Spoons and forks scraping, tinkling, scratching against ceramic plates and bowls. Then more silverware clinking. A gushing of wine here, the shuffle of steps there.
These were the pervasive sounds that reverberated across the elegant space during the media dinner preview of Josh Boutwood’s reinvigorated and revitalized Helm at The Shops at Ayala Triangle Gardens.
And frankly, I’m not surprised. This onomatopoeic orchestra feels like a reminder of Boutwood’s sweeping work in the tasting menu territory he’s perfected since The Test Kitchen initially in 2017. Then eventually throughout his entire body of work—from the firestarter feast of Savage and the original 10-seater Helm to Ember in Greenbelt.
Amid a surge in post-pandemic degustation experiences across Metro Manila (and most of them do exude a real joy), the new Helm is more freewheeling and less corralled in thematic nuances as Boutwood spends most of his time ricocheting in various directions. It’s still the performance culinary art we’ve all come to know from him but there are visible signs of satisfaction.
Helm’s new home features apparent signals into Boutwood’s renewed vision for the restaurant: a multitude of dining areas for large groups and couples, more young faces and talents, hot and cold bar countertops, and an al fresco area with sweeping Makati Avenue views.
There’s not a dull moment here. And by “here” we mean the serene 24-seater enclave constructed with glass and stone on the third level of the Ayala Triangle Gardens. Helm’s new home features apparent signals into Boutwood’s renewed vision for the restaurant: a multitude of dining areas for large groups and couples, more young faces and talents, hot and cold bar countertops, and an al fresco area with sweeping Makati Avenue views.
“From the moment you enter the new restaurant, you are immersed in our kitchen from all angles with dim, nonintrusive lighting wrapped around each table and counter,” says Boutwood of the Headroom-designed space.
But it’s the audacious yet slow burn special 14-course menu that leaves no doubt about what everyone could have hoped. It revels in Boutwood’s trademarks and radiates a sensual statement that the chef has plenty more tricks up his sleeve (or handlebar mustache). And what better place to demonstrate this crystalline energy than in a yet-to-fully-open Makati destination.
But it’s the audacious yet slow burn special tasting menu that leaves no doubt about what everyone could have hoped. It revels in Josh Boutwood’s trademarks and radiates a sensual statement that the chef has plenty more tricks up his sleeve (or handlebar mustache).
“Like a young plant that’s outgrown its pot, Helm needed to be placed in a new location to continue growth and flourish, awaiting the perfect moment to flower or bear fruit. As with all things in life, after a certain amount of time, it has to evolve to grow,” says Boutwood.
So there he was, shuffling around the space with his knowledgeable team, individuals with their own unique repertoires and parts to play in the restaurant.
Across radiating plates of bite-sized snacks (fish and chips that are a far cry from its traditional roots and a juniper-and-tamari-imbued trout from the Norwegian fjords) and remarkable headliners like the Egg Yolk, Barley, Kale (looks light-as-a-feather but delivers a luscious bite) and the Duck, Soursop, Black Pepper whose guyabano gel feels straight out of the Boutwood playbook, Helm’s evolution is more than worth the wait.
It is the fifth course however that exemplifies Boutwood’s ethos of not doing anything by halves. As if throwing everything including the kitchen sink and the imagery of a leaf floating on water, the delicate Chilean sea bass atop a savory mussel emulsion and parsley is a statement of such beauty that I can’t help but think Boutwood is practically walking on water. But, no such success of second seabass helpings though.
At the end of the dinner, Boutwood can be seen holding a carafe of strong coffee made from Tanzania beans and going from person to person for an extra pour.
And just when I thought Helm couldn’t get any better, the chef takes it up a notch every time he allows some of that sense of humor into the mix. “I feel like a flight attendant walking down the aisle offering passengers coffee.”
Don’t break character Boutwood, it’s charming and delightful. And so is, fittingly, the new Helm.