Your server has just delivered your appetizers. Now, she digs into her rugged apron for her blowtorch. That’s something you can’t say every day, but when it comes to presentation and ambiance, The Black Sheep Restaurant in Manassas is anything but quotidian.
She applies the flame to four slices of Nueske’s bacon and a stick of rosemary hanging on a tiny clothesline. Fat and melted sugar drip from the newly crisp pork belly as she sears one side, then another. The aroma of burning rosemary fills your nostrils. And finally, it’s time to open one of the clothespins and taste the meat. It’s sweet, but only a wink, smoky, but not too much. And more than anything, it’s rich. The dish is best shared by more than just two people.
Especially when there are scallops to be enjoyed. The cast-iron-seared scallops would be perfectly at home on a fine dining restaurant menu. And that’s part of the key to Black Sheep’s success. It is all things to all people. Some diners are attired in shorts and T-shirts, others ties. There are burgers and crab cake sandwiches, but also sushi. And it’s all served in the circa-1929 Thomasson Barn, part of the Farm Brew Live campus in Manassas that also includes 2 Silos Brewing Co.
The restaurant is part of the Villagio Hospitality Group empire, the same minds behind not just the brewery, but also Trattoria Villagio in Clifton. Think Villagio is a stunner? Just wait until you see the exposed beam-vaulted ceilings at Black Sheep. You’ll likely be seated beneath a crystal chandelier—they’re placed over every booth and larger ones beam down over the rest of the tables. Even your water is poured into elegantly quirky, textured blue glasses. If there is a place to add a shred of style, the Black Sheep team has done it.
But back to those scallops. The chubby round shellfish are cemented to the plate in a layer of sun-dried-tomato butter sauce. It’s by turns sweet and tangy, with pomegranate seeds and tendrils of balsamic reduction amping up both of those flavors. It’s a study in all things sugary and sour, settled by the calm, creamy brine of the scallops themselves.
Dinner can mean everything from comfort food like perfectly cooked (if salty) pork chops and lobster pot pie to that aforementioned sushi. Yes, there’s a dedicated sushi chef and you should trust him, especially after your Japanese-born server tells you he’s legit.
Try the Fire Roll, which pairs spicy yellowtail with togarashi and Sriracha for a spicy, garlicky punch. Creamy avocado, bright cilantro and tangy yuzu ponzu will cut through the heat. It’s a satisfying bite, but really, it’s so pretty, it almost doesn’t need to be. And that’s the best way to summarize The Black Sheep. It’s a visual beauty that might just surprise you with its depth. // 9935 Discovery Blvd., Manassas; Open daily for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and for dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday; Appetizers: $7-$15; Entrees: $10-$32
Marvel at the high ceilings and wall-to-wall chandeliers of this historic barn.
Bacon Tower, cast-iron-seared scallops, Fire Roll.