A restaurant called Savage conjures up an image of big burly men gathered around a fire and ripping apart vast amounts of red meat. In fact, it was this primeval vision of cooking over flames is what inspired Chef Josh Boutwood to develop his latest project at Arya Plaza.
Josh Boutwood, corporate chef of The Bistro Group
Oak and charcoal fire up the grill.
Smoke and char deliver that premodern thrill to Savage. Nearly everything is grilled or smoked over open flames. Here, the 31-year-old chef leaves the comforts of a well-appointed kitchen to bring a different kind of comfort on the table. Without the frills of a contemporary kitchen, Chef Josh leads the focus back on the ingredient.
The steak is obvious: flank cooked tender to a pinkish-red center. The kitchen grills it quickly then hangs it over the grill to capture the flavor of the oak-laced smoke; the flavor of the beef punctuated by flourishes of ash and pickled ramp.
Flank, ash, pickled ramp
Barramundi, arugula, preserved lemon, olive
Salt baked prawns, crab fat emulsion, grilled lemons
Scallop crudo, pomelo, chive, and chilli
But meat and flame have always had a strong and easy relationship. What's impressive is how effortlessly they bring the theme to the rest of the menu: a flaky and light barramundi, juicy prawns, an intense salmon crudo. The kitchen never seasons enough to overwhelm the natural flavor of the main ingredient, adding little accoutrements like tangy olives, pomelo bits, bitter arugula, crab fat emulsion to reinforce each dish.
Even the salad takes a trip over the flame: roughly chopped romaine kisses the grill just fast enough to crisp up the edges. It comes with shaved Parmesan, anchovy garlic dressing, a kind of eloquent twist to the usual Caesar.
Charred romain, anchovy garlic dressing
Chef Josh knows how to punch up the flavors when need be. The Manila clams, for example, is a bright, zingy stew cooked in an indoor bonfire, where the shellfish is brightened by cilantro and lime leaf. Even when the clams are gone, the leftovers still beg to be mopped up with loads of bread (one of the few things they do cook in their underworked oven).
Bread and house butter
Fresh carabao cheese, chive oil, and confit heirloom tomatoes
Cheese plate, local and imported, with house jams
Roasted potatoes, fresh cheese, parsley
The menu downplays what goes on in every dish. Something like the "bread and house butter" sounds standard, but the sourdough is in-house and the butter? Two kinds—burnt and kale. Not exactly the pantry variety. The "cheese, chive oil, and confit heirloom tomatoes" is actually burrata sourced from Cavite and more stringy than usual. The "roasted potatoes, fresh cheese, and parsley"? Comfort like you haven't tasted. Even the cheese platter goes beyond the already generous four types with the caraway and beetroot tuile.
Sticky toffee pudding vanilla ice cream
Merangue strawberries and vanilla
Most chefs would end this fiery motif at meats and cheat a little with the dessert, but not at Savage where the chef's throwback sticky toffee pudding is rewarded with that same sweetish flavor from oak.
At Test Kitchen (currently on break while the chef focuses on his other projects), Chef Josh's earlier endeavor with its fancy techniques and top-of-the-line equipment, he was pressed to think of every kind of culinary possibility. At Savage, with neither electricity nor gas, the chef has gone primitive. Yet he's never been more cutting edge.
Savage is at The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; it opens tonight, April 16, at 6 p.m. the every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.