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Voyages: Black Sheep

Voyages: Black Sheep

A brand new restaurant called Black Sheep has recently opened on Dresden Row and it’s making waves across the city for its all day brunch and creative renditions of tapas-style small plate flare. The brainchild of former Gio Chefs John House and David Woodley, Black Sheep strives to provide customers with upscale dining creations in a casual and friendly atmosphere. With the kitchen open till 11 PM every night of the week and a diverse lineup of inventive cocktails, local craft beers and wines on offer, this place is destined to become the new hangout for industry types and foodies alike.

Tucked into an alleyway with a mysterious walkway up to a neon backlit sign, it immediately becomes clear that this is not your standard restaurant layout. Seeing as the space for Black Sheep is a combination of three former shops, this first generation restaurant is anything but typical.

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Upon entering, one notices that what are apparently the remnants of a house built in the 1800’s separate two relatively distinct dining areas. When you enter the main dining room, the first thing that catches your eye is the beautiful live edge bar. Built from a 20- foot slab of Hemlock with the bark still intact, the bar area is beautifully set up and captivates you with warm lighting and an impressive assortment of liquors.

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Holding down the bar tonight is Jacob Van Hemessen, a former Dalhousie student turned bartender extraordinaire. In collaboration with mixologist Andrew Dunphy, Van Hemessen has put together a menu of 8 carefully crafted cocktails ranging from boozy to fruity so as to appeal to every type of drinker.

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Looking for something lively to start off my dining experience, Van Hemessen recommends I try The Islander cocktail ($13) and then proceeds to go to work. Featuring Disaronno, pineapple juice, lime juice, cayenne & falernum syrup, and egg white garnished with a sprig of charred rosemary, the drink is almost reminiscent of a spiced apple cider but is elevated by the frothiness of the egg white and the spicy punch of the cayenne + falernum syrup. The presentation is beautiful and with high expectations, I take my seat in the front dining area and prepare for what’s ahead.

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As soon as I sit down, I am greeted with a stainless steel cup of parmesan-coated movie theatre popcorn straight from the machine located behind the bar. I like where this is going already.

After a short wait, the first dish that arrives at my table is the smoked octopus ($15). Accented by house-made Andouille sausage, potato, eggplant, cherry tomato, kale, and drizzled liberally with a paprika-infused herb vinaigrette, the smokey aromas wafting up to my nose bring to mind a blend of Spanish and Louisiana Creole flavours. The combination of colours and textures is spectacular, but my favourite part is the eggplant, which has some bite but is perfectly chewy and soft on the inside.

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As soon as I finish the first dish, Van Hemessen (who also acts as a server) presents me with the gnocchi ($9). The crispy house-made potato dumplings are interspersed with confit chicken, kale, cherry tomato, mushroom sauce, and yes you are reading this right, blue cheese wiz. The chicken is rich and tender, but the blue cheese wiz ties everything together. I love how House and Woodley have taken something trashy like cheese wiz and added a touch of class to create something remarkably unique. While one might expect the blue cheese to take over the palate, the acid from the tomatoes makes easy work of cutting the richness and adds some much-needed brightness to render this a perfectly balanced composition.

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With a full stomach and a heavy heart, I prepare for my final course of the night, the sticky date pudding ($8). The pudding is moist and comes coated in a layer of warm ginger bourbon caramel beside a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a generous sliver of Woodley’s homemade pumpkin seed and almond brittle. The brittle is easily some of the best I have ever had, and melts in your mouth with an almost fudge-like consistency that doesn’t get stuck in your teeth. Overall, the dish is top-notch in its amalgamation of textures, temperatures and flavours and the ideal dessert to cap off an even better meal.

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When House and Woodley first decided to go out on their own, their mission was simple: open a place that they would want to go to themselves. After years of cooking together in fine dining, they were looking for something that was a little less conservative and that gave them more freedom to experiment and embrace their creativity. The result of that mission is visible today at Black Sheep – a wide selection of plates that are extremely diverse, are humble in nature, but are consistently delicious and unconventional.

With their brunch business already booming, the Black Sheep boys are looking forward to ramping up their night service, and you can expect the menu to evolve accordingly. With great food, great drinks, and most important of all, great people, there has never been a better reason to treat yourself to a night on the town. Visit Black Sheep today!

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