Josh Boutwood has an astronaut tattoo inked on his left arm.
As a child, he says, he wanted to be an astronaut, heading for unexplored horizons, and exploring the depths of the universe.
“There will always be dreams, there will always be goals. What we dream and what the goal is is never defined yet we shall keep on moving on the journey we set out for ourselves,” says Josh of Helm’s new home that now seats 24 versus the original intimate 10-seater at Arya. For cocktails beforehand, or for a cozy option for dessert, move to the deck, al fresco, that overlooks Paseo de Roxas and the twinkling lights of Salcedo Village.
The new glass and stone restaurant is inspired by kintsugi, the art of mending broken pottery pieces with gold. It’s about breaking and healing, accepting the imperfect and building strength and resilience after challenges.
Josh gets inked, he says, when he is stressed. The pain of the needle makes him focus on something else outside of life’s challenges. He had the astronaut tattoo done when plans for the new helm were still up in the air. After 12 hours of pinpricks, he was relaxed and refreshed.
Twelve months later, the restaurant is done, and it is stunning, with veins of copper and steel running through a black and gray palette.
“I wanted a juxtaposition of intention and space,” says Josh. “The exposed structural columns and polished cement floors contrast with the brass accents and natural wood finishes.”
For diners who want the immersive feel of the original Helm with the chefs preparing their meal in front of them, there are two countertops that seat four, with one counter for the preparation of cold dishes, and the other for hot.
For those who prefer more privacy, there are separate tables ensconced in comfortable alcoves— in the restaurant, for couples, or celebratory group meals, perhaps.
And the food, ah, a dance of flavor and texture.
Our 14-course meal was served on the front countertop, with a front row view to everything going on in the kitchen.
We started off with a batch of “snacks”—Spanish mackerel fritter in a vodka batter for Josh’s version of fish and chips, fjord trout from Josh’s wife’s home region of Scandinavia, with juniper in Japanese soy sauce, creamy tuna in an egg roll, raw beef in a crisp tart with onions and horseradish.
A rich mussel and lemongrass dashi with swirls of garlic, chili, and dill oils was followed by a ravioli of hamachi cured with salt, sugar and Szechuan peppers, with Japanese cucumbers, yuzu and coconut lime leaf.
A homey dish of barley porridge was next, laden with two of Josh’s favorite cheeses: pecorino, and a two-year-old Comté. He threw in some kale oil and an egg yolk gel, plus an espuma of potatoes and popped rice on top. Voila. Simple yet complex. When I think back to the meal, this is the one I remember most. If the three bears served such porridge, I really can’t blame Goldilocks for wiping out every morsel.
A delicate sea bass was blanched in garlic and parsley, with the meat of the mussels used in the earlier soup made into an emulsion to top the fish. Slow-roasted pork tenderloin rolled with pork shoulder and morel mushrooms sat on top of red cabbage braised in caraway and coriander seeds with a side of celeriac.
Another highlight was the duck, pan-seared, paired with guyabano jelly for sweetness, cauliflower puree, and black pepper gel for added spice, and a sweet and sour gastrique.
Then there was the beautifully marbled striploin wagyu with a reduction made with slow roasted beef bones, served with sunchoke puree and fermented white button and shiitake mushrooms. Green peppercorn oil added spice, and sinful deep fried beef tendon added the crunch.
The cheese course was a delightful semi-soft St. Nectaire from the Auvergne region of France, paired with pear butter and a beet root lavash studded with caraway seeds.
Then came the array of dessert: a sorbet of coconut cream and vanilla bean served atop a duo of mangoes: ripe mangoes made into a gel, and underripe ones made into a semi jam; a white chocolate espuma topped with a dark chocolate cremeux, blanketed with a burnt white chocolate sauce; and whimsical petit fours: beet root merengues with crème anglaise and strawberry jam, and chocolate bonbons.
“I very much want to be the definition of a dining experience for the Philippines,” says Josh of Helm.
Helm is on the 3rd Level of the Shops at Ayala Triangle Gardens, Ayala Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati. 915.909.8647. joshboutwood.net