Mike Madriaga 10:30 a.m., Nov. 20
Sips and snaps at Lion's Share
Craft cocktails and exotic fare for hunters of all things hip
I may have waited over a year to check out the Lion's Share, but I'm certainly making up for lost time. Over the past few weeks it's been my go-to location for meeting colleagues for drinks or friends for dinner.
If you care about cocktails, you've already heard of this place. They have more types of bitters on display than I even knew existed, including a mole bitters and a house-made Siracha bitters. I'm hooked on the bitters-with-a-burn, which is why on all of my recent visits, I can't help but order the "I'll Be Your Huckleberry" cocktail, comprising Diplomatico and Añejo rums, lime, tamarind, and of course, my latest vice, the Siracha bitters.
David's a big fan of mezcal (like tequila, mezcal is made from agave, but this smokier version involves smoking the agave before distilling it), so he was happy to note mezcal's prominent showing (along with tequila, which he also enjoys).
Sitting at the bar and sipping my craft cocktails, I enjoy checking out the eccentric decor -- black painted walls, a few stuffed antelope heads (or whatever those animals are, it's been a while since I've watched National Geographic), dangling Edison bulbs, and ornately framed paintings of quirky, whimsical bits worked into otherwise recognizable works of classic art. It's sort of how I imagine a hunter's lodge would look if it were inhabited by a Brooklynite attending Parsons.
At first glance, I found the menu daunting. An eclectic collection of meats ranging from frog, kangaroo, antelope, and lamb tongue. I don't typically go for odd cuts, but there seemed to be no way to avoid it. In the end, I'm glad I didn't have a choice but to march mouth first into the lion's den. The only chicken option is the Moroccan chicken liver, served with medjool dates and herb pita. I was expecting a sort of pâté, but instead, it was all ground together, more like chili style. And it was delicious.
It's difficult to balance richness in a way that doesn't leave one feeling grotesquely full. A perfect example of rich done right is the lamb bolognese with goat cheese ravioli. The portion size seems modest at first glance, but once the sumptuous blend of bolognese and goat cheese hits the taste buds, you realize any more on the plate would be overly indulgent. And maybe, just maybe, I grabbed a triangle of pita from David's chicken liver dish so that I could sop up the last bits of bolognese.
One of my favorite items on the menu is the corn and tomato salad with "red oak leaf, sheep milk feta, and almond vinaigrette."
I like that, despite all the heavy items on the menu (such as the antelope sliders with red onion marmalade, smoked gouda, and mustard aioli; or the lamb bolognese french fries, which are absolutely naughty) there are delectable lighter options. These are great, especially for those times you prefer to fill up on the cocktails. One such entree is the Texas red fish, with polenta, "torched" baby tomatoes, and a red beet reduction. The flavors and textures in that dish are nothing short of splendid.
Of course, for every light dish there's an obscenely decadent one. After we read about the Wild Style burger in another publication, David had to taste it for himself. Grass fed beef, boar bacon, a fried farm egg, and smoked cheddar, all topped with crunchy fried onions. I thought David was keeping his elbows up to prevent me from getting a bite (which, sadly, I never got), but it turns out his arms were positioned that way because he was struggling to hold the stack of meaty goodness together so it didn't fall apart. If I ever do end up ordering the Wild Style, I'll approach it with a fork and knife.
I didn't taste the kangaroo strip sirloin, served with chickpea waffle, pea tendrils, and cherry compote, but I did get a close-up look when a friend ordered it. My friend said though it was interesting to try, he probably wouldn't order it again. Since I missed a bite, I was glad to hear this. For now, I've resolved to stick to eating meat that can be found naturally on my own continent. And when it comes to curious cuts and craft cocktails, I trust the Lion's Share to serve it up right.
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