For my birthday (which, I share with my twin), we went to Outback Steakhosue. My philosophy when it comes to food, especially when I eat out is simple: scour the menu for that which I have never had before. I am always willing to try something at least once. My only condition is that it’s not too exotic or wild beyond the sensibilities of my palette and appetite. I won’t begrudge those that prefer getting the same meal over and over again at particular restaurants, but as someone that enjoys seafood, burgers, sandwiches, platters and so forth, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give them all a whirl whenever feasible.
Granted, I’m not as liberal when it comes to beers. I fall back on my trusted friend Blue Moon with an orange slice and I did similarly that night. I’ve come to dunking the orange slice in the beer itself. I’ll give props to my uncle for recommending both the beer and the method. Perhaps a better method would be to squeeze the orange juice from the slice, but I think that sweetens it too much. With the slice swimming in the smooth alcohol, I think it meshes well. Not much is more exquisite or refreshing than a Blue Moon on draft with an orange slice. Prior to coming to the Outback, I had predictably (since my sister previously had it) contracted a nasty virus. I was mostly envisioning my night as lounging on my bed with water and a marathon of Revenge. Alas, I found myself at the Outback and my attempts to refuse the Smooth Criminal, Blue Moon, amounted to, “I’ll take the 22 ounce, please, and here’s my ID.”
I most certainly was not feeling a burger. Not to mention, they all sounded a bit banal to me that evening. I was in search of a rush, not a fancied McDonald’s sandwich. And sorry, but bacon on a burger, while delicious, will only entice me so many times before my palette seeks an alternative. I moved on past the steak with hardly a glance. Admittedly, I have never been much of a steak person. While there are obviously different varieties with The New York Strip, Porterhouse, the Filet, and so forth, they have never really wowed me. I especially do not have a taste for grill flavor; it’s a tad too brutish for me.
Ah, there she was; the beautiful seafood section. I typically gravitate to her because seafood, as opposed to red meats, most assuredly tastes “fresh.” That’s not to say red meats are not fresh, but seafood feels more pure, more organic. Eating meat, rightly, makes me feel like a wildebeest, whereas when I eat seafood, I’m like Nemo’s friendly human companion. Crab meat was calling for the “spot,” but I had tried it not long ago, so based on my philosophy, I had to shut her down. Hmmm, then there was the Lobster Tails. Nope, I’m not brave enough yet. They intimidate me too much. I’m sure they would be sex on my tongue, but for now, I am withholding.
Under “Outback Favorites,” I found New Zealand Lamb. Huh, just the right touch of exoticism without being too esoteric. Yep, it was pricey, it was new, but fuck it, it was my birthday. As usual, when I order food, I look at the menu an unhealthy amount of times to make sure I didn’t overlook some other gem. Nope, sorry, Crispy Chicken Sandwich, you’re still stuck on Uneaten Island.
Before the waitress came to take our order, I had considered if lamb was cooked like meat: rare, medium rare, medium, medium well and well done. I had no idea and I felt stupid asking or for even thinking that, but I genuinely had no idea how the fuck lamb was cooked. (As an aside, I should make note of my newfound discovery – medium rare is the cooking temperature of the Food Gods. For the longest time, since it was all I knew, I ordered my food well done because dammit, as I said, that’s all I knew. I broke out of my food ignorance and ordered a burger medium rare a few months ago and have never looked back. I mean, come on, it should have been common sense. If you cook the food too long, as is the case with well done, then the juices are stamped out. Cooking it at medium rare allows for all those yummy juices and flavoring without seeming too icky like rare; I’m not looking to hop over a fence and stab the still-alive cow with a fork…)
Naturally then, when the waitress asked me, “How do you want it cooked?” I fumbled, as if Trebek had just offered the question and said, “Medium rare, please.” Then the fun begins because you get the weird looks around the table, “Eww, you’re going to eat lamb” or “What did you order?” Hey, enjoy that riveting steak you’ve had ten times prior.
After downing my first 22 ounce Blue Moon, I was feeling damn good. It doesn’t take long for Blue Moon to make its way into my system; rightly too, it fought off whatever virus I had going on. I ordered another just as the lamb came.
First impressions are true in social interaction as they are in eating. Aesthetically, the setup of the lamb with the sweet potato (I switched out the garlic potatoes) and green beans (I switched out the veggies), wasn’t all that impressive. I like a little pizazz on my plate or anything that signals the cook’s having fun with it, rather than cursing me for not ordering a burger. Nevertheless, the skin around the lamb looked dark to me – darker than a lot of steaks and burgers I’ve seen. As I generally do with drinks and food, I smelled it because this is a team effort with my tongue. Smelled good – no, smelled really good. It was a strong odor too. The garlic powder they use in the recipe was lassoing my nostrils.
Then fear struck. Dammit, this wasn’t supposed to be those fucking Goliath-of-the-food-world Lobster Tails; I had no idea how to eat this lamb. There seemed to be no appropriate or easy way to cut the meat from the bone. I tried that and ended up sawing with a blunted knife hopelessly. Then, since I have no qualms about it, I just said, fuck it, I’ll treat it like a chicken leg. And rip, rip with my teeth and I was back to assuming the position of a wildebeest.
It was tough ripping the meat/skin from the bone. I don’t know if it was because I had it cooked at medium rare or if that’s just lamb. Again, first impression, but this time with my salivating tongue was that the garlic powder, which had made my nostrils its bitch, had now had its way with my tongue. I think they seasoned it a bit much. And I love seasoning and get liberal in my own cooking and use of garlic powder. On the menu, they say they use a rich Cabernet wine sauce, but that was faintly in the background, overridden by the garlic. Once more, though, Blue Moon came to my rescue, as the sweetness helped dull the flavoring.
People often say, “Everything tastes like chicken,” and I don’t know if that’s true or not, but lamb didn’t taste like chicken or any chicken I had ever had, at least – it tasted like lamb, a wholly unique food item. There wasn’t much too either, once you managed to wrestle the meat away from the bone. Certainly, I don’t need six pounds of food on my plate, but I also like to have something to work with. And as irony would have it, I ended up chowing down on my sister-in-law’s leftover steak. You win this time, Steak Gods.
If I had to do the completely arbitrary and meaningless star rating deal, I would give Outback Steakhouse’s New Zealand Lamb a solid three stars out of four. Because even if I thought they went wild with the garlic and the portion was rather tiny, I still can say that I genuinely like lamb now. Adding a new friend to the palette is never bad.