Chef Josh Boutwood’s first location for his Test Kitchen certainly tested people’s patience. It was on busy Kamagong in the middle of Makati, a stone’s throw away from the Bistro Group headquarters. It certainly was worth the trip, but parking was always an issue.
And when City Hall began road improvements, and brought with it clouds of dust and endless knots of traffic, there really was no choice but to shut down what had become one of the city’s, if not the country’s, strongholds of culinary innovation. But there is always a silver lining when it comes to the charmed life of Mr. Boutwood.
Not too long after, one morning, as he was walking his dog, he chanced upon a boarded-up space right on the ground floor of his residential condominium. Happenstance? Destiny? Serendipity? Perhaps one, perhaps all three. But I’m certainly pleased that after some serious thinking, Josh decided to reopen his Test Kitchen, quite literally, in his very own ‘hood.
The dishes, the techniques, the flavors, the plating are still all forward thinking and cutting edge, but his new test kitchen is now more of an open kitchen. There’s no more need for a minimum number of guests for a sit-down degustation. This new kitchen is come as you are, arrive when you want, order whatever you wish, and enjoy everything that you want. Simply put, it’s a kinder, gentler Test Kitchen—but no less impressive, and much more amazing.
The interiors are stark, simple but stunning. Wood sweeping from floor to ceiling, bursts of pretty colors from petals on every table, sunlight streaming in and leaning into the afternoons, shadows dramatic in the golden hour, and on the stairs, a couple of the chef’s personal touchpoints. On the second floor, the center of the Test Kitchen, the laboratory where the science of culinary is applied: the curing room.
No, it’s more than science. Much more. Magic!
Sure, everything on the menu is absolutely fabulous. I expect nothing less, and I receive so much more. Navigation is the key word here. Sail through the menu—from the snacks to the starters to the seconds to the sides to the sweets. Order in sequence or skip through the courses. That’s the beauty of this kitchen. And for such world-class selections, the prices are so fair, surprising almost how reasonable they are on the wallet.
Let me give you one more piece of advice: do not miss the sourdough. If it’s the freshly baked “bread of the day” when you dine, get it. It’s sublime. From crust to the pillowy center, it’s one of the best I’ve had. And do pair it with the charcuterie: the Iberico, aged in-house, fairly melts in one’s mouth. The Duck Breast, deeply colored and intensely flavorful, cured with coriander and pink peppercorns.I’d love to come back, even by myself, just for the bread and the aged meats. Crack open a bottle of wine, and spend a long, lovely lunch or an elegant, extended dinner enjoying Josh’s dishes.
It’s impressive, really, how the chef balances, or more accurately, juggles his work in Test Kitchen with his duties at his two other restaurants—Helm and Savage in BGC—and his responsibilities overseeing the Bistro Group network. But as long as I’ve known him, what’s impressed me most about Josh Boutwood is his intensity. He’s passionate and talented, those are givens, but it’s his laser focus on his work that has made him the master that he’s become. And now, with the return of his test kitchen, he’s truly back where he belongs. Welcome home.