by Abigail Javellana
THE TEST KITCHEN is a private dining venue that serves as the creative outlet of Chef Josh Boutwood in partnership with The Bistro Group. It's where he gets to showcase his fine dining background from top Michelin-starred restaurants through his own personalized menu.
It is located at the actual test kitchen of the Bistro Academy, where they create new dishes and try them out before rolling them out to their stores.
What's exciting about this is the menu changes everyday. So you can expect something new every time you visit.
Here's a look at our The Test Kitchen experience...
THE TEST KITCHEN
9780 Bistro Academy Kamagong St., San Antonio Village, Makati City
Strictly by reservation only.
The Test Kitchen "hidden" inside 9780 Bistro Academy, along Kamagong Street in Makati.
The mood is very intimate and personal, with a modern minimalist interior.
The 18-20 seater restaurant is strictly by reservation only and can accommodate two big groups at a time.
NOTE: Couples and individuals can tag along with other people when there is an Open Table reservation.
You actually eat in the kitchen! Watch Chef Boutwood in his element, personally preparing your meal.
It's very communal, where you sit with a bunch of strangers. Hopefully at the end of the evening, you'll all come out as friends.
The kitchen thrives in using carcasses. They butcher a whole pig and get the cuts they want.
They also pride themselves in time cured ingredients. Some take up to three months to mature before they are ready for serving.
There will always be pork, beef, and seafood dishes on the menu.
Surf & Earth. Salmon, juniper, cucumber.
For a nice, light start, we had salmon cured in juniper and rose pepper, with pickled cucumber for acidity, and dill oil.
The dish was refreshing and felt more like a palette cleanser.
The wine pairing doesn't start until the first course. ;)
Surprise Dish #1 (Bread)
Chef Josh likes to add surprise dishes that aren’t on the menu. We liked this artisanal bread and butter.
Hunt. Duck, beets.
Meat from duck that's hanged for two weeks to dry and cured for one week.
The thin slice of duck is naturally salty because of the curing process and further intensifies the flavors of the dish.
The beet root is very earthy, but because of the pickle juice, you get this spike, with some play on salty and sour flavor combinations. There's also a hint of sweetness from the beet root snow malted extract.
An excellent dish, but we wished the flavor profiles would have been different from the first plate.
Ocean. Seabass, sunchoke.
My favorite from that night was this beautiful sea bass with nice ocean-y flavors.
It went well with the sunchoke puree, sunchoke skin chips, pork scratchings, and crispy quinoa.
The fat from the meat gives the fish a surprising dimension.
Farm. Pork, cauliflower.
The main dish is a combination of pork loin and pork belly, brined then sous vide for hours. The pork is paired with a cauliflower puree and raw shaved cauliflower, then drizzled with a few drops of virgin olive oil.
We loved the addition of shaved raw cauliflowers for that additional texture.
I also liked how they highlighted the organic pork as the star ingredient. The pork has a very prominent but clean taste.
Pasture. 40-day dry aged beef, celery root.
40-day dry aged beef with a smoky flavor from the charcoal grill that pairs really well with the taste of the celery root mash and demi-glazed onions.
I liked the intense umami flavors in this dish.
Surprise Dish #2 (Cheese)
We had eight-week-old rye cheese topped with a crack of pepper, apple butter, and tapioca crisps drizzled with wild stone honey.
Cheese and honey go really well together! Just a tiny drizzle of honey is enough to complement the saltiness of cheese.
Street. Milk, tapioca, and chai.
Chai-infused milk, tapioca fruit pearls, and some berry infusion. A sweet milky dish with a bit of floral notes.
Surprise Dish #3 (Finishing Dessert)
Freshly brewed cold coffee from Bukidon and oats...because Chef Josh likes to end with breakfast! :)
Overall, it's great that The Bistro Group, with its chain of casual dining restos, is also open to the idea of new fine dining concepts such as this.
Chef Boutwood's versatile cooking really shines in this setting, and it's no surprise that he was behind some of The Bistro Group's most successful dishes.
The progression of the menu was well-planned and executed, starting with some "high-peaked" flavors, going down to areas with more earthiness and depth, then going back up again and finishing with some brighter notes--a literal roller coaster for the taste buds! Of course, the surprise dishes were a nice (and welcome) touch to the whole experience.
Price ranges from P1,800 (6-course) to P2,900 (8-course).
Cheers and congratulations to Chef Josh, The Bistro Group, and the rest of the THE TEST KITCHEN team. Looking forward to what else you have in store for us this 2017!
THE TEST KITCHEN
9780 Bistro Academy Kamagong St., Antonio Village, Makati City
Strictly by Reservation only.
Live an Awesome Life,
Abi of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our meal was courtesy of Chef Josh Boutwood of The Bistro Group. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. Just type in "9780 Bistro Academy" in Waze to find the resto. The nearest landmark is the Clean Fuel station along Kamagong (NOTE: It's a one-way street).