A blitzkrieg of buzz normally surrounds a highly anticipated restaurant — diners quickly fall into frenzy for reservations and the media stumble over themselves in feeble attempts to get the scoop. But with On the Lamb, few caught wind of this Deep Ellum restaurant’s opening weekend.
Former Oak chef Ross Demers and restaurateur Anton Uys describe their food as rustic man cooking in old world style, which is reflected in his methodology for curing meats. Don’t let the charcuterie of a beefy flavored bresaola, lightly salted pork tenderloin known as lomo, and a wonderfully chalky flavored lamb pate with gooseberry jam halt you from discovering the wide array of other dishes where the meat can easily command the dish or take a backseat to other bold flavors. If offered, not to be missed is the smoked duck and lamb rillettes that builds upon the mustard foam and floral flavored chamomile honey.
While owner Uys is a native of South Africa where lamb is dominant, Demers and he conceived a menu where lamb is often a partner to the other ingredients. “I’m getting accustomed to using a lot more organs. We decided not to use mainstream meat and I’m trying not to make it taste so fucking lamby,” Demers says. “I’m using a lot from the lamb neck.”
Other dishes like the pickled carrots come as a salad combining tastes of fennel and dill which gave this plate a bright and earthy flavor, a lighter option when compared to other options like lamb boudin, oxtail and lamb belly. The Portuguese-style lamb sausage, called merquez, came grilled in a colorful ceramic bowl with sweet sherry lentils that were enhanced with mustard caviar. Another mouth-pleaser: thinly cut and widely stripped pasta known as Pappardelle, served along red wine and duck stock braised lamb neck with simple additions such as pepper and cheese.
These dishes paint a picture of a rising chef hellbent on bucking traditional Dallas cuisine by using nontraditional meat. Also on the team: Oak pastry Chef Francisca Lang, whose mint chocolate cake was displayed as a form of 1980s pop art with a flavor burst from the blueberry caviar, green tea foam and tangy passion fruit sorbee.
Cheery cocktails are as flourishing as the food; try the mezcal-influenced Guardian with notes of cantaloupe, dried chili and citrus or the Gooseneck Smash, a zippy take on the traditional except with gooseberries, ginger, and honey. Although Demers proves he can run on his own and wants to change this menu soon, he should slow to a crawl allowing the rest of Dallas to catch up to this menu. It'd be a shame for the typically trendy crowd to miss the beginnings of an already promising culinary option.
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On the Lamb, 2614 Elm St.