Dinner @ Magic Square

June 20, 2018 in Asian, Peranakan by thywhaleliciousfay

It was through instagram that I got to know about Magic Square; A year-long pop-up restaurant initiated by restaurateur Tan Ken Loon (also the man behind The Naked Finn and Nekkid) for young, promising Singaporean chefs. The project with its good intention certainly piqued my interest. So when my newly-made instagram friend @abbey_thebolobao asked if I was interested in heading down to Magic Square together, I jumped at it.

There’re 2 seatings; 6pm to 8pm, and 8.15pm to 10.15pm. Since we were dining on a weekday, we went for the second seating. Employees mah. However, the restaurant was located inaccessibly in Portsdown. To reach Magic Square, I took bus 191 from One-North MRT station. And the thing about going for the second seating, bus service would have already ended when dinner was over. So the only way out of Portsdown was either by car, cab or foot.

Bus 191 stopped directly in front of Magic Square. With an open-concept kitchen and a 7 metre-long communal table, one could either think the space was designed as though one is entering a friend’s house or it was just designed minimally since it’s afterall only a year-long project. But it’s not wrong to think the latter because in the opening speech, it was mentioned that Magic Square was not to earn money. Ken Loon was also not shy from sharing that he got inspiration from Noma for the lights. Yes, I noticed the similarity.

Magic Square offered a 9-course menu which rotate every month. For June 2018, the kitchen was led by chef Marcus Leow. After an opening speech by Ken Loon (or general manager Gabriel Chan if Ken Loon is not in), Marcus stepped up to introduce his menu which was Peranakan-based. But instead of the cuisine, Marcus mentioned the meal focused on the ingredients. And with that, we started our 9-course menu ($78) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Smoked tomato stuffed with belacan creme fraiche and coated with belacan crumb. Belacan was homemade where small shrimps were salted, cured, dried under the sun and toasted.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Slightly poached mozambique lobster paired with belimbing and starfruit (burnt, fermented, pickled) and served in starfruit juice and pomelo oil. This was really refreshingly good. The sweetness of the mozambique lobster was enhanced by the sourness of starfruit and belimbing.


3) Dish #3 (above) – Pickled egg yolk jam sandwiched between brik pastry and sprinkled with coffee powder, and tart with kaya jam and sugar snap pea. The latter was really good. I had a few renditions of pea tart (MUME and Cure), and I have to say Marcus’s rendition surprisingly came out top for me. When I first heard kaya was used, I was skeptical. But Marcus’s bold choice in using kaya turned out impressively well; The saltiness of kaya was balanced nicely by the clean taste of pea. The fragrance continued to linger in my mouth after I finished the tart.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Rice porridge served with broth made from yellow bean, cabbage and taucheo sauce. Cabbage was burnt in brown butter, while fried tempeh (cultured soy bean) was added into the rice porridge for contrast in textures. I really liked this. A very comforting dish that warmed not just the stomach, but also the heart soul.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Potato flour coated hairtail with candlenut-infused milk, calamansi zest and juice, curry leaf oil, and rempah sauce made with onion, shallot and lemongrass.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Brussels sprouts, buah keluak emulsion with olive vegetable and shaved cured egg yolk. I liked that the sprouts were fried and sauteed for its sweet and bitter tastes. This dish even had us, self-proclaimed meat lovers, falling in love with vegetables.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Pork belly paired with chinchalok (fermented small shrimp), prawn head oil emulsion and burnt pineapple puree. We were told the pork belly was brined before grilled over charcoal fire. Out of the 9 courses, this was unfortunately my least favourite. We unanimously agreed a better fattier cut of pork would make this dish perfect as the pork belly was a little dry.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Belimbing sorbet, celery granita and sweet pickled celery. A very refreshing dessert which served more like a palate cleanser.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Corn kueh salat and corn tea. The tea was not exactly a tea since no tea leaves were used. Instead, the drink was made from corn silk and corn husk. It was super impressive. A very aromatic drink with depth in its taste. As for the kueh salat, I just wished the custard layer was thicker; I still had rice left in my mouth after the custard layer (of reduced corn kennel) melted in my mouth. But this was definitely one of the highlights of my meal.

It was a fun and wonderful meal. Although the chefs had to work with a tight budget, that they did not deter them from delivering an impressive meal. After our dinner, it was through our interaction with Marcus that we learnt the tight budget also meant they had to think of all ways to not let any part of the produce go to waste.

And because Marcus introduced every dish before we tucked in, I felt I was in a classroom at that moment instead of eating in someone’s house because I was learning new things. Marcus would share interesting facts like ‘buah keluak is buried in soil for a week to neutralise its poison’ or ‘belimbing is acidic in nature, so it was fermented before used for the mozambique lobster dish’, etc. A unique dining experience.

But it was also after my meal that I realised while Magic Square was created as a platform for young, promising Singaporean chefs to showcase their creativity and talent in food and learn the ropes of business, not any chefs could come. The present 3 chefs at Magic Square (Desmond Shen, Marcus Leow and Abel Su) were handpicked by Ken Loon.

I definitely recommend Magic Square. I am not one who return to the same restaurant soon, but because of the solid meal by Marcus (for June 2018), I’m joining my newly-made instagram friends @abbey_thebolobao, @free.the.umami and @thetravellingcow to return to Magic Square in July. July’s menu will be led by Abel Su and his theme is Chinese kaiseki. Interesting…

5B Portsdown Road, Singapore
8181 0102, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tue – Sat : 18:00 – 22:15 (Dinner)
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon, Sun

Dinner @ Candlenut [Revisit]

April 14, 2018 in Asian, Peranakan by thywhaleliciousfay

Yup!!! My string of re-visits continues. It was a very belated birthday celebration for me by my girlfriends, and I got to choose the venue. So yes, I requested for us to dine at Candlenut. Since my last visit in 2014, Candlenut has relocated to Dempsey and earned a Michelin star yearly since the first edition of Michelin Guide Singapore (2016).

Located in COMO Dempsey, the restaurant is fairly accessible. Just a 5 to 8 minutes walk from the bus stop (that’s right in front of Dempsey). My girlfriend who drove feedback it was fairly easy to find a parking lot too.

In a group of 5, we arrived at Candlenut on a Saturday evening. And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) Crackers, Complimentary (above) – Subsequent additional bowl is chargeable.

2) Kueh pie tee, $12 (4 cups) (above, left) – Homemade shell, braised local turnip, pork belly, prawns. And since there’s 5 of us, the staff assisted to add 1 kueh pie tee shell at $3.

3) Charcoal grilled snake river farm kurobuta pork neck satay, $16 (4 skewers) (above, right) – With kicap manis glaze. Similarly, we ordered an extra stick for $4.

4) Itek tim soup, $14 (above) – Local duck meatball, salted mustard cabbage, cherry tomato, taro stem. And the portion was meant as 1 bowl per person.

5) Blue swimmer crab curry, $30 (above) – Turmeric, galangal, kaffir lime leaf.

6) Buah keluak of braised local chicken, $22 (above) – With peranakan signature black nut sambal.

7) King tiger prawn, $28 (above) – Gula melaka cocount sauce, lemongrass, Thai basil.

8) Baked cod fish fillet, $28 (above) – With kicap manis glaze.

9) Sambal baby sweet potato leaves, $16 (above) – With dried shrimp.

10) Brown rice, $3 (above) – For a bowl of brown rice, I must say the amount given is appalling. The bowl containing the rice wasn’t big, yet it was not filled to the brim! The bowl was only half filled. Come on…

11) Steamed caramel banana cake, $14Banana compote, gula melaka ice cream.

12) Candlenut’s ice kachang, $15 (above) – Azuki red beans, bandung, rose and pandan shaved ice.

13) Candlenut’s classic chendol cream, $12 (above) – Homemade pandan jelly, gula melaka.

14) Buah keluak ice cream, $15 (above) – Salted caramel, valrhona warm chocolate espuma, chilli.

Since photographs can be deceiving, I’m going to be really honest by saying it upfront that the portion was ridiculously small. The portion works for small groups (and by that, I mean pair) since one could thus enjoy variety by getting to order many dishes (in order) to fill one’s stomach. Ie, the ‘small portion’ which only came in one size (ie, no small, medium or large) didn’t work for us since we were in a big group. I didn’t enjoy the meal as much since I was constantly worrying if I would deprive my friends of sampling the dish if I took more.

So yes, I didn’t think the meal was value-for-money since it was pretty pricey for the small serving. But price aside, the food was good as I last remembered. Would I recommend Candlenut? Well… It was an enjoyable meal though the ‘small portion’ certainly left a deep impression. Not in a good way, if you were still wondering. But I guess an option to go around it would be to opt for their ah-ma-kase menu that’s $88 per head!

17A Dempsey Road, COMO Dempsey, Singapore
1800 304 2288, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Thur, Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 6
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Service: 7

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.

Dinner @ Candlenut

August 7, 2015 in Asian, Peranakan by thywhaleliciousfay

For a food lover like me, (good) food perks me up when I am down. So trust my dear Jap-foodie-GF to know the wonders food can do (for me) and to arrange dinner for us. Having said that, I am truly grateful for friends like my Jap-foodie-GF. She was periodically checking on me, ensuring everything was well. Thank you @felhuang! =)

And this time, we were off to Candlenut for Peranakan food.

And from their website, I learnt that Candlenut has since removed the a-la carte menu for dinner. Instead, it would be what chef Malcolm Lee calls the ‘Peranakan tasting ahmakase menu’.

Ah-ma-kase: Imagine going to Grandma’s house where a thoughtful sequence of dishes is cooked lovingly. Using only the freshest ingredients available each day.

And with that, we started our $50 ahmakase dinner with:-

1) Crackers, Complimentary (above)

2) Assorted canape #1 (above, left) – Tumbuk prawns, laksa leaf, starfruit.

3) Assorted canape #2 (above, right) – What was supposed to be grilled spice-marinated Australian beef flank satay, we were given chicken satay as I don’t take beef.

4) Assorted canape #3 (above) – Relish of minced pork, banana chilli, dried shrimp.


5) Assorted canape #4 (above) – Jiu hu char, kueh pie tee shell.

6) Main #1 (above) – Chap chye braised cabbage, sweet beancurd skin, pork belly, prawn stock.

7) Main #2 (above) – Blue swimmer crab, yellow turmeric coconut curry, kaffir lime.

8) Main #3 (above) – Wok fried wild caught baby squid, squid ink, tamarind, chillis. This was so good. My favourite!

9) Main #4 (above) – Charcoal grilled red snapper fillet, fried shrimp sambal, smoked sea salt.

10) Main #5 (above) – And what was supposed to be rawon beef short rib, buah keluak, fried shallots, we were served bakwan kepiting soup; Crab meatballs & bamboo shoots, in rich chicken broth simmered for at least 5 hours.

11) Thai hom mali rice – Served communal style in a big bowl for us to scoop to go with the mains.

12) Palate cleanser (above) – Rose jelly with apple.

13) Dessert with options of:-

(A) Buah keluak ice cream, salted caramel, warm chocolate espuma (above) – And this was pretty good, although a little spicy. Oh yes, chilli specks were added into the chocolate crumble.

(B) “Kueh salat”, kueh bangkit, coconut sorbet (above)

(C) Candlenut’s signature chendol cream, pandan jelly, gula melaka (above) – Probably it’s because this was the last dessert of the 3 I tried that it was a little bland. Wished the gula melaka was a little thicker and sweeter.

14) Dessert, Complimentary (above)

I haven’t had Peranakan food in a long while. I think the last was more than 5 years ago. And I am glad Candlenut continued to maintain my good impression of Peranakan food. Haha! We came on a wet Thursday evening, and the food which was prepared with much sincerity just warmed my (sad) soul. Keke.

And I liked that the distance between the tables were sufficiently far so that we could have heart-to-heart talk in comfort. Service was warm and personal too! The staff always had smiles on their faces. However, because dishes are prepared based on ingredients that’s available each day, the ahmakase menu (pages 1, 2) changes.

331 New Bridge Road, Dorsett Residences, #01-03, Singapore
8121 4107, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Fri : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Sun
Service: 8

UPDATE 1: Restaurant has moved to 17A Dempsey Road.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2016.
UPDATE 3: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2017.

UPDATE 4: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.