Baa, lamb. Be it braised or grilled, a chop or the whole rack, there's just something springy about lamb, something that speaks to a certain occasion. But who really needs a special occasion to enjoy a good food in Charleston? With the way things are looking in the city's restaurant scene, clearly no one in this town needs a specific reason to get a great meal. But if you really need motive to munch this weekend, just call it lamb-a-palooza and check out what some of the city's chefs are doing with the meaty treat.
You're sure to encounter lamb on the menu at any restaurant claiming to specialize in Mediterranean fare and Lana on Rutledge Avenue is no exception. Chef John Ondo's lamb spanakopita appetizer is a menu favorite, a staple of the restaurant since it opened seven years ago. The traditional Greek spanakopita is a combination of ground lamb, spinach, and creamy feta cheese wrapped in flaky phyllo dough and served with tangy tzatziki and a tomato-mint relish ($9.50). For lunching on lamb, try the lamb kefta, a similar but more substantial dish offered only on Lana's lunch menu. The seared ground lamb is served with tomatoes, cucumber, tabouleh salad, and tzatziki for a decidedly Mediterranean meal ($11.50).
Chef Craig Deihl of Cypress is offering two ways to enjoy lamb, plating up a grilled leg of lamb as well as a rack of lamb for sharing. The grilled leg of lamb is sourced from Border Springs Farm in Virginia and is served with a smoked lamb jam, escarole, garlic, and turnips ($34). Recommended under the "table presentations for two" section of the menu, the rack of lamb is garlic and herb-rubbed and accompanied by a parmesan potato gratin, greens beans, and balsamic lamb reduction ($45 per person).
Sean Brock at McCrady's is also sourcing his lamb from Border Springs, which raises a breed of Katahdin lamb known for its mild flavor. Not letting a part of the delicacy go to waste, Brock is offering a trio of Katahdin lamb, serving the loin grilled, while braising the neck and leg pressed together in a pan. The lamb is finished with Anson Mills purple cape beans tossed in butter and herbs, black trumpet mushrooms, wild Greenbriar shoots, and a green garlic puree from Ambrose Farms ($35).
At Eurasia Café and Wine Bar, Chef Meredith Adams is putting her lamb in between two buns with a Mediterranean lamb burger with goat cheese. The house-ground lamb is pan seared and topped with romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, red onion, and carrot, all tossed in a creamy, cumin-dill dressing. This Greek-salad like topping is finished off with a helping of creamy goat cheese, all sandwiched between a toasted brioche bun ($13).
For a heaping helping of lamb, head over to Mt. Pleasant where the folks at Graze are serving up lamb belly cassoulet. The belly is seared off with a traditional French garlic sausage and cooked down in red wine with a veal demi-glace. The meat, cannelini beans, herbs, and roasted winter root vegetables like carrots, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes are cooked for four hours before being topped with a parmesan panko breadcrumb crust ($18).
Downtown at 39 Rue de Jean on John Street, the French brasserie has a classic braised lamb shank served with brandied figs and roasted parsnips ($26.99).