Wild Game

There's the wild game for which you lie in wait—to kill, drag home, dismember and gorge upon the way your Neanderthal ancestors did. You eat it hunkered over flames, straightening only to hurl a gnawed-clean femur over your neighbor's fence.

Then there's carnage of a different kind at restaurants specializing in wild game, where the only part of you spattered with gore will be your wallet. A supper for two at these establishments can poleax a pair of Benjamins right quick.

A couple of county establishments will calm the inner Ted Nugent in you. Most lumpen is Gustav's Jägerhaus, the august Anaheim German eatery where deer, elk and boar go for $17.95 a pound, served up all marinated and nice. Better yet, though, is an entire bunny, a lean snack of an animal at $15.95 a pound, dark like turkey, but moist.

Gustav's family-diner feel is far removed from the starched-white-napkin environs of Turner's New Zealand, a deer's gambol away from the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Though the mother company (based in New Zealand) is world-renowned for growing hormone- and antibiotic-free meats for such pricey establishments as the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, their Costa Mesa location specializes in venison hailing from the clean, serene pastures of New Zealand.

According to a Turner New Zealand spokesperson, their Bambis are coddled from birth in free-range pens—and there's the paradox. By creating a fine dining experience, in which you get to clutch a daunting wine list in one hand and a steak knife reminiscent of a chrome Ka-Bar in the other, Turner has domesticated venison's gamy appeal to the point of extinction. Who wants a deer sandwich—one of the better selections here—if it's no different than roast beef? I ate the whole thing with abandon, but I couldn't help reminiscing about the sharp wild deer steaks I ate as a boy. You could tell those deer had taken life by the horns; there was an otherworldly richness to their meat that almost stared me down even in chop format. What stared me down at Turner was the check. Gustav's Jägerhaus, 2525 E. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 520-9500; Turner New Zealand, 650 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 668-0880.

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