One cannot imagine the amount of pressure that must be pressing down on Patrick Go’s shoulders. The 28-year-old chef, after all, in his custom, leather-lined apron and pristine chef’s jacket, takes it in stride, handling it with as much grace as he does when he puts the finishing touches of his artful dishes. In January this year, he took the reins of the Metro’s most sensational restaurant from one of the country’s most sensational chefs, shifting its course entirely—from fine-dining atop Bonifacio Global City to the urban junctions of Chino Roces Extension.
The menu is new, the location is new (an intimate, cozy black and gray that’s in part sophisticated, in part comfort), but Black Sheep is still Black Sheep in the sense that it is still different—classically rooted but very much forward. Go continues this convention in his own style, but he’s facing a challenge bigger than living up to a reputation: He’s committing near blasphemy by coming out with his own version of Chinese and Filipino cuisine.
Go himself is half-Chinese and half-Filipino. He grew up eating in all the necessary Chinese restaurants and enjoying hearty Filipino meals at home. Though it doesn’t look it in his dehydrated hors d’oeuvres, his foie gras-enhanced wraps, or his from-scratch sensibilities in the persuasion of a most ambitious young chef, it’s this idyllically delicious childhood that inspires the things that come out of his kitchen.
Complimentary appetizer: a homemade baked brioche with a black vinegar disguised as balsamic
The Two-Na is remarkable. A combination of spicy chopped tuna (like a modern sushi) and chicken liver over dried ma lai gao (a Chinese puto)—they’re bite-sized throwbacks to recess sandwiches of yore. He’d talk about his accustomed appreciation for tuna and Reno liver spread, his mom’s go-tos when packing up his lunchboxes. Trips to Bacolod in his youth consisted of watching his uncle chew on nganga and honey, a pairing that roused the Aklan Oyster. Get it fried and crunchy to fully appreciate how the betel leaf, spiced honey, and cilantro interact with the briny shellfish.
Crispy Aklan Oyster
This pattern shows itself consistently throughout the expanded three-page menu: combinations that make you scoff as you scan through them on paper, but makes you put your tail between your legs at their surprising success. Stories weave themselves behind each piece, from his preference for Peking duck inspiring the soup dumpling-duck roll crossover Foie Long Bao to the deeper intricacies of creating a fried rice loaded with 23 ingredients—one of which is his own homemade MSG made of crushed dried tuna and scallops.
Duck Breast with Lychee and Taro
And as with other revolutions intended on shaking up tradition, Go’s cooking raises eyebrows, but he is notably unperturbed. Tolerance is something you deal with when you attempt something bold—from the diner accustomed to portions bigger than three pieces in a Chinese restaurant to the chef who’s breaking the rules for the sake of flavor.
Black Sheep is where all of Go’s memories grow up, where the simple comforts of a taho are transformed into a beautiful flower-topped bowl of chamomile panna cotta and granita, where the convenience of a Cloud 9 bar is upgraded to a dark, dusty chocolate log filled with sweetish chewy nougat and surrounded by crushed almonds.
Into The Woods
Go takes a risk, but an intelligent one. These are cuisines he grew up with, food he has a personal relationship with, dishes he has intimate knowledge of. He knows it well enough not to disrespect it and he’s talented enough to develop flavors that simultaneously pay homage to history and perplex the palate.
The Wagyu Brisket is beef, fried and braised to fork-tender perfection: The meat is carefully arranged on the edge of the plate while his version of kimchi and a smoked mashed potatoes are artfully laid out on the side. The smoke from the coconut wood and fermented black garlic punctuate each creamy forkful of the mashed potatoes. You’d never find something like this in a Chinese food hub like Binondo. It feels very nouveau, but there is something familiar in the lingering aftertaste of five spice behind the potent aroma of spices. The beef is cooked in the age-old Chinese tradition of using a master stock. His is aged three months, relatively young compared to the years-old broths simmering in Hong Kong street shops. But the flavors will compound and this brisket, as with all things, will get better in time.
Go breaks the rules, certainly, with his mad reinventions. But those who turn away from his salacious methods should consider this: The cuisines he’s supposedly fooling around with are anchored in tradition and stories, but so do the results of his kitchen—in his history, his personal narratives. His flavors are an astounding success. And when it comes to that, who are we to say what he should and shouldn’t do?
Black Sheep is at 2230 Chino Roces Avenue Extesion, UPRC1 Building, Makati City; contact no. 744-1569; open from Tuesday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.