The newest member of the m.a.x. concepts restaurant portfolio has landed at ifc, a mall we consider a bit of a hinterland when it comes to food (how many times can we eat at Tonkichi Tonkatsu, Crystal Jade or sen-ryo?).
Market S.E.A (which stands for Southeast Asia) is situated in a prime position at the mall – right next to hot Spanish newcomer La Rambla and taking up Isola’s former space with is stunning al fresco terrace (a fave brunch spot for us in the past). They’re still waiting for their licence later this year – this means that although they can’t serve diners outside just yet, there’s nothing stopping guests from bringing their food and bevvies out there once they’ve ordered. The interior is bright, airy and inviting, with the use of stones, hemp and weathered steel helping to create a contemporary, laid-back vibe.
Incorporating flavours from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the menu offers healthier versions of the Southeast Asian dishes we all know and love, plus a few more innovative offerings. Superfoods like kale and quinoa are scattered throughout the menu, so we didn’t feel quite as guilty indulging in the sometimes rich dishes. We tasted five of the restaurant’s signatures:
Mango mango calamari salad ($108)
So good they named it twice. This is where quinoa makes an appearance – crispy this time – alongside two types of mango: Thai green mango and oh-so-sweet mango from the Philippines. The grilled squid had a lovely, smoky flavour that meshed well with the refreshing, sour fish-sauce-based dressing. In case you’re wondering, those white strips are shredded yam beans, which provided a contrasting, crunchy texture.
Lobster laksa ($228)
This Ipoh-style laksa was rich and luxurious owing to the lobster-infused slow-cooked soup and the succulent half-lobster crowning the bowl. We loved the use of both thick egg noodles and thinner vermicelli that absorbed the coconutty flavour of the broth. Our only complaint was that this laksa was lacking a bit of heat.
Roasted chicken with caramelised palm sugar crumbs ($198)
Limited to 20 portions per day, and served with a side of on-trend grilled kale, this dish was our favourite of the tasting. We were surprised to learn that live chickens are used – the yellow-haired variety, which has thinner skin and smaller bones, resulting in particularly tender, juicy flesh. The palm sugar crumbs were addictive and the perfect foil to the savoury roasted chook – look at that crispy skin!
Salt-crusted whole goby ($338)
This time only eight portions a day are up for grabs. This grilled fish had firm yet delicate and tender flesh flavoured with an assortment of herbs, with lemongrass being most prominent.
Grilled pineapple, pandan ice cream, granola and soft meringue ($68)
Move aside, grilled meat – the star of any BBQ for us is pineapple, whose intense flavour goes into overdrive when it’s grilled with butter and sugar. We loved the interplay of textures and temperatures here.
We really enjoyed our tasting at Market S.E.A. The chefs have put a lot of effort into creating a healthier menu of Southeast Asian-inspired dishes that taste just as good as they look. We’ll be back to try the cocktails (there’s a Tomyumtini calling our name) once the terrace is fully operational, as well as the tempting set lunch (from $198 for two courses + drink).
Shop 3075, 3/F, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, 2624 9228
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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