Unless you grow up in a culture that appreciates the many wonderful parts of animals and how to prepare and cook them properly, you might cringe a bit when reading a menu that offers lamb heart. But in the hands of Coco 500 Chef Mike Morrison, this is one of the best lamb dishes you might ever eat.
The heart slices are layered across the long, narrow plate and delicately decorated with arugula, generous smatterings of super-soft cheese, and a sprinkling of fennel pollen. The fennel pollen is wondrously subtle and plays out as one of those rare, unique ingredients that can integrate various tones and flavors into a harmonious dish.
But the heart is the, uh, heart of the dish. It is awesome and should be on more menus., if only more people would put their adventure mouth on when dining out.
Grilling Lamb Heart – Flatiron
An entire lamb heart itself is brined, sliced into thirds, flatiron-grilled to a lovely warm rare, and has a fantastic flavor with simple sea salt, ground pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Lamb heart tastes much like a steak-foie gras hybrid with an earthy hint of liver. The meat has wonderful tones, is absurdly tender, and would be a conversation starter for anyone who can get out of their own prejudices to try it. The foie gras taste is less rich and overwhelming, and the liver is there ever so slightly; heart’s just a great meat.
The Grade: Awesome / Exceptional(my highest grade)
The Skinny: Coco 500 – 500 Brannan St, San Francisco CA
The prospect of eating a meal comprised of many unusual animal parts was exciting. I’m a big fan of Chris Cosentino. who enjoys toying with and serving innards and other ghastlies and crumbs, officially called offal in the culinary world. Chris was born into a winemaking family and was probably custom built to grow into his current status as one of America’s most interesting chefs. He’s not as famous as, say, Boulud or Andres or others, but he’ll probably get his TV show one day and then all hell-fame-and-flame will break loose for him.
Again, the concept alone of eating the oddities thrilled and, while the dinner was even more challenging than I expected, it was still a fun and wonderful ride. Not all the dishes were great, but the entire meal was a great experience (hence the great grade). But, to be sure, it’s not the multi-course meal to suit everyone; not even those who are flesh fanatics.
But hey, how many times do you get to have beef tendon and berries? Or sheep’s bladder bruschetta? So if you think you’re adventurous, I highly encourage you to visit Incanto for the annual Snout-to-Tail dinner. You’ll have a party-starter conversation for the rest of your life.
Course 1: PIG EAR TERRINE
Beautiful presentation; just gorgeous. Pig ear, being really chewy (cartilage), can be a challenge.
Course 2: CHORIZO & DUCK EGG
I enjoy a good spicy chorizo, in combination with just about anything you hit with it. The presentation of this was a bit messy, perhaps because duck eggs are big and unruly. This was pretty good, but excessively portioned and not as well balanced as some of the other courses.
Course 3: TONGUE PASTRAMI (and rye seed) SALAD
I love pastrami, too. This was a super-clever reinterpretation of pastrami on rye, with the tongue pastrami (excellent) and sprouted rye seeds on a light salad. This was a terrific course, perhaps my favorite of the evening.
Course 4: SHEEP’S SPLEEN BRUSCHETTA
Now when you go to the grocery store, I’ll bet you a zillion dollars you have never gone up to your butcher and said, “Hey I’m really in the mood for sheep spleen. Do you have some fresh spleen today?” Incanto is an Italian restaurant and Chris Cosentino’s quirky bruschetta had its high points but, for me, the earthy chewiness of the meat involved made the portions again too large. We ate about half and that was plenty. Gold star for originality, though.
Course 5: GOAT POT PIE
Again, a terrific idea from Chris here, to invert the chicken pot pie All-American concept with goat meat. I’m not a huge fan of desconstructed dishes, especially when the deconstruction takes away the best part of the dish. In the case of a pot pie, a crusty pie is paramount, even beyond what’s put inside. So the flaky top was good, but I needed more. The onions, potatoes, carrots, peas, also good.
Now I actually am one of the few people I know who’ll seek out goat meat. Having chivito (baby goat) in Argentina opened my eyes to how awesome goat can be. Unfortunately, the goat procured for this meal had a bit of dirty funky taste that some goat meat can have. I’m not sure what causes it; one day I’ll find out. I think Chris will fare better in the next batch but again, this was an excellent reinterpretation of a classic, and given a beautiful presentation.
Course 6: DESSERT – BEEF TENDON & BERRIES
My girlfriend couldn’t deal with this. One could say it’s like chewing on a torn prophylactic (and someone did), but I thought it was a pretty good dessert. And fun. You know, considering we were eating beef tendon. It did have a similarly bland, chewy textture that the pig ear did, but not as intense. The beef tendon was a nice textural balance to the berries and cream.
This certainly won’t win over the breakfast at Wimbledon crowd but, who knows….stranger things happen.
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