It’s been a busy spring for Aussie beef & lamb in the Boston area, with a host of events and programs hitting the ground in Bean-town over the past several weeks. One of the latest was the Rising Stars Chefs Boston event, where a select group of young and talented chefs were lauded by Star Chefs. We caught up with one of our newest fans of Aussie Lamb, Chef John DaSilva of ‘Spoke’ in Somerville, MA.
A New England Culinary Institute grad, John started out at the famed ‘Boarding House’ on Nantucket and eventually moved on to Barbara Lynch’s flagship restaurant, ‘No. 9 Park’. He rose through the ranks quickly and spent the next several years working as executive sous chef. The 29-year-old chef has recently garnered a great deal of attention for his modern Mediterranean-inspired cuisine at Spoke and in 2012, was recognized by Zagat as one of Boston’s ‘30 under 30’.
At the StarChefs event, Chef John served a “Harissa-Spiced Lamb Tartare with Labneh and Pistachios” which was one of the most popular dishes of the evening.
“You can’t hide anything in a tartare - it’s a great use for the clean, mild flavor of the Aussie lamb,” says Chef John. “I kept the spices mild, which I think worked really well; I didn’t want to overshadow the natural lamb flavor.”
“One of the guests, told me she usually doesn’t like lamb because she thinks of it as having an aggressive, gamey flavor. When people have a pure, natural product like Aussie lamb, it can totally change their minds about lamb.”
Lamb is a mainstay at Chef John’s Mediterranean small-plates concept. He says he’s seen tastes change over the years, even in a quieter suburban locale like Somerville, “people flock to [lamb]” - no pun intended .
“Especially when you can tout the pastured nature of a product, people of all stripes are going for that; both women and men,” he says. “I find successful menus are based on word associations; so lamb, yogurt, mint are a starting point with the Mediterranean flavors and references, and you can build and branch out from there.”
Chef says his lamb sliders are practically too popular. “I can’t run it too often, because its all folks will order!” His mini burgers are spiced like a merguez sausage with plenty of harissa, cumin, coriander and paprika, then topped with a feta aioli, and simple brioche bun. Other successful lamb dishes include a number of handmade pastas with lamb sugos, and lamb meatballs.
Once you build a dish that’s approachable and appealing,” adds Chef John, “the pure taste of a quality product like Australian Lamb seals the deal, and will bring guests back time and again.”