No More Cream O’ Wheat
Last Week, my husband and I joined a few friends for drinks at Lamberts. As is usually the case, we spent way too much time dithering over trying something new from the cocktail menu before settling on our old standbys; the Kentucky Thyme Lemonade for me (light on the sweet, heavy on the tart.); the lemony Shandy made with Blanche de Brussels and Limonata for my husband. It was actually his second choice. Sadly, his absolute favorite beer beverage, the Cream O’ Wheat has been stricken from the menu. A simple mix of halves and halves, the Cream O’ Wheat was a happy marriage of equal parts Hooegarden (a Belgian-style wheat beer) and Guinness–It’s enough for a meal in itself, but rich and flavorful nonetheless.
Though this memorable macho apertif is no longer there, we did find a few new menu items to entice us to stay for dinner.
Memories of Cornmeal
The first was an appetizer of shrimp and toast. Seemingly simple, this dish had a nice twist to it with a creamy tarter sauce and thinly-sliced cucumbers spread on smoky grilled Texas Toast; a sort of nod to old-style English cucumber sandwiches. And unlike many battered and fried shrimp that arrive greasy and cake-y to the table, these little babies were crisp and golden brown in a cornmeal dusting.
The cornmeal reminded me of the big fish fry-s we’d have when I was a kid with my cousins. My aunt used to take my uncle’s fresh catch from a day of fishing and within minutes, she was heating up oil and serving up crunchy cornmeal- and beer-battered bass with a side of hushpuppies, cocktail sauce, and a cold Corona. (The Corona was for her. The rest was for me and my cousins to devour.)
Ok, so this was slightly more advanced than that. But the experience was just the same–we devoured it, cucumber toast and all.
Lamberts has a way of making the average side salad seem anemic and plain against its menu of leafy greens. The grilled fig and arugula salad is no exception. A slightly wilted bunch of peppery arugula bathed in honey-balsamic dressing and slices of Manchego cheese would seem perfect enough but for the sweet and sugary grilled figs wrapped in smoky duck-prosciutto. (Cured in-house, of course.)
Even on a Wednesday, this place was packed. What I like about Lamberts is its casual-meets-fine dining feel. Business types in suits having afterwork drinks and apps over serious tete-a-tetes, cozy couples out for a not-so-ordinary midweek dinner, and gussied-up glam girls looking for fun on a girl’s night out. You’ll see it all here. But what you don’t see is pretention. At least not usually.
Other Than Barbecue
Though Lamberts may bill itself as Fancy Barbecue, I’ve found I’m most impressed with the food when I order something other than barbecue–meaning, anything that you wouldn’t normally grab jar of sweet or vinegary sauce to slather on your entree.
Last week was no exception. The plump, grilled Hawaiian Swordfish was delightful–especially with a sweet watermelon, mint, and cucumber vinaigrette. But our favorite dish was a sliced Akaushi flat iron steak from Yoakum. This juicy beauty was served rare/medium-rare with a nice crusty salt and pepper rub. But the belle of the ball for this steak was the tangy fennel and caper chimmichurri spread all over it. Fresh. Tart. Sweet. Savory. They say chimmichurri is the new “it” condiment for 2009. If it tastes anything like this, I’d say they’re right…