The Singapore Tourism Board Sunday night kicked off a series of special dinners in Manila featuring collaborations between top Filipino and Singaporean chefs. The first is a four hands dinner hosted by Helm by Josh Boutwood in its new address, The Shops at Ayala Triangle, Makati. For one night, Boutwood created extraordinary dishes alongside Malaysian chef Kevin Wong of the restaurant Seroja in Singapore.
A dinner for paying guests preceded the launch event attended by media and some of the country’s esteemed chefs including Jordy Navarra and Stephen Duhesme whose restaurants Toyo Eatery and Metiz respectively just landed in the latest Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Boutwood showcased select dishes from his inaugural Helm Makati menu including his delightful seabass covered in a blanket of creamy coconut film; his version of fish and chips, a taro ball-looking treat that’s light and crunchy on the exterior with Spanish mackerel waiting inside; and his rich, umami-filled Egg, Barley, Kale.
For his part, Kevin Wong served a taste of his endless fascination for the place and culture he grew up in, which is Port Klang in Malaysia, using ingredients native to the region, easily distinguishing his dishes from the mostly Western flavors of Boutwood’s offerings. He began with a quietly elegant Prawn Sambal Tartlet with Leek Floss, before moving onto a soupy chawanmushi with a mussel broth and hint of lemongrass, and his very satisfying Bluefin Tuna, Tamarind and Caviar.
Wong has trained and worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in San Francisco, France, and Singapore. He was just recently recognized as among the world’s best chefs. His restaurant Seroja is located at Duo Galleria in the very artsy and culture-rich Bugis area of Singapore.
The highlight of the 10-course meal is a multi-vessel dish from the two chefs which they called Beef Percik, Lauk Pauk. A main plate featured beef short ribs, a Fiddlehead salad (fiddlehead, said Wong, is a jungle herb he brought in from Malaysia), sambal and a thick brown sauce they used to cook the dry aged beef with. This group was accompanied by three side dishes that included a soft daikon topped with tendon chicharon, an adobong baka rice, and puréed sweet potato topped with sorghum “popcorn.”
The whole thing is yet another proof Filipino and Malaysian flavors and ingredients really work well with each other quite fabulously—intriguing, familiar, always pleasurable.
Next in line for this series of chef collaborations organized by the Asian Culinary Exchange, which is run by book author and food industry mover Angelo Comsti, will feature the Michelin-starred NAE:UM which celebrates contemporary Seoul food (June); the tiny pizzeria Small’s (a space that can only seat 4) which does a pizza omakase (also in June); and the famed Labyrinth which is all about Singaporean flavors anchored on tradition and the personal growing up memories of its chef LG Han (scheduled for September).
Another event to look forward to, this time in August, is a two-weekend takeover of select Poblacion bars by Singapore’s cocktail bars—Employees Only, The Elephant Room, Tippling Club, Republic, Sago House, among them. These are all in line with Singapore Tourism Board’s aim to promote their country as the culinary and beverage hub of Asia, and to attract more tourists to Singapore. In 2022, more than 380,000 Filipinos traveled to the Lion City.
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