Got to have dinner at The Black Sheep last night. Ellen and Steven Gedra's new place, 367 Connecticut St., has been open less than a month. The former Golden Key Tavern has been extensively remodeled. Its 60 seat capacity is double that of Bistro Europa, their last place.
And rear doors from the patio:
In that time, the most-raved about dish has been the pork chop ($32), a big slab of local pork that's smoked and seared and served on red-eye gravy and New York-raised corn grits. Steven Gedra's penchant for pig is ably demonstrated across the menu. It turns up eight or nine places, from the bread basket served with whipped seasoned lard (burro di chianti) and a crackly-crusted rye bread, to dessert, with a brioche made with leaf lard.
But some of the most satisfying plates of the night were fruit and vegetables, like the peach Caprese ($10) pictured above. Gedra buys cheese curds from Massachusetts and makes his own mozzarella. Then uses ripe Niagara County peaches and dollops of basil pesto made with toasted pistachios for a simple, effective starter that is its own peach festival on a plate.
A daily special perched fried artichokes on a creamy tomato sauce spiked with sherry vinegar ($8). The artichokes are from Oles Farm in Alden. I did not know restaurants could get artichokes grown in Western New York:
One of the bulletins of the night: Bread is free, even though it's worth paying for. Here's the basket, of sourdough, rye and walnut wheat, plus whipped lard and olive oil:
Closeup of the rye:
Watermelon gazpacho ($8) was a cool fruity broth with some hot dancing partners, like espelette pepper, sour sumac and kaffir lime granita, which had melted but left behind its unmistakable tropical aroma. The little white cubes are olive oil gelee.
This beauty is house-made Thai bologna with pickled vegetables, peanut sauce, fried shallot and green coriander seed, with seasoned dark soy dipping sauce ($8):
Pork skin fritters come perched on fresh corn chow-chow, and romesco sauce with a powerful but not incendiary chile kick:
And oh that pork chop. It was crisped at the edges and pink in the middle, which is not easy to do, delivering an eating experience that was both ham and pork chop. This one was enough pork chop for two:
Desserts included a juicy blueberry cobbler with Thai basil ice cream ($7). The floral licorice flavor of the herb was surprisingly simpatico with the fresh berry compote:
For all the Gedras' popularity on Elmwood Avenue, the limitations of their building's space kept their numbers down. On Connecticut Street, they own the place and will shape it to their liking.
Some will miss the atmosphere of Bistro Europa, a phone booth hosting a charcuterie cult. But the secret is out. This is Gedra 2.0. The feel is more grown-up - the silverware is solid, and it matches. So does the china.
The Black Sheep gives them the tools, the stage, the room to grow.