Sometimes, pork is referred to as “the other white meat.” So, in that vein, perhaps we ought to start referring to lamb as “the other red meat.” Long hidden in the shadow of beef in Canadian diets, lamb has come into its own on the plates of Edmonton restaurants.
As pretty as a perfectly cooked rack of lamb looks, though, it’s not just for expensive celebration dinners anymore. Lamb can now be found in meatballs and stews at restaurants across the city that encompass many different cultural cuisines, from Spanish and Turkish to Ethiopian and Iranian. Here’s a look at just a few of the lamb options available at local eateries, some of which may be good enough to make you forget about a sirloin steak for a while.
Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank
at Workshop Eatery
With pomegranate mentioned in the very name of this dish at Workshop Eatery, you might assume that the flavour of the fruit would overpower the lamb itself – but it doesn’t. You’re served a lamb shank so tender that it quite literally falls apart with the merest nudge of your fork and knife, and there’s simply a hint of sweetness from the pomegranate braise that complements the rich meat.
The tenderness of the lamb calls for a side with a bit more texture, and the risotto more than delivers. Instead of using rice, the risotto is crafted from Gold Forest Grains farro, a nutty grain from the wheat family that can be cooked in liquid (like rice), but maintains a bit of a bite. Enhanced by the mushrooms’ earthiness, the resulting side is a great accompaniment to the lamb.
Finally, there are the pickled candy-striped beets. With only two paper-thin circles on the plate, they could easily be considered a mere garnish. However, they add a burst of colour to the plate and perfectly balance the other components. –Adrianna Szenthe
The last time my wife and I went to Tzin, the cozy wine bar on 104th Street, the menu featured lamb merguez meatballs in a tomato-harissa sauce. She wasn’t a big fan; the North African spices were a bit too much for her. This time, though, the chefs at Tzin had revamped their lamb meatball recipe, and we left much more satisfied.
The hotter spices of the previous recipe have been replaced by a more subtle, savoury blend that included za’atar sprinkled over top. The harissa in the sauce has been swapped out for black garlic, which is sweet and pungent without being overpowering. The lamb itself, raised here in Alberta, is flavourful but not gamey, and plays very well with the finishing touch of pecorino romano.
As always, though, the service at Tzin was impeccable, and our server knew exactly what wine to pair with each dish. Try the 2013 Colom Lote Especial tannat from Argentina with the lamb meatballs to heighten the experience. –Glenn Cook
10115 104 St., 780-428-8946, tzin.ca Sabzy Persian Grill
at Sabzy Persian Grill
When it comes to lamb stew, most restaurants don’t exactly reinvent the wheel – after all, it’s a comfort-food staple. However, Sabzy’s take on lamb stew – khoresh-e gheymeh – is filled with surprising flavours that stray from the typical herb blend. The tender pieces of lamb are combined with yellow split peas in a rich, creamy tomato-based stew, and the addition of dried lime gives the stew a delicious citrus tang.
And then there are the toppings. Sabzy garnishes the stew with a sprinkle of crisp potato sticks that add a wonderful texture to the dish, as well as a generous serving of barberry. Our waiter describes the dried barberry as comparable to goji berries, and they add brightness and depth of flavour that take the dish to the next level. Whatever you do, make sure to order a side of flatbread – you’ll want something to soak up every last bit of stew. –A.S.
Yiannis offers one of the best people-watching opportunities on Whyte Avenue. When the weather is pleasant, the large shutter doors are rolled up, allowing diners the chance to watch the skateboarders, window shoppers and parents pushing strollers the size of SUVs go by.
The lamb chops at Yiannis come with roasted potatoes with a hint of lemon, tzatziki and veggies. It’s a standard dish of Greek cuisine, but it’s well-executed at this Whyte Avenue mainstay. The lambs are cooked perfectly to order (medium, in my case).
Because you need to gnaw at the meat on the bone, no one is going to look at you funny if you leave the knife and fork behind and pick up the chops. There is a real smokiness to the meat, and the earthiness of the lamb is balanced by the brightness of the lemon and tzatziki. Is it rocket science? No. Is it a classic done well? Yes. –Steven Sandor
Give me a chance to go try out an Ethiopian joint in Edmonton, and I’ll be there in a heartbeat. So when I learned that we at Avenue were scouting for lamb dishes, I immediately thought of Abyssinia, located just a stone’s throw away from the Italian Centre Shop in Little Italy. I’d never been, but the smell had often tantalized me when walking past.
True to the flavourful aromas, this restaurant did not disappoint. I went for the yebeg tibs. Served with fresh injera (a crepe-like bread used to soak up flavours and transport the food to your mouth), the tender and simple cubed lamb was a delight to handle. The dish was served hot in more ways than one – it’s sauteed with onion, tomato, hot jalapeo peppers and a simple but flavour-filled punch of awaze, an Ethiopian hot sauce. If you don’t fear eating with your hands and you can handle a little heat, this is a lamb dish for you. –Cory Haller
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