This Week in Lamb
Jews and Muslims won't eat pork. Hindus stay away from cows. Americans don't dig horses as food; Mexicans think munching on dogs is disgusting despite their Aztec forefathers. No right-minded soul would eat chicken in these avian-flu days. And so we are left with lamb, a light, buttery meat that cultures across the world value. Life is good.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
Orange County's sizable Bolivian community packs Beba's for such hard-to-prepare plates as the divine ají de papalisa (beef simmered in an intoxicating ají sauce with three types of potato) and the addictive thimpú (a slab of lamb covered in a yellow sauce). Order at least one salteña, a meat pie that's more wondrous with each nibble. 630 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 973-4928. $
FERDUSSI TASTE OF PERSIA
This Persian palace makes its lamb shank just as it should be: stewed for so long the meat falls off the bone when you so much as look at it. This goes very well with their morrasa polo—basmati rice with orange peels, raisins, almond slivers and barberries. As to appetizers, their kashk budemjon (eggplant and whey dip) is so deliciously gooey, topped with toasted garlic, onion and mint, that you'll be tempted to lick the plate. 3605 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 545-9096; www.ferdussi.com. $$
If you have a hankering for Persian food, try the lamb shank, a huge leg of lamb complete with bone marrow and fat. It's served as a stew, and the meat rivals Jell-O for tenderness. The kebabs are good too!1112 N. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 991-6060; 24000 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. 28, Mission Viejo, (949) 768-0122. $$
Unlike other posh joints, where the idea of comfort is to make average folks feel uncomfortable, Pinot is nothing but inviting. The French-Californian cuisine and atmosphere manage to be classy without being stuffy, and the roasted-lamb noisette is one of the best cuts of lamb around. The Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel, 686 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 444-5900. $$$
One page is devoted to such Thai favorites as curries and noodles, another to Thai-Indian fusion dishes (my heart palpitates at the thought of their paper shrimp—fried shrimp rolls stuffed with bits of mango and peppers and balanced with a sweet mango chutney). The rest of the menu is given over to a wide swath of northern subcontinent foodstuffs, ranging from herb-laced lamb kebabs to Afghan rice dishes. Everything rocks. 1170 N. Tustin, Orange, (714) 771-9898. $$
Some of the best Greek cuisine in North Orange County. The food is simple and perfect for long lunches in the pretty dining room or the small garden patio. They serve a whole range of roasted meats, including lamb and fresh seafood. Their pistachio baklava tends to be very rich.1390 N. Kraemer Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-2021. $
TAQUERÍA DEL AMIGO
Taquería del Amigo only roasts its barbacoa (barbecued lamb) on weekends, and even then they're out of it by midday. But each teeny-tiny barbacoa taco is worth the seven-day wait—stringy, juicy throughout and embellishedHidalgo-style, meaning the taco men follow the renowned barbacoa tradition of the central Mexican state by roasting their ewe with maguey leaves (the plant from which tequila is distilled), which contribute an intoxicating glow to the lamb's mellow charm. 11915 Euclid, Garden Grove, (714) 537-8740.
THE WILD RABBIT
This well-kept restaurant excels with such supper-club standards as steak Diane, salmon Provençal, rack of lamb and beef Wellington by expanding on these dishes without compromising their integrity. The flame-broiled pork tenderloin, classically marinated with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, also comes with a dab of sweet soy ginger sauce. They include a bracing sweet-and-sour sauce alongside the usual honey mustard and ketchup for the sturdy, flavorful beer-battered fries. 2675 Irvine Ave., Ste. D, Costa Mesa, (949) 574-4995; www.thewildrabbitrestaurant.com. $$
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2675 Irvine Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627