After dinner, I wanted to surprise Flo by getting a Grab over to Room for More at Dempsey where Les, Amanda and Alex were waiting, for some drinks. Unfortunately, Portsdown is not the most accessible place so it took a while for me to get transport. Flo, meanwhile, tried to be helpful by getting a Grab home. I had to tell him in the end that we weren’t going home. Such a spoiler!
Anyway, we managed to reach Room for More where Les had arranged for a birthday cake to be presented to Flo. Chocolate cake no less.
It wasn’t a particularly huge celebration but I think he enjoyed the food and our time with close friends. We had another dinner next day with Mum, Dad, Les and Zen at Platypus Cantina, after which we returned home to Flo’s birthday request – German Käsekuchen. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get hold of quark so I used cottage cheese instead.
The flavour was good but I think I overbaked it a little so it was slightly on the dry side. Boo! Also, it rose a little too much so when it sank after coming out of the oven, it wasn’t particularly pretty, hence the tempered dark chocolate disc on top. Made with love no less.
Super happy to have been able to celebrate another birthday with Flo – His first birthday as my husband. I cannot wait for the many more that await us and for all that is to come before his next special day. Love you hubsy!