I first met Chef Rathakrishnan aka Chef Ratha when he opened The Black Sheep Café in 2006 at Seletar Hills. The small 16-seater café was serving French cuisine then. Later he shifted to another location, nearer to Little India for a while and then to Upper Thomson. It has been a good 13 years and Chef Ratha has made a name for himself serving some of the best French dishes in his restaurant.
If he had wanted to, he could have opened a bigger restaurant considering the good business he was enjoying but decided to stick to his 50-seater. Chef Ratha personally cooks all the dishes in his restaurant to ensure quality and consistent taste.
I can vouch for this as I have been to his restaurant at least seven times in all these years and found the taste consistent. I believe the standard bestselling recipes should not be altered but maintained in order to keep customers coming back again and again.
Notwithstanding the Chef, even simple acts like changing suppliers could also alter the taste of the dish.
Chef Ratha was trained in the esteemed Raffles Hotel and has worked in the Swiss Club and the Fig Leaf and has won many awards. He has been interviewed by countless number of media. This quiet, shy and diligent Chef with a strong personality is always determined to ensure The Black Sheep Café is known for its quality French food.
When it comes to business, Chef Ratha is also very shrewd, and often uses websites such as Utility Bidder to make sure he never pays too much for his utility bills.
A couple of days ago, I went to the Black Sheep Café to have lunch and Chef Ratha went through the menu with me. Unlike many restaurants that cramp a menu with bulky, confusing list of choices, the menu here is shorter.
He seems to know that long-winded menus will no longer be in vogue. Shorter menus also increase table turnover time as diners spend extra time looking through large menus. Diners tend to remember a restaurant’s specialized cuisine rather than the eight-page menu.
As there were two of us, we could taste a variety of dishes. A basket of warm bread rolls and salted butter was served. I could not imagine unsalted butter with my bread!
The Baked Brie with Pistachio Crust and Citrus Fruit Salad was a superhero for me. Have you ever taken a bite of something delicious and involuntarily do something ridiculous to express your joy? Eg. dramatic hand gestures, random inaudible sounds of pure joy! Well both my eating companion and I did that! The baked Brie with its ooey-gooey-goodness inside, a thin crust outside, a stuffing of few whole pistachios served with citrus salad of orange segments and a lightly sweetened dressing is something I would go for each time.
I have tasted French Onion soup in some other cafes in Singapore and in bistros in Paris. Chef Ratha’s come closest to the ones I had in France. The beef stock was extremely good. Some restaurants lack in a robust rich beef stock. Of course, the most important thing to do for a good French Onion Soup is to properly caramelize the onions. The more caramelized, the deeper the color of the onions and more flavorful they would be. At the Black Sheep Restaurant it was just perfect. The wildly luxurious bowl of silky onions and dark broth came with grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheese toast floating.
For mains, we opted for Duck Confit on Apple Rosti, Tangy Mango Relish and Cheeky Pork on Sauteed Greens, Orange Chilli Glaze. When talking about a French menu or dining at a French restaurant, it will not be long before Duck Confit pops up in the conversation. Personally, I don’t like duck cooked in another form except when it is confit. The word Confit refers to a technique for preserving duck, pork, goose or other game that involves cooking and storing it in its own fat.
The Duck confit is regarded as one of the finest French dishes and literally it takes hours to prepare. The Duck Confit served with Gratin potato and Citrus Salad at The Black Sheep Cafe got to be one of the best I have ever had. The meat was so juicy and tender that it just slided easily off the bone and literally melted in my mouth. And the duck skin – crispiest and crunchiest was excellent. The citrus pan sauce that came with the duck confit screamed “some more” as it was so delicious.
The next must try dish on the menu is the Cheeky Pork on Sauteed Greens with Orange Chilli Glaze. The cheek meat really is some of the best meat on the pig as it is tender but fatty. I am not a great fan of pork cheeks, but I was amazed with the ones prepared by Chef Ratha. The piece of well-seasoned meat instantly liquefied when it entered my mouth. The orange chilli glaze was perfect to go with the meat.
I was a tad disappointed with the dessert though. Not that I dislike the dessert. I expected a “French” flavour instead got Chef Ratha’s popular Pandan Souffle with Gula Melaka sauce and Ice Cream. Some of my friends who have gone to The Black Sheep Café were raving about the Kahlua Souffle sold there. Anyway, the Pandan Souffle was served in style. The staff, used a knife to slightly cut through the souffle in the middle and poured gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup in. A premium ice cream was served with it. The souffle was crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside and had its signature height from stiffly beaten egg whites. A little extra gula melaka syrup would have made my dessert experience complete and perfect.
Chef Ratha truly has passion for French cuisine as he executed each of the dishes with heart and soul. The restaurant draws a lot of young and old crowd and they all seem to know that Chef Ratha does the cooking alone and they were prepared wait. His customers know where to find good French food without all the frills. This is the sort of restaurant you’ll want to hit up when initiating someone to the wonders of French cuisine!!
The Black Sheep Café
Add: B1-30, Thomson V Two
11 Sin Ming Road
Tel: 6459 5373, Mobile : 9272 1842
Operating Hours: Tuesday – Saturday :11.30 am – 11.00 pm
Last order 9.30 pm
Sundays : 11.30 am – 09.30 pm
Last Order: 8.45 pm
Mondays Closed UNLESS eve of public holiday