The Black Sheep
La Flama Blanca – Kai Lemongrass Shochu, Spicy Thai Chili Syrup, Lemon Simple, Egg Whites
The Louisville Sweet Peach – Mint-Infused Old Forester Bourbon, Smoked Peach Liqueur, Lemon Honey Sour
Fried Beef Crisps – Togarashi Dust, Chili Lime Sauce
Bao Sliders – Housemade Pork Sausage, Fried Quail Egg, Crispy Shallot, Fresh Herbs, Jalapeno Aioli
Vietnamese Imperial Rolls – Duroc Pork, Shrimp, Pickled Carrots, Ninja Daikon, Yellow Frisee Salad, Garlic Citrus Vinaigrette
Ahi Tuna Tartare – Crispy Rice, Chile Citrus Oil, Micro Cilantro
Charred Peaches and Mesclun Salad – Creamy Goat Cheese, Candied Pecans, Prickly Pear Vinaigrette
Braised Duroc Pork Belly – Seasonal Mushrooms, Sticky Rice, Mustard Greens, Crunchy “Chicharone,” Savory Hood River Cherry Sauce
Slow Cooked Short Rib – Housemade Yucca Gnocchi, Summer Squash Ratatouille, Crispy Yucca Threads
Chocolate Tres Leches – Chocolate Sponge Cake, Chocolate Nest, Mint, White Chocolate Milk Sauce, Vietnamese Coffee Cream
“Oh, yeah, where SkinnyFats is, right?” was the first reaction to a rumor that one of the Las Vegas’ best new Restaurants had opened on Warm Springs Road while attention was focused on traveling outside city limits, yet after doing a bit of investigation the rumors quickly found confirmation in the respected palates of Friends and Chefs repeatedly stating that Chef Jamie Tran was turning out Strip-quality Cuisine at a fraction of the price inside a small kitchen at The Black Sheep.
Officially opened on May 16th inside a former Poke place, the constant turnover of Sin City’s dining scene making such a thing no surprise, The Black Sheep is part-owned and operated by Boulud and Batali veteran Andrew Hooper who brought on his young Chef from the now closed db Brasserie to reinvent an area long suffering for something of interest, the concept largely Vietnamese American with a ‘Comfort Food’ focus but a lot of classic French technique.
Currently open only for dinner, though Mr. Hooper confirms that his charismatic Chef arrives as early as 9:00am to begin preparation in a kitchen that is ‘no more than 350 square feet,’ The Black Sheep follows a model similar to Dan Krohmer’s Other Mama in that the menu is well-culled and focused while the Bar Program rivals Strip-based Mixology for pennies on the dollar, the foamy “La Flama Blanca” with subdued spice and citrus in a Shochu base already a hit at just $9 while “The Louisville Sweet Peach” goes even more artisan with the Bourbon infused with Mint in-house and the Peach Liqueur likewise smoked on the premises.
Still doing the 10+ hour a day routine with a smile on her face, years working with Vincent Pouessel at Aureole and then in the final days of Daniel Boulud’s latest Las Vegas failure elevating the Vietnamese recipes learned from her mother to a level that makes them both elegant and accessible, it was largely from Chef Tran’s hand that the part self-selected and part-suggested menu was served, a plate of puffed Beef Tendons with Togarashi crave-worthy and nicely spiced despite getting a little soggy beneath the Chili Lime Sauce while the housemade Bao and Pork Sausage ‘Sliders’ reinvent a stale idea by way of an umami-fest featuring Crispy Shallots, a sunny-side Quail Egg and Jalapeno Aioli.
Playing a great soundtrack throughout the meal, everything from the xx and Vampire Weekend intermixed with Led Zeppelin and The Doors amidst a sleek interior featuring organic flourishes and a wide panorama of a field filled with Sheep, plates three and four were suggested by Chef Tran as two of her favorites, the Vietnamese Imperial Rolls improving on traditional Spring Rolls by way of locally sourced Vegetables pickled in House and a crispy skin that plays well off the slightly funky center while her Ahi Tuna Tartare takes no shortcuts with snappy pieces of Flesh lightly kissed by housemade Citrus-Chile Oil on Rice Crisps.
Separating appetizers from entrees with a Salad, the ‘grilled’ Peaches unfortunately still a bit too firm and not at all smoky while the Prickly Pear Dressing overwhelmed the rest, those who don’t fear a bit of fat are strongly encourage to order Jamie’s Braised Pork Belly that deconstructs the idea of Porchetta by presenting the skin as a detached Chicharone atop Forbidden Rice, tender Mushrooms and Mustard Greens as good as anything you’ll find down South.
Consistently playing with textures throughout the meal, no two bites ever the same, it was on Andrew’s advice that savories concluded with The Black Sheep’s Short Rib that puts fork-tender Beef at the center of garden fresh Ratatouille with Yucca Dumplings and Crispy Roots on top, the restaurant’s lone dessert taking a similar approach with Dark Chocolate Sponge Cake thoroughly soaked in White Chocolate Milk beneath Fresh Mint and a Chocolate Candy Nest.
FOUR STARS: Setting aside the hype, both on-strip and off, and focusing solely on what educated diners have been saying all along about Las Vegas’ improving culinary scene The Black Sheep is not only a local gem, but the first restaurant since Other Mama to try something really different in an area previously sort of boring. Pleasantly decorated and as good for a solo bite at the Bar as it is for a meal with friends Chef Tran’s time at DB and Aureole has clearly given her the confidence and dedication to pull off complex plates fusing Vietnamese Roots to French Technique and aside from a few small issues the plates are bold yet nuanced at a great price for what is provided.
RECOMMENDED: Vietnamese Imperial Rolls, Bao Sliders, Braised Duroc Pork Belly, Chocolate Tres Leches.
AVOID: The Beef Crisps would be better off with the sauce on the side or with an emulsification or foam to prevent them from getting soggy while the Peach Salad needs less dressing and more smoke. Also, only one dessert at 3 months in is sort of weak.
TIP: Open Daily 5pm to 11pm. @blacksheepvegas on Social Media.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.