Josh Boutwood’s New Test Kitchen in Makati: A Tasting Menu Where Every Course Is Stellar

Tucked inside Bistro Academy, a former school of the Bistro Group, in San Antonio Village, Makati is Josh Boutwood's Test Kitchen

What are the new restaurants in Manila? That’s a question I’m often asked. Loads, I’ll tell you. But what’s new *and GOOD* in Manila? Chef Josh Boutwood’s Test Kitchen on Kamagong Street in San Antonio Village, Makati. The 30-year-old British-Filipino chef (who studied culinary at Escuela de Culinario Mojacar in Spain, before apprenticing at Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons in England, and working at Noma in Denmark and Swan Lake Castle in Sweden) has been corporate executive chef for the Bistro Group (Friday’s, Denny’s, Italianni’s, etc.) for five years.

And within that period, he has won numerous awards from the World Food Expo’s Philippine Culinary Cup of the World (he was awarded Chef of the Year twice, too). Last year, he won three medals at Food & Hotel Asia, the largest international food trade show in Asia, held yearly in Singapore.

Just three weeks ago, he turned this test kitchen (literally– it’s where they do the recipes for Bistro Group) into a dining space open in the evenings on a by-reservations-only basis. “It’s not a restaurant,” he said, “We are a kitchen.” Or perhaps a culinary room,  as their Instagram account describes.

Josh Boutwood- Test Kitchen, Makati, Philippines
Chef Josh Boutwood’s Test Kitchen is his first chef-driven venture in partnership with the Bistro Group. Here we finally get to try signature Josh Boutwood dishes as himself.

I first encountered Josh in Madrid Fusion Manila 2015, where I did a story on the regional lunches for my column in Forbes USA. For this, Josh prepared Balut 2.0 (click here to see the photo and recipe). And while I didn’t get to try the dish, just by looking at the photo and reading about the ingredients and technique that went into it made me wonder, WHEN I would finally get the chance to try the quintessential Josh Boutwood dishes.

Anyway the answer to my prayers came two years later with the opening of Test  Kitchen. This is Josh’s first chef-driven restaurant in Manila (still in partnership with Bistro Group), where we finally get to experience his talent and personal style, finally as himself.

The six-course tasting menu is currently at PHP1,800, but Josh says come March, he will have better ingredients and price will go up to about PHP2,200. Dishes change on a daily basis, but revolve around three main ingredients, and there will always be beef, poultry and seafood. A vegetarian menu can be created upon special request, 48 hours beforehand. There is a wine-pairing option with an additional PHP1,500. Tables are long and communal (10 pax max per table) so if you are less than a party of 10, then you will be seated among strangers,  and hopefully come out as friends.

Off service: This is what the dining space in the Test Kitchen looks like before/ after service. You get full view of the kitchen while dining, too.
Off service: This is what the dining space in the Test Kitchen looks like before/ after service. You get full view of the kitchen while dining, too.
Test Kitchen Makati- Menu
Simple and straightforward place setting.  Diners only get to see the menu upon arrival

The reality with a lot of tasting menus is that you enjoy several courses– and then the rest are totally forgettable. At Test Kitchen though, I went with my mom and we thoroughly enjoyed *every.single.dish.* Chef Josh Boutwood started off strong, remained strong all throughout, and ended strong as well. As in, Depth of flavor, check. Variation of textures, check. Presentation, check. Taste, super check.

Apparently, Josh’s specialty is being able to change the textures of food, hereby altering the taste altogether. This earned him the nickname “alchemist,” hence his first restaurant in Boracay being named,  Alchemy. (Source: Spot.ph) I asked him if he uses local products and he says he does but also imports as well. “I’m not a purist but a selectionist.”

I’ll let the visuals do the talking in this case. All you need to know is that you need to get to Test Kitchen ASAP. It’s, to me,  already one of the most remarkable openings of 2017, and it’s only February! It’s an incredibly enjoyable culinary experience, where the menu changes everyday (you’ll notice later that the pics I have on this blog are different from what other blogs and articles have posted– this is because Josh also works with a daily kind of spontaneity with the ingredients he has on hand.) The only downside being the difficulty in getting a table as there are only limited seats per night, and it’s open only when Josh is in town and available. But hey, wonderful things happen when you believe :)

Test Kichen Makati, Philippines- Josh Boutwood- Fjord- Norwegian Salmon with Lavosh in Squid Ink
FJORD: Norwegian salmon with horseradish from Sweden, applewood-smoked sour cream, pickled watermelon radish topped with an attractive lavosh coated in squid ink, that packed a crunch, and added alot of texture to the dish
Test Kitchen- Makati- Josh Boutwood- Valley- Lamb, Melon, Tomato
VALLEY: Lamb that’s cured for a month and hung for 3 months to bring out the depth of flavor. The slivers of lamb came out delicate and buttery, which he served with heirloom tomatoes, cantaloupe and olive oil powder
Test Kitchen- Makati- Josh Boutwood- Bread Course
Surprise Dish #1:  Brew your own bread? That’s exactly what Josh did in this incredible bread course made from IPA (India Pale Ale) grains, served with the best hickory smoked butter and burnt butter. Ah, I actually licked the butter from the knife when I was done with my bread! Too good!
Test Kitchen- Josh Boutwood- Makati, Philippines- Surf and Earth- Scallop, Bone Marrow, Green Pea
SURF & EARTH: Gorgeous dish of scallops sitting on green pea puree, and served with bone marrow puree that’s been torched. It’s for sure even more decadent than it looks!
Test Kichen- Makati- Josh Boutwood- Carbs Course- Orza
Surprise Dish #2: A carb course of orzo (or rissoni) with guanciale (pig’s cheeks cured in fennel and somoked paprika for 2 weeks and hung for 3 weeks) , dressed with cold pressed olive oil. So good!
Inside Josh Boutwood's Test Kitchen in Makati, Philippines- Bistro Academy
Let’s pause them food photos to have a look a the kitchen where chef Josh is hard at work
Test Kitchen- Josh Boutwood- Makati, Philippines- Hunt- Duck, Carrot
HUNT: Pan-fried duck served with carrot puree and onion ash.. incredibly tender.
Test Kitchen- Makati- Josh Boutwood- Pasture- Lamb, Potato, Anchovy
PASTURE: Lamb loin served with two kinds of potatoes (chips and foam), and two kinds of sauces (anchovy and dill, and lamb jus). As you already probably know, it’s also excellent.
Test Kitchen- Josh Boutwood- Dessert- Sweet- Plum, Vanilla, Sampinit 2
SWEET: Plum tart served with local raspberries from Pampanga (called sampinit), vanilla sauce and dehydrated meringue
Test Kitchen- Makati, Philippines- Oats and Single Origin Coffee from Bukidnon
Surprise Dish #3: Single origin coffee from Bukidnon, and cooked oats soaked in Josh’s personally brewed beer… because chef Josh likes to “end with breakfast!”

The Test Kitchen is open for dinner on a by-reservations-only basis. It is located at 9780 Kamagong Street, San Antonio, Makati City. Text or call +63917-304-1570 or email thetestkitchen@bistro.com.ph for inquiries and reservations. They are also on Instagram at @thetestkitchenmnl and on Facebook at The Test Kitchen.