Chef Josh Boutwood Up Close And Personal At His New 10-Seater Restaurant Called Helm
After the resounding success of his two restaurant ventures—The Test Kitchen and the four-month-old Savage—Chef Josh Boutwood has quickly moved forward to challenge himself further with an ambitious new restaurant called Helm.
Photo by Dre Ferrer
I first heard about Boutwood in early 2012, while working on a magazine feature about molecular gastronomy. I ended up including Boutwood’s Alchemy on my short list of local restaurants applying this modernist cooking style in their kitchens.
Alchemy was Boutwood’s first solo restaurant in Boracay that he opened in 2010 after stints in top European restaurants like Noma and Trio, among others. It was where Boutwood started exploring the use of local and sustainable produce that he could find within a 40 to 50-kilometer radius of his restaurant. It was also where he started honing his newly-acquired chef skills to work with the ingredients available to him. Unfortunately, I never got to try Boutwood’s cooking in Boracay as he ended up relocating to Manila soon after to work for The Bistro Group as its Corporate Chef.
Photos courtesy of Cyrene de la Rosa and Boracay magazine
Fortunately for Boutwood’s many fans, he eventually opened the 20-seater, tasting menu-only The Test Kitchen in 2017 to rave reviews. Then just over a year later, he launched Savage in April, before focusing on Helm which he officially opened to the public on August 21. The following day, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, Boutwood launched Burger and Bits—a food stall serving his take on burgers, fried chicken, and tater tots—at The Grid inside Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall. So just this year, the ever ambitious and hard-working Boutwood has opened three restaurants, all with very different concepts.
What to expect
Located at Arya Residences in Bonifacio Global City, Helm occupies a 30-sqm space at the ground floor, accessible via a sliding door right beside the staircase leading up to Savage on the 2nd floor. Upon entering, you’re immediately greeted by an open kitchen designed in minimalist hues of mostly white with black and grey accents. Partially enclosing the kitchen is a large L-shaped counter that can accommodate a maximum of ten.
These ten diners are guaranteed front row seats to a most delicious show, with the kitchen serving as the stage and the ingredients shining as the “stars” of the show. The kitchen crew led by Boutwood “direct” these star ingredients to their full potential to create a tasting menu meant to please all the senses. During the course of the meal, Boutwood and his chefs continually interact with diners, explaining the dishes and ingredients. It’s a rare chance for diners to see up close how chefs work to put together such an elaborate meal.
For Helm’s initial eight-course menu, Boutwood focuses on locally sourced, premium quality, sustainable ingredients from around the Philippines, a practice that he intends to continue whenever possible. The menu starts with a sampling of assorted snacks, followed by a series of mains—including one of the best beef dishes I’ve eaten this year—then finishes strong with two desserts and assorted mignardises or bite-sized pastries served with Sagada coffee.
Here are some of my favorites from the menu:
The dinner starts strong with this crab tart snack of blue crabmeat sandwiched between a base layer of crab fat and a generous topping of Queso Rustico, Boutwood’s favorite Malagos cheese from Davao
Local Kitayama beef tartare is served on a crispy, tostada-like pancake finished with some egg yolk gel, pickled shallots, and micro greens
Who needs butter when you’re served a generous quenelle of what looks like butter but turns out to be pork back fat seasoned with pork cracklings
Fall-off-the-bone braised pork is topped with fried pig’s blood
A most tender roast duck dish, using local duck from Laguna!
My favorite is this heavenly beef dish of braised local Kitayama short ribs and pan-seared striploin that taste just like USDA prime grade rib-eye. It is served with a mushroom quenelle made from a reduction of seven kinds of mushrooms, plus a small serving of adlai to balance the dish
Guimaras mangoes two ways
A dessert showcasing Davao chocolate and durian! A surprisingly good combination that even a non-durian lover like me loved
Helm’s menu is set to change every four months and will only be available for dinner with two seatings at 6 pm and 8:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday.
Helm, G/F The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, IG @helmmnl, (0906) 234-1900 (reservation line open 11 am to 6 pm)
Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa
Follow the author on Instagram and Twitter @cyrenedelarosa