Tasting the future in Josh Boutwood’s Test Kitchen

CHEF Josh Boutwood considers Test Kitchen and his two other restaurants, Savage and Helm, as his culinary playground. PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID JOHN CUBANGBANG FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @TRIBUNEPHL_DVD

Loss of taste and smell are among the symptoms of coronavirus. A gripping source of anxiety when one ruminates on the constraints of pursuing pleasures in this darkest of times. And just like that, even the orgasmic appeal of hunting for fantastic food in the metro becomes a risky expedition.

But things are not all that bleak. Perhaps the most comforting thing during this eased quarantine phase is that establishments have either added outdoor chairs and tables to lessen the chances of catching the virus or have offered private dining spaces for loved ones to finally have an intimate gathering and talk about, what else, how everyone has been during this darn pandemic.

Thank god for restaurants like chef Josh Boutwood’s Test Kitchen in Rockwell, which has the perfect private dining area on its mezzanine floor. The minute one saunters into its doors, it’s clear that one has come to the perfect disinfected dining place. A friendly staff in her mask and shield leads guests up to the dim-lit area where a spacious shelf is filled with large jars of of herbs, vegetables and other edibles soaking in liquid and fermenting for months. Even years. Just by the long table is a glass-enclosed drying area where cured ducks, legs of lamb and sausages have been hanging for months as well.

Welcome to chef Boutwood’s food playground.His gastronomic lab. Actually, culinary cave is more like it.

KLADDKAKA, chef Josh Boutwood’s take on the classic Swedish chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

The award-winning corporate executive chef of The Bistro Group and pioneer of the produce-driven food movement in the country, considers Test Kitchen — and two other restaurants, Savage and Helm — as his own babies. It’s here where the England-born chef works on his “not too crazy” experiments to awaken palates yearning for something more than the usual.

This includes a lot of fermentation, aging, dehydration and curing of ingredients to be cooked with straight-from-the farm produce. Time — long periods of it — is given premium to create Test Kitchen’s inventive and modern dishes. Here’s the future of food, as many experts predict—in post-pandemic times and for the sake of sustainability, preserving food the non-chemical way will be the thing for when climate change worsens. And, oh, protein-rich insects deserve another narrative.

“The whole mantra of Test Kitchen is that time is an ingredient, that’s why we have the fermentatjon and curing going on,” says chef Boutwood, who is now sporting a moustache, a product of — let’s just say — his pandemic distraction. “We invest in a lot of time-consuming preparations that could take years. And we patiently wait.”

These ingredients then comprise the subtle but crucial nuances of his distinct dishes. “With Covid-19 now and since we deal with farmers and work with what’s in season, we have to take advantage with what’s prime. We will use it that week fresh and maybe try to ferment the rest. I don’t know how and when we’ll use the aged ingredients. But when the team comes together and discuss ideas, I just look up and, voila, I see the use for them!”

Promoting locally sourced ingredients in his menu, chef Boutwood confesses the pandemic has really been a challenge. One just has to stay steady with one’s goals in the restaurant and keep that hopeful, buoyant spirit up, he says.

New menu

In time for the holidays, chef Boutwood chalked up new dishes that are surefire pleasers for their social media-worthy plating and, most of all, for the taste, flavor and quality.

For starters, the rustic salad Zucchini and Head Cheese, which is covered in raw zucchini with a citrusy dressing of lemon juice and cold-pressed olive oil, fresh mint, parsley and Parmigiano cheese.

Lightly crack a crisp, wafer-like bread for Test Kitchen’s Beef Tartare that is lightly aged beef seasoned with horseradish root, mustard leaf gremolata and served with an egg yolk gel. The mouth feel of oh-so-tender beef melting as one bites into it is simply indulgent.

Carnivores will want the thick and umami-rich Pork Chop glazed in cola miso sauce, grilled over open charcoal and served with braised red cabbage and pickled jicamas and carrots.

Dessert sustains the lush theme with Kladkaka, a decadent Swedish chocolate cake served with rich in-house vanilla ice cream.

Good food, good company, the cordial company of chef Boutwood. It’s a good, laid-back moment at Test Kitchen.

Test Kitchen is at G/F One Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City, is open Sundays to Tuesdays (closed on Mondays) for dine-in, take out and curbside pick-up. For reservations: +63 977 288 5751.

Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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