Dec 19, 2018

This restaurant’s menu has no text, only colors

At Helm, each course is defined by color. And with a 12 to 15 course meal, that’s a lot of color

At Helm, Josh Boutwood’s intimate 10-seater restaurant, you can now eat according to color.

Each diner is handed a menu upon seating. No words. Only blocks of color on double vertical grids.

The prix-fixe menu is composed of 12 to 15 courses, depending on the produce and the mood of the chef, who prepares each course in front of diners, like dinner theater.

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The menu only has blocks of color corresponding to the courses to be served.

Each course is determined by a color, with a progression commencing with black. That first course, in blacks and grays, consists of smoked mussels, squid ink, eggplant and black garlic. The smokiness of the mussels, encased in some kind of gelatinous capsule, evokes—via the palate and the eyes—the blackened planks of a wood fire.

Green is a delicately prepared seabass, a spoonful of dill sauce gently ladled over it, topped with cilantro for texture.

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Green: seabass, dill, pistacchio
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Black: mussel, ink, eggplant, black garlic

Bright yellow is an egg yolk on a kasubha potato foam with chicken chunks. Crispy quinoa dots the creation, adding a necessary crunch. “Break the yolk and mix it with foam,” Boutwood directs the diners. The sunshine-hued yolk provides a luscious counterpoint to all the pale hues on the bowl.

Cubes of tender beef tongue with tendons on a bed of ash make up the gray course, while beetroot, beef heart and vinegar-soaked cabbage offer a meditation on yellow brown.

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Bright yellow: Egg yolk, kasubha potato, chicken
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Violet: cabbage, duck liver, ube
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Red: lapu-lapu, sweet potato, roe
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Brown: pork loin, mushroom, munggo, sampaloc

Boutwood is interested in crafting thematic dining experiences. His first menu was centered on indigenous ingredients. In the bread and butter course, for example, the butter was actually pork fat rendered to the same creamy consistency as butter but with an amplified savory element—since, Boutwood notes, there was no butter in the Philippines before colonization.

The chef’s new menu is clearly hinged on the aphorism “You eat with your eyes first.” And Boutwood’s keen on expressing his state of mind, his culinary mindset, via color.

And as my favorite Hallmark card author Carl Jung once said, “Colors express the main psychic functions of man.”

The Menu

Mussel, ink, eggplant, black garlic

Seabass, dill, pistacchio

Lapu-lapu, sweet potato, roe

Pork loin, mushroom, munggo, sampaloc

Dragon fruit, pomelo, strawberry

Coconut, pandan, macapuno

Cabbage, duck liver, ube

Egg yolk, kasubha potato, chicken

Beetroot, beef heart, cabbage vinegar

Beef tongue, tendons, ash

Blueberry, blue ternate, yogurt


The dinner is P3,850 including tax and service charge. Since Helm only has 10 seats, diners must book via, their reservation platform.

Helm is located at The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City.


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Read more:

Chef Josh Boutwood’s newest resto is an intimate 10-seater spot

Chef Josh Boutwood’s survival guide to Manila’s culinary scene

Everything is cooked over open fire at Savage

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The easiest 20-minute pork and bean soup for a rainy day

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TAGS: helm josh boutwood


Bea Ledesma

Bea Ledesma is the group publisher of Hinge Inquirer and a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She has a dog named George, and spends much of her leisure time photographing him while he naps. You can see more of her dog photos on her Instagram @bealedesma.