With chic interiors that contrast a masculine menu, Chef Josh Boutwood aims to redefine the art of cooking in his newest restaurant: Ember.
Firing up the grill once more, innovator and maverick chefJosh Boutwooddebuts yet another modern concept that’s sure to provide a memorable dining experience. With three restaurants under his belt—intimate fine-dining spot Helm, pre-industrial and adventurous concept Savage, and casual yet sophisticated restaurant The Test Kitchen—the chef adds another one to his illustrious portfolio: Ember.
Set in Greenbelt 3, Makati—a hotspot for foodies and the shopping destination of gilded folk—Ember smolders with sophistication. Much like Savage, which cooks food with pre-industrial methods using fire, smoke, and ash for a more primal feel, Ember also capitalizes on what fire can do to food—but done differently, of course.
“Ember is a sophisticated evolution of Savagewith [a] high emphasis on amazing ingredients and a more delicate cooking method,” Chef Josh explains. “While fire is [more] Savage, after it blazes through the material, what is left glowing from your flame is the Ember, which is actually the best to cook on.”
A Paradox of Industrial and Chic Interiors
Taking inspiration from the industrialist look of Savage and the dark walls of The Test Kitchen, Chef Josh paints the very picture of an elegant and inviting dining destination for Ember. In fact, eagle-eyed patrons may see lingering echoes of his many restaurant concepts when dining in, as each area makes use of familiar themes and motifs.
By marrying industrial with chic, Ember’s entrance greets you with textured white floors and high ceilings. Blue chairs line the counter—a more curvature C-shape compared to Helm’s angular L-shape—where you can witness all the cooking and prep work firsthand. And tucked away between white pillars are long tables for dining with friends and family—set against white brick walls.
Transition further and you will find concrete grays and rectangular tiles for the industrial section, while low-lit, dark tonesgreet you upstairs for a more intimate upstairs dining area. While all seemingly different looks, it all somehow harmoniously blends well together.
“All of my restaurants are positioned to create memories—the warm feeling of enjoying good food in a great atmosphere. Our aim is that every meal at Ember is logged as a beautiful memory,” he explains.
Ember: A Taste of Home
Despite the borrowed nuances here and there, Ember exists as a unique dining concept of its own. However, during the initial planning stages, this wasn’t the case. “Originally, Ember was supposed to be a mix of Savage and Test Kitchen—combined together. But when it came to testing, we suddenly realized that we were creating a whole new brand concept from scratch,” Chef Josh shares in an interview with OneMega.com.
“Even though a lot of what we do [is similar]—the fire that is represented by Savage [and] the produce concept that is driven by Test Kitchen, now that we’re plating it, I feel like they’re similar, but very different concepts,” he adds.
And thus, the birth of Ember. While the overall ambiance and interiors of the restaurant may be likened to fine dining and elegance, the restaurant intends to evoke the warm feelings of enjoying a relaxing meal. “I want to trigger memories of Sunday feasts spent with family, where the kids, parents, and grandparents gather for a leisurely meal of items freshly grilled from a backyard barbecue without having to lift a finger.”
“In my mind, it is enjoying dry-aged steaks—absolutely perfectly done with just the right amount of smokiness and paired with a glass of wine,” he says, adding that his team of approachable staff will treat guests like family. “Essentially, it is going to [be] sophisticated yet warm, with earth tones and a splash of olive green and red for accent.”
All Eyes on the Meat
In his many restaurant concepts, Chef Josh’s cooking philosophy has always veered away from limitations. Seeking instead to gather inspiration from different cuisines, his dishes are just as diverse in selection, taste, and flavor. However, one thing remains certain: the star will always be the meat.
While most chefs turn to marinades and sauces that steal the spotlight from the meat, Chef Josh prefers to let it speak for itself. “On meats, we want to as much as possible let the meat be itself,” he explains. “Rather than marinating the meat, where you’re essentially hiding the true flavor, we want to let the meat… be the meat.“
How so? Through a wide variety of cooking methods—from convection ovens to stovetops, hearths, and a smoker to infuse a smoked essence in the dishes. “[The meat] is simply grilled in the fire, or we let the fire do the work, depends on how it’s cooked. Just a bit of salt—we don’t put spices on the meat—and then we’re pairing it with particular ingredients that are supposed to enhance that flavor of the meat.”
That’s where the produce-driven concept from Test Kitchen comes in. With side dishes that use fresh vegetables and staples like rice and potatoes, each one is artfully prepared in a simplistic but flavor-packed way—one that does not overpower, nor steal away your focus from the meat.
Take for example the carrot side dish. While made up of only three ingredients—carrots, honey, and all-spice—it comes packed with a lot of flavors. With a distinct smokiness, paired with a subtle sweetness that blends so wonderfully well with the light char, it even comes with a smattering of sorghum (commonly mistaken for popcorn), which adds texture to an otherwise soft dish.
What to Eat at Ember
From Small Plates as its brand of starters to Large Plates for the mains, Side Dishes to go with your meal, and Desserts to end things on a sweet note, each dish showcases the best of what each ingredient has to offer, and acts as a true testament to the master who wields the flame. Must-haves include:
Raw Tuna, Avocado, and Tapioca
Not everything in Ember passes through the flame, as evidenced by this dish. However, it does retain the same elements of letting the meat speak for itself with elements that seek to elevate, not overpower it.
A starter that showcases diced fresh tuna, paired with a creamy avocado puree. Crunchy tapioca—a borrowed concept from Helm—makes a return appearance as it mimics puffy chips that go on top of the dish. While delicate in appearance, each bite is brimming with umami flavors.
Bone Marrow, Sourdough, and Parsley
A must for meat lovers, but one that will require you to (in Chef Josh’s words), “book an appointment at Makati Med in the next few hours.” This dish is best enjoyed fresh off the flame, as it features soft, buttery bites of beefy goodness, which you can spread on toasted sourdough.
And to offset the richness, make sure to eat it with some tangy, lemon-infused parsley—one that resembles chimichurri in appearance, but comes with a more grassy flavor and crunchy texture.
Alaskan King Salmon, Watercress, and Capers
For pescetarians, seafood fans, and non-beef eaters such as myself, this main dish is truly an indulgent one. With a large slab of Alaskan King Salmon as the star, you get lightly salted, flaky fish paired with crunchy watercress greens, finished off with a light milky sauce with capers on the side.
Cooked to perfection with hardly any fishy aftertaste, it is best enjoyed with creamy mashed potatoes or a personal favorite: the carrot side dish for some honeyed sweetness.
Melon, Serrano Ham, and Thyme
There’s just something about how melon and ham go so well together, and this starter is proof of that. Thinly-sliced, salty Serrano ham goes on top of diced melon and a sprinkling of thyme and oil finishes everything off. A prelude to delicious offerings to come, this is truly a good way to start the Ember experience.
While still in the beginning stages of operations (as it opened just last May 15, 2022), Ember has already curated an impressive menu with dishes that you’re sure to love at first bite. And yes, more exciting things are to come, as a source tells me that the menu may change over time, depending on where Chef Josh’s creativity takes him.
As he so aptly puts it, “Expect nothing but the best—no boundaries, just exceptional food.”
Ember is located at the Greenbelt Mall in Makati City, with al fresco seating available for patrons. You may follow them on Instagram and Facebook for the latest news and updates. To reserve call or text (+63)9164201600.
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