Manila's Two Chefs-of-the-Moment Collaborated for a Dinner of a Lifetime
An explosion. It's what happens when two powerful things collide. Explosions don't always end up well, but there are instances when it's the most magnificent thing that you can encounter. Such was the case of "Borderless" a two-night collaboration between Manila's two It chefs—Chef Nicco Santos and Chef Josh Boutwood—where the former's bold Asian preferences merged well with the latter's subtle Euro style. Each night an eight-course display separated into four "movements."
The democratic partnership saw the first night at Test Kitchen, Chef Josh's Pasong Tamo playground, and the second at Hey Handsome, Chef Nicco's Asian fusion home base in Bonifacio Global City.
Seafood eased us into the festivities, with fresh oysters blanketed by kropek and fresh green starting things off. Salmon, cubed and served with freshly pickled melon and laksa pesto, followed. Between each movement comes an intermission—a drink, Pinot Grigio, in this case, as well as freshly baked sourdough with smoked butter (with smoked salt) and durian butter, which gave that unique flavor without the unappealing smell.
The second movements came with a beef brisket, braised the European way a la Chef Josh but highlighted by Asian flavors that are signature Chef Nicco. Think rendang topped with beef tendons cooked for two days; coconut and fried baby sampaloc leaves only worked to amplify the beefiness of the dish. Chicken came next—poached with trumpet mushrooms and covered with kamut (an Egyptian grain), ramp oil, cilantro, and basil. The taste was incredibly fresh with textures that were both crunchy and crisp.
After a Bordeaux Speciale Blanc, the third movement introduced much heavier fare. Sous-vide pork belly that was as juicy as can be, with a layer of crisp skin at the top. It came with apple butter, sweet potato, mushroom sauce, and fennel. The last main was a wagyu striploin, cooked lightly as you should with any good cut of meat, and carefully paired with rhubarb butter, burnt eggplant puree at the bottom for a hint of smoke, chef Nicco’s special oyster sauce, and wild ramp leaves for a garlic-esque flavor.
Sous-vide Pork Belly
The only way to end a wild meal like this was with something light. We had carrot ice cream coated with passionfruit and a burnt orange gel. Crisp, dehydrated egg whites sit on the magical dessert which is garnished with more carrots to bring the entire dish together. The second dessert, and the last dish, was a kind of red rice pudding, with a layer of caramel gula Melaka resting at the bottom, and coconut and chestnut crisps on top.
It's one of those meals that you wish you can every day, but the beauty of Borderless is that this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things.