SINGAPORE — In food-dense Singapore, where new restaurants open almost daily, it's an onerous task to differentiate. I've been shepherded to enough new eating places all over this island that eventually, it all fades into a blur. Where were that delicious squid and chorizo stew from? Porta? No? Oh right. That was from PS.Cafe. Silly me.
Not that I'm whining, though. I've learned to take all tastings with a heavy dose of salt, fancy as their outlook may be. It's an important lesson learned from a time not too long ago, when a famed, placed-on-a-pedestal, pork katsu sandwich from Adrift at Marina Bay Sands left three food writers perplexed and extraordinarily bemused by how terribly unimpressive it tasted. An entire workshop had been planned around this pork katsu sandwich. Admittedly, it should do much better than this. But I digress.
Fortunately, a fancy veneer is not something Mag's Wine Kitchen concerns themselves with. It's apparent from the moment you step into the restaurant and find yourself in the middle of a bustling kitchen—chefs of all file and rank going about their business with nary a care that I, a stranger has intruded into their sacred space. For all its deer-in-the-headlights moment, it's not a mistake—that is the entrance you've just walked through and, indeed, what an entrance you've made.
Mag's Wine Kitchen takes its moniker very seriously, as evidenced by the impressive wine list. It's an accolade they had fiercely defended since its inception 23 years ago. Open kitchen aside (with a powerful exhaust system if I may say so myself) the mise en scène thrives on being exceptionally classic. It doesn't try to be too 2019-esque, neither is it dated. It's the kind of place where you imagine the linens and tablecloths are still pressed by a husband and wife team at a neighbourhood laundry, using a heavy steel-plate steam iron.
The restaurant sits a modest 36. Imagine that: a 36-seater restaurant at the heart of Keong Saik, with neighbours the likes of Olivia, Gaston, and Pasta Bar. They must be doing something right to have weathered 23 years, moved, and seat only 36 at a time in this new outfit. There's nothing here that's too cutting edge, or innovative. Mag's just thrives on serving food that is darn fabulously simple, dependable, and comforting.
Did I wish for some zany, daring, and creative elements of gastronomy? Perhaps. Did it need such filigree? It doesn't. An appetiser of an Alaskan king crab cake is all manners of chunky, fragrant and retains much of the sweetness that's further heightened by balls of melon confit in shades of orange. Fat Hokkaido scallops are beautifully tender and firm and sit in a yellow corn veloute that's creamy without being too cloying.
There's a plate of Boston Lobster Risotto the colour of bright turmeric made with carnaroli rice, saffron, chicken stock, and a heavy hand of butter. A mound of de-shelled Boston lobster sits pretty on top. It is, of course, cooked to an inch of perfection—sweet and so wonderfully briny.
A Beef Tenderloin arrives to oohs and aahs—clearly the Madonna of this act. Like many others that came before, it is expectedly gorgeously seared outside with a luscious pink inside. This is some good ole' quality beef with tension and flavour. There's also a gloriously mouth-watering pool of dark veal jus served with a quenelle of pale yellow mash. Everything comes together quite heroically—the perfect epitome of resolute persistence on keeping classic food and cooking methods a priority, second to none.
I end the meal with a very classic dessert—the kind you order without much thought or hesitance. It's familiar, comforting, and quite simply a tour de force of desserts. Simply named 'Chocolate', it's a dark chocolate fondant that oozes creamy cocoa the colour of deep earth served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. There's nothing to hate or overtly love about this dessert. It just is.
As is with Mag's Wine Kitchen version 2.0, I hear they are doing a four-hands collaborative dinner very soon, and that's undoubtedly very on-trend. Not that being on-trend is anything Mag needs to worry itself over. Long after all other dabblers of food have come and gone, we can always count on Mag's Wine Kitchen to still be around.
Website | 55 Keong Saik Road #01-06, Singapore 089158
Mon-Fri 11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:00pm - 10:00pm
Sat: 5:00pm - 10:00pm
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
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