Year-long pop-up restaurant Magic Square to open in Portsdown Road

Magic Square, a pop-up launching in May, will help groom the next generation of chefs

(From left) Chefs Abel Su, Desmond Shen and Marcus Leow and Mr Gabriel Chan, general manager of Magic Square.
(From left) Chefs Abel Su, Desmond Shen and Marcus Leow and Mr Gabriel Chan, general manager of Magic Square.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

Call it a homecoming for restaurateur Tan Ken Loon of seafood restaurant The Naked Finn and Nekkid bar.

A decade after his now-defunct bespoke cocktail bar Klee opened in Portsdown Road, Mr Tan, 43, is returning to the same space to launch a new concept called Magic Square on May 2.

It is named after the Magic Square series of paintings by Swiss-German artist Paul Klee.

In an effort to groom the next generation of young chefs, Mr Tan has handpicked three chefs - Desmond Shen, 25; Marcus Leow, 26; and Abel Su, 29 - to helm the 18-seat pop-up.

There will be two dinner seatings (6 to 8pm and 8.15 to 10.15pm) offering a nine-course menu priced at $78++. Lunch will start on July 3.

The food is not restricted to a particular cuisine. Instead, it will showcase plenty of local produce.

For example, the chefs will visit Jurong Fishery Port to source seafood, while vegetables will come from its mini indoor farm.

Magic Square can also leverage on The Naked Finn for sourcing top-quality ingredients from Japan, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, says Mr Tan.

Inspired by the recent popularity of private-dining home experiences, such as Lynnette's Kitchen by violinist Lynnette Seah, Magic Square will be designed like a studio apartment with a 7m-long dining table. There will also be a living room area for pre-and post-dinner drinks.

Mr Tan says: "I want people to feel like they are going to a friend's house to eat."

On picking the chefs, Mr Tan wanted "hard-working Singaporeans" below the age of 30 with experience working for big restaurant names in the industry.

He started with chef Shen, who used to work as a part-time chef at The Naked Finn after he graduated from Temasek Polytechnic. Since then, he has worked at two-Michelin-starred Odette at National Gallery Singapore, Whitegrass at Chijmes and Blackwattle in Amoy Street.

At Whitegrass, chef Shen met chef Leow, whom he introduced to Mr Tan. Chef Su will join the crew in June as he is now working at Odette.

Magic Square will run for only one year in Portsdown Road as Mr Tan says the space - which is managed by JTC Corporation - will be taken back in May next year for further development.

There are no concrete plans yet for what happens after that.

Mr Tan says: "With Magic Square, I hope the chefs get the platform they need to explore and develop their craft.

"They will also learn how to run the business, such as managing costs, but still keeping everything affordable so diners will come.

"We need to groom the next generation of talents - whether they stay or not - and this is the first step."

Magic Square opens on May 2 at 5B Portsdown Road, with two dinner seatings from 6 to 8pm and 8.15 to 10.15pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays and Mondays). Lunch will start on July 3. For advanced reservations, e-mail

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2018, with the headline 'Whipping up new talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe