MANILA -- Chef Josh Boutwood is basking in the glow of approval from discerning diners who have trooped to his new restaurant Ember in Greenbelt, Makati.
This marks the first time Boutwood opened a restaurant in a mall setting as his previous ventures -- Savage, Helm, and The Test Kitchen -- were at more out-of-the-way settings. Boutwood jumped at the chance to bring his food to the upscale, yet more accessible crowd.
Just outside, Ember has a covered al fresco and bar area beside the walkway going to the Greenbelt Chapel for those who are still more comfortable dining in open areas.
Walking into the restaurant, one just has to stop a bit and admire the huge space. Most of the area is devoted to an open kitchen. The sights and sounds of the team scurrying about combined with the aromas coming from the kitchen come together to whet guests’ appetites. A 6-seater function room on the mezzanine overlooks the whole indoor area which can be reserved upon request.
Boutwood admits that Ember started out as an amalgamation of two his much-lauded concepts -- the raw cooking of Savage and The Test Kitchen’s ethos of focusing on ingredients. The end result was not exactly what he set out to do.
“We created a little monster in the process. It's a very humble approach to delicious food. We still use fire as one of our cooking methods, but also incorporating other technological advancements such as ovens and the like. So yeah, it is its own little baby.,” said Boutwood.
The most notable feature from The Test Kitchen are the small plates and large plates on the menu. Guests have the option of ordering several small plates for the evening to be enjoyed with a bottle of wine or cocktails. If they’re particularly hungry that evening, check out some of the large plates and have a feast.
Here are some select bites from Ember’s opening menu:
The meal started out with a selection of small plates. Jamon Serrano heaped on top of melon is a classic salty and sweet combination.
The salad of tomato, feta, green olives, and bits of fried sourdough was just packed with flavors out of the Mediterranean.
Grilled octopus is notoriously difficult to get right. This one is delightfully soft and tender, a nice bite with a dab of harissa.
Onto the large plates: the slight bitter notes of the watercress side salad cuts through the rich oiliness of the grilled salmon topped with dashi, green onion, and fish roe. This dish just shows off the chef’s playfulness with contrasting flavors and textures.
When asked about what he did to make his short ribs super tender that it just melts in your mouth, Boutwood just puts on a naughty grin and says, “Magic.” This is definitely one of the must-order large plates in Ember.
The steaks show off Boutwood’s caveman cooking at Savage. What sets this apart is the quality and the flavors of the Black Onyx Ribeye that the chef lets shine with just the basics of salt and a bit of butter.
Boutwood said that since they have been inundated with requests for reservations, they saw it fit to just do away with reservations all together. For now, bookings are on a first-come-first-served basis.
Ember by Josh Boutwood is located at the ground floor of Greenbelt 3 and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.