You are sitting at a table in a dimly-lit bar, with a breathtaking view of the nighttime cityscape serving as a perfect accessory to your glamorous whereabouts. As you sink into your seat while sipping at your single-malt, you find yourself half-expecting someone to waltz in saying, “Hello, old sport.” But this is not The Great Gatsby. Daisy Buchanan is not smoking a cigarette at the next table. Nick Carraway is not going to join you for dinner with the illustrious Jordan Baker on his arm. This is not a scene from any movie.
This is Black Sheep, proudly local and very much real.
Black Sheep is very much what its name makes it out to be: something tangible, but out of the ordinary. Here, appearances can also be deceiving. Food will come to you in the form of a chicken egg frothing at the mouth, but what’s inside of it will taste almost painstakingly familiar.
“I’d like to describe my food as very honest,” shares Chef Jordy Navarra. “What you can find here at Black Sheep is a representation of what we have locally. I want the food to evoke memories—something from the past, something from your childhood, something rooted in Manila. This is a modern approach to what we can consider as local.”
Plenty of research, thought and effort has gone into the full conceptualisation of the Black Sheep Restaurant’s menu. Navarra has successfully put together flavours you may have thought you could never imagine, but at the same time, bring about a nostalgic feel. His travels and experiences from abroad serve as his main inspiration for his creations. “Whenever I came to work for someone, I always made sure that I would be involved with someone I admire,” he says. “One of the best things that I learned from my travels is that you can approach food with fun in mind. That was what really jumpstarted everything for me. I never thought I could have the freedom to have so much fun in putting a dish together.”
Chicken and Egg
His affection for fun and creativity manifests clearly in the plating and appearance of his dishes. The Chicken and Egg, as described earlier, is a chicken egg frothing at the mouth. It amazed me to find out that so much work and so much ingredients went into a succulent bit of chicken that can be consumed at first bite. The chicken is deep fried in dark beer and is topped off with orange foam and salmon roe for a tangy, salty flavour.
Another fantastic little surprise was Navarra’s take on the local Longganisa. If you’ve ever tuned in to an episode of Iron Chef where they turn the episode’s secret ingredient into ice cream, this is exactly what you are getting when you come face-to-face with Black Sheep’s longganisa ice cream. The ice cream has a distinct sausage-like taste, which goes extremely well with the crispy pork flakes, black rice and sour vinegar jelly it is served with. Despite the ice cream texture of the main attraction, it is very much a palatable savory dish.
Longganisa Ice Cream
Black Sheep takes its pride in being able to match its amazing food with a glass of their soon-to-be-famous single-malt whiskeys. Our main dishes came paired with a carefully chosen variant of single-malt that would complement and amplify the flavours of the dishes. Our Fresh River Eel came paired with the chilled, smoky Lagavulin. The eel, always a fresh kill, is the recommended beginning and end of this dish. One must take a bite of eel before taking a sip of the Lagavulin. The next step is to help yourself to the cured clam broth, which is very fresh and light, and then finish with another bite of eel. The Three-way Prawn, which highlights the flavours of fresh prawn in three unique ways, is paired with the Glenkichie, a fruity variant of whiskey. This dish had us sampling prawn from the simplest to the most complex: steamed prawn, special peanut-and-coconut prawn dumpling, and the delicious deep-friend prawn roll in molo wrapper.
Bar by Black Sheep
Fresh River Eel
My choice favourites were definitely in the protein department. The Pork and Chicken, paired with the James Bond-inspired cocktail Goldfinger, is truly a must-try. According to Navarra, this was actually inspired by a terrarium setup as it has a little bit of everything. The flavour takes its roots from the traditional barbecue, placing emphasis on the charcoal grill method of cooking. The confit cooking method (thirty six hours in preparation) enhances the taste of the meat, while the vinegar foam and watermelon radish give the dish an extra zing. What stole my heart was the truffle sand, which simply elevates the combined flavour of the dish altogether. The Wagyu, another delicious scene stealer, is once again paired with the Lagavulin. The striploin is cooked sous vide before being blowtorched. This is coated in leek ash and served with black ink mashed potato, topped off with a wagyu and soy sauce. Soft, flavourful wagyu—what more can one ask for?
36 Hour Pork and Free-Range Chicken
Kitayama Wagyu Striploin
Dessert time at Black Sheep has proven to be yet another adventure. These sinful, chocolate-based cakes are also paired with several varieties of whiskeys, bringing out yet another play on flavours. The Praline and the Cigar cakes, served with Cragganmore and Singleton whiskeys respectively, are a mix of the famous Valrona and the local Malagos chocolate. The very unique cigar cake, in particular, has an interesting smokey taste, well-attributed to its name. What was most fascinating were the Foie Gras mousse covered in white chocolate and nuts, which is a complete play on the textures and flavours of goose liver as we know it.
Praline paired with Cragganmore
Foie Gras coated in white chocolate and walnuts
Jordy Navarra carries high hopes for the future of the Manila dining scene. “People have become very open-minded and creative when it comes to their preferences, which makes me happy because food has always been such a subjective experience.” As the local dining scene broadens its horizons to make room for new innovations, Black Sheep, regardless of its peerless artistry, is ready to infuse in us a sense of fondness for the flavours that we have come to love over the years.
Full course dinner at Black Sheep is P1,900/person (4-course meal) and P4,900/person (8-course meal). Dinner is available Monday – Saturday, 7:00pm to 10:30pm, while the bar is open Monday – Saturday, 6:00pm onwards. Reservations are recommended, contact +63917 529 7263 or book online (www.blacksheepbgc.com).
Additional photos courtesy of Black Sheep.