The Test Kitchen Passes with Flying Colors
posted by Vicki in Indulgences
The dining scene in Manila is thriving. While some old favorites have closed shop (I’ll miss you, Champetre) there are many new restaurants vying to take their place. One such restaurant discovered not by me but by my friend Amy’s son Carlo is The Test Kitchen. When Amy asked if I’d like to try The Test Kitchen with them, the new brainchild of The Bistro Group’s head honcho, Chef Josh Boutwood, I said yes without knowing what I was in for. After all, the set menu was only P1800 for around 4-6 courses.
The Bistro Group owns the American restaurant chains such as TGI Friday’s, Italianni’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and its latest, Denny’s here in the Philippines. Though there is nothing special or groundbreaking about these restos that offer American comfort food, there was a lot to be said of Chef Boutwood, a 30-year-old Filipino-British chef who swept the awards at the Food & Hotel Asia 2016 in Singapore, Asia’s largest food trade show. Read the article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer here.
Don’t expect to find The Test Kitchen in some posh location. In fact, our dining group walked the length of Kamagong Street from the corner of hip Sagujio all the way down the dingy road. Past the carinderias and auto shops. Yes, we were that dedicated. Thankfully, there was a bit of drizzle to mist us on our walk and by the time we found the location my Fitbit said we walked over 4,000 steps.
Once inside though the room is simple and clean, with the kitchen taking up most of the space. Only two communal tables for 22 diners are available. The meats hanging in the corner at once made the lengthy walk all worth it.
The chef’s menu is simple and changes everyday and is offered with wine pairing at P1500. At first I was hesitant to do the wine pairing but in the end it turned out to be the most cost-effective way to enjoy wine with the meal, a bottle of Pinot Grigio being P3600 anyway.
We started with an amuse bouche of camote chips followed by SURF AND EARTH, a delicious sea bass ceviche in cilantro and olive oil served with ikura and avocado emulsion. This was served with a Reisling 2014 by Domain Mittenacht Freres in Alsace.
The next dish was HUNT: an aged, smoked duck with carrot puree, juniper and beetroot powder. This was paired with Cox 2015 Chardonnay.
Chef Josh surprised us with something off-menu: a slow-raised bread served with smoked butter and black salt. This is the reason why people should truly eat carbs.
For OFFAL we got tripe served with herbs and black pudding in a tapioca sauce. Honestly, this was the first time for me to eat tripe and it looked a little strange with its honeycomb pattern. Each tapioca ball fit perfectly inside – how cunning. I actually enjoyed this one (as long as I didn’t think much about where it came from) as it was paired with a burgundy from Domaine de la Saraziniere. The flowers were a little much though and definitely did not eat that stem!
Chef Josh definitely enjoys spoiling his customers and he sent us another dish off-menu, this one of guanciale, kelp, barley and more edible flowers. He must have his own flower garden.
For the FARM course, and by this time I was starting to feel properly full, he served us pork belly cooked for 26 hours with apples stewed for 4 hours, celeriac and topped with good old chicaron. This chef certainly is in touch with his Filipino side!
For the PASTURE dish Chef Josh offered us veal cheeks with Jerusalem sun chokes, onion and ash, served with a floral Chateau Falfas 2011 claret.
We finally get to the SWEET course and he serves us a delicious and not too sweet white chocolate mousse served with mini beetroot meringue and fresh strawberries. Our own British-Filipina Kate says the mini-meringue reminds her of childhood, proving that, aside from his accent, Chef Josh is half-British.
Just when you think the meal is over, Chef Josh comes out with one final dish, reminding one of a hearty breakfast to soak up all the fat we just ingested LOL. Here is a sample of oats in an IPA beer reduction and royalstone honey served with a cold brew of Bukidnon coffee.
I enjoyed every dish prepared with quality ingredients and not a lot of froufrou so that you can enjoy the flavor of each carrot, juniper, duck or onion. Every dish was thoughtfully plated. Out of all my favorites were the sea bass ceviche, smoked duck with carrot and that bread with smoked butter. For P1900, its worth every cent and the wine pairing was good, although not essential. Maybe best to bring a bottle or two from your favorites and just share with the group.
The Test Kitchen is located at 9780 Kamagong Street, San Antonio Village, Makati. For reservations, text or call +639173041570 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are definitely planning on coming back when that lamb is done drying.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.