One would certainly ask: what was going on Chef Josh Boutwood’s mind when he first thought of opening Savage, a high-concept restaurant that doesn’t use any electrical or gas stove?
It might be his primal instincts kicking in or maybe it was his love for grilled food, which he enjoys eating during his down time. Apparently, it was also the idea of mounting a restaurant that was a complete antithesis of its predecessor, The Test Kitchen, which is dependent on state of the art cooking gadgetry as well as Helm, Josh’s 10-seater, tasting menu concept located just below Savage.
“We wanted to go back to the real roots of cooking, the primal instincts, which we lose with the technology we’ve been given,” explained Josh, “it’s also trying to establish the connection between fire and ingredient.” The challenge doesn’t end there—the open kitchen is also void of any small electrical appliance such as food processors or even blenders, opting for fundamental tools like mortar and pestle to go by their tasks. Instead, the staff comes in the morning to complete their labor-intensive preparations just in time for dinner reservations and the weekends. This includes making all their flavor bases, marinades, and emulsions in-house as well as baking their own sourdough bread that’s served with luscious kelp butter and addicting burnt butter.
One thing you’ll hear when you’re seated in the bar or near the open kitchen is the sputtering of embers coming from the live coals under the grill. Another thing you’ll notice is the piles of wood scattered in some corners of the restaurant. “We use oak sourced from Ukraine, which we found consistent in flavor and supply. And after testing other wood varieties, this one works best with all our dishes,” shared Josh. This conclusion came after Chef Josh and his Savage chefs also needed to tackle a major hurdle: how to control fire without a temperature gage or timers. Since chefs are used to cooking with regulated heat, Chef Josh admitted that it was a learning curve for everyone. “Everything is down to intuition. So we had to have a lot of faith in our grill posts and make sure that every single food is at the exact temperature just by knowing,” assured Chef Josh. The only downside to this process? The cellphone in their pockets gets very hot, he kidded.
While Chef Josh helms his kitchen downstairs, Paulo Bayani is actually the one who keeps the grill running and the fire burning at Savage. The young head chef was the one who curated for us some of signature items on the menu as well as two new additions to be released soon.
First up was the Potato and Crab Salad. You can taste the smokiness immediately coming from the fresh crab meat matched by the creamy sweetness of the potatoes cooked with a milky emulsion. Generous portions of lump fish roe, fried breadcrumbs, and micro greens are then layered on for its multi-textural experience plus a splash of chive oil to bring it all together.
One of the new items on the menu is the Straciatella plate that’s drizzled heavily with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt, pepper, oregano, plus fried capers for good measure. This simple yet heavenly starter goes perfectly well with the in-house sourdough bread.
Grilled Tuna Jaw is one of those ugly delicious dishes that we all love to partake albeit not in a hip restaurant setting. Savage elevates this lowly entrée by grilling it with a yeast and miso emulsion then topping it off with fried breadcrumbs and microgreens making it into a visual and epicurean feast. In the end though, you’ll still want to stick your fingers inside every crevice just to get the tastiest flesh; a bit primitive but that’s exactly how Chef Josh wants you to enjoy it.
Pinoy grill favorite Pork Belly also gets a fancy treatment. Before taking a trip to the grill, the meat is first marinated in soy and cola. It is then served with tangy pineapple chutney plus a Thai-inspired basil and cilantro salad to counter the richness of the meat.
Another must-try entrée is the perfectly grilled Rib eye that’s been long infused in a mixture they call “Marinade 1,” which is composed of onions, parsley, garlic, chilies, and vinegar. After getting the fire treatment, more marinade is added on top plus pieces of charred onions and a final flourish of sea salt and chive oil. We suggest pairing this with either the Savage Rice or Roasted Potatoes.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding may be known as Savage’s signature dessert, Chef Josh is proud to introduce a childhood favorite of his to the menu. His Treacle Tart is a nod to the English classic—a sturdy pastry shell packed with the sweetest filling made from maple and honey with a hint of ginger. But instead of the traditional clotted cream or crème fraiche, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is served on the side. “It’s sugar on sugar on sugar,” teased Chef Josh.
At the end of each meal, Chef Josh wants everyone to know what goes on with every dish they make. He shares, “it’s all simple really—it is [all about the] protein and a certain amount of flavor that went into it; and that’s where guests are invited to go back to that primal instinct and become a savage.”
The Plaza at Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. For reservations, call (0915) 333-9546
Open from Monday to Thursday at 6:00PM-10:00PM and Friday to Sunday from 11:00AM-3:00PM and 6:00PM-10:00PM
Photographed by Kieran Punay of Studio 100