They met only a few months ago and hadn’t tasted each other’s food, but the chefs of Savage and Hapag didn’t think twice about agreeing to collaborate on a special dinner.
“We met at a food event,” says Josh Boutwood. “I was there for Test Kitchen, and they were there for their restaurant.” Three months later, Savage’s celebrated chef invited Thirdy Dolatre, Kevin Navoa and Kevin Villarica to his Bonifacio Global City restaurant for an eight-hands dinner.
“What they’re doing for the Manila scene is amazing,” says Boutwood. “They’re making a noise in Katipunan (Quezon City) and I wanted to bring them down south. That was the ultimate idea of the partnership.”
Boutwood visited the guys at Hapag on a Sunday afternoon and they composed a tight menu in 10 minutes. They announced it online and in just six hours, they were fully booked. They decided to extend it one more night to accommodate those on the wait list.
Hapag’s chefs took turns prepping at Savage. On the weekend of March 7, the chefs proved their working chemistry. The operations went pretty smoothly, as if they’d worked together all this time. The menu showed how Filipino cuisine and one that borrows from different cultural influences can go together.
No unnecessary elements
The eight-course meal began with a traditional dish from Ilocos called warek-warek, which is like sisig, but the chefs’ version combined grilled goat’s and pig’s faces on fermented potato bread. It was accompanied by dabs of adobo aioli and pickled onion. The result was like an indulgent soft taco, minus unnecessary elements that could make the dish too rich.
Two vegetable dishes followed. The first, inihaw na gulay by Hapag, was akin to a dry pinakbet that scored high on contrasting textures. The snap of the grilled native vegetables was complemented by a smooth smoked eggplant purée and crispy dulong. Boutwood’s followup wasn’t any different, as the Parmesan custard gave the charred Brussels sprouts a balanced bite and taste.
Pork barbecue with rice was the inspiration behind Hapag’s kanin baboy. “Kevin (Navoa) came from Japan two weeks ago and brought home different kinds of miso,” says Dolatre. They were used to add depth of flavor to the grilled rice cake. “Back in the restaurant, we have lacto-fermented bananas and overripe bananas which we turned into ketchup that then became the base of our tamis-anghang glaze.” Completing the ensemble was the grilled pork belly with betel salsa verde mixed with chimichurri.
In true Savage fashion, Boutwood served a juicy grilled amberjack collar paired with his creative components like fermented cabbage, wild rice fruitcake and a soybean emulsion—elements a creative and playful mind like his can only think of.
Tinupig na litson manok, the final savory number, was a dish that had been worked on by both camps. Boutwood cooked the free-range chicken, while Hapag dressed it with a latik glaze, served with spicy sinamak and a bowl of bringhe.
The night closed with two decadent desserts—a banana bread pudding made with fermented banana bread that came with dulce de leche and peppercorn ice cream, and a sourdough mousse with patis caramel and pili nut crumble.
Savage runs on wood and embers to cook their dishes, void of the comforts of a modern restaurant kitchen. Yet, it proved no challenge to the guys from Hapag, as the inspired menu showed.—CONTRIBUTED