Obviously, technology has made our lives a lot easier—from the way we communicate with others to the appliances we use to create a quick, easy meal in just a few minutes. But as we depend on it more and more, there are times when it can feel like it has taken over, instead of the other way around. Savage, the newest of Chef Josh Boutwood’s restaurants, aims to combat this very dependence on technology with a pre-industrial take on cooking.
Described by the young chef as the alter ego to the fine dining experience one can get at The Test Kitchen, dishes here are cooked entirely using wood, fire and a grill. And instead of a tasting menu, you get food Boutwood would like to eat on his days off, which are hearty dishes to be shared with friends and family.
“After opening a fine dining restaurant, I wanted to create something the exact opposite. I wanted to get back to the primal instinct of cooking which we lose when we’re used to technology,” he says very matter-of-factly.
Because it is in a trained chef’s nature to use the most up-to-date tools, starting Savage also came with a completely new and labor-intensive orientation for Boutwood and his team. “Everything in our menu is made from scratch, down to our mayonnaise and oils,” he explains. “Here, we focus on the relationship between fire and the ingredient. We don’t cook with thermometers or timers or blenders. It’s all based on intuition, so we need to have a lot of faith in ourselves to just know.”
Smoked Crab, Potato and Flying Fish Roe
All their dishes—whether it be meat, fish, vegetables, or even dessert—are cooked over their wood of choice: oak. “Before we opened, we were trying out a lot of local woods, but supply and consistent flavor was a problem. We now import oak wood from Ukraine, since they had the sweetest of aromas and the most mellow of smoked flavors that adapted well to whatever we were cooking,” Boutwood tells us. He also adds that while charcoal is there solely to maintain heat, oak wood is the main thing that adds magic to their meals.
At first glance, some of the dishes at Savage, such as their Pork Belly, Cola and Pineapple and their Ribeye and Charred Onions, look a lot simpler compared to the ones you might get at Boutwood’s Helm or The Test Kitchen. But as you take that first bite, tasting that melodic blend of ingredients, you can immediately sense that what is in front of you is the farthest thing from simple. “In a sense, our dishes at Savage look simpler, but they are actually more creative and labor-intensive. Guests may not see it right away, but we want it to appear that way—straightforward. What you have may just look like a piece of meat, but it has actually been marinated for six hours,” he says.
Pork Belly, Cola and Pineapple
Of course, you also get playful-looking dishes that is reminiscent of what Boutwood is known for in his other restaurants. They have the Smoked Crab, Potato and Flying Fish Roe, which is a refreshing, flavorful salad and the buzzed-about Tuna Jaw, Yeast and Miso.
And the story behind the restaurant’s name? “We want guests to become savages when they’re here. Not in the sense that they’re going to eat with with their hands—there’s still going to be that element of sophistication—but in the way that they enjoy the food.”
When asked about his personal discoveries since starting the restaurant, Boutwood has an immediate response. “Don’t cook with a cellphone in your pocket! It gets very hot. That was our major discovery,” he laughs. But on a more serious note, he expresses that he learned to put the trust back into his intuition. Addition to this, Boutwood shares that he also puts a lot of trust into his team, allowing him to multitask between his restaurants and his work with The Bistro Group. “I have a very good team. Even if it is the busiest time of the year, I know that my team is doing what needs to be done,” he says.
In a way, it seems as if Savage reflects Boutwood’s own personality—not very showy of his achievements, but clearly very passionate and intense: “At Savage, we don’t want to promote too much by saying how much we’ve worked on our dishes. We let them speak for themselves.”
Savage is located at G/F The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City.
As seen on MEGA Magazine’s November 2018 issue.