Filipino cuisine was fusion before “fusion cuisine” was coined.
“One cannot describe Filipino food without referencing something Chinese,” Patrick Go offers, bringing this perspective on the origins of our food culture to the new Black Sheep.
From being chef de partie under founding chef Jordy Navarra, 27-year-old Go now helms Black Sheep after Navarra moved on to open a Filipino restaurant as an ode to his favorite condiment, soy sauce–which homes in on Go’s point: Toyo is essential to Filipino cuisine, but it is also from the Chinese.
The Pasong Tamo space’s minimal interiors encourage dialogue between the kitchen (the rest of the team of 20-somethings conceptualized 10 percent of the menu) and the guests. A long marble bar overlooks the open kitchen and roomy cushioned seats make guests so relaxed that conversations between diners are likely to ensue.
From Go’s crispy Aklan oysters drizzled in spiced honey and Cadena de Amor meant to be wrapped in betel leaf (“I’m trying to find a way to get people to eat with their hands,” he admits) inspired by an uncle in Bacolod to pastry chef Jill Vinluan’s Tea Time, a deconstructed take on the childhood favorite taho comprised not of tofu and sugar syrup derivatives but a chamomile tea panna cotta topped with lemon granite, wild honey tapioca, and pink peppercorn, the team recreated their memories into dishes, memories we can all relate to one way or another.
Black Sheep stays true to the umami profiles of Chinese cuisine by making their own natural MSG. They dry and dehydrate tuna, scallops, and prawns before smoking them up and turning them into the powder that is used to season various items in the menu like Sheep Jumps Over the Wall, a 23-ingredient fried rice bowl with juicy bits of Filipino Wagyu beef served in a clay pot surrounded by hay that is flamed up upon serving.
“I want to cross that boundary of being able to taste something Chinese but it looks Filipino, and vice versa,” Go declares. This is exemplified by one of his appetizers, the Foie Long Bao, which takes the form of a soup dumpling in its appearance and mouthfeel (“The skin of the dumpling resembles the skin of lumpia,” Go explains) but to the taste buds, bursts into the nutty sweetness of lumpiang ubod. This Black Sheep sure is clever. –Marbbie Tagabucba
Black Sheep is in the ground floor of UPRC 1, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati
Photos by Arabella Paner