The Keens Mutton Chop Is Still Spectacular, But…
Jazba also serves a serious (goat) mutton chop, and don't forget about Hawksmoor's lamb T-bones
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I know you all love the mutton chop at Keens.
But before we talk about that century-old steakhouse again, let’s try something different. Let’s try the mutton chop at Jazba, a month-old Indian spot by the team behind Junoon. The East Village newbie belongs to a hot class of South Asian hangouts — like Dhamaka and Semma — that highlight regional dishes without the same sizable platform as samosas, Punjabi stews, or biriyanis.
That means Jazba serves up some really cool stuff. Pork belly curries with steamed buns. Spicy brain masala. Creamy goat kebabs. And a stupendous mutton chop that continues to haunt my dreams. It’s a big, spicy cut, so long and curved it looks like a skateboarder’s half pipe.
Chef Akshay Bhardwaj slathers the mutton in chiles, cumin, garlic, and lots of other wonderful things, before letting it get all bronzed and burnished in the tandoor. And then he pairs it with a lot more food. A pat of butter floats above a copper pot of black daal. An epic sheet of Roomali roti folds upon itself like an edible Zaha Hadid sketch. And a earthenware pot of green pudina chutney begs for all sorts of dunking.
It’s a dish that turns heads. As I sucked sweet fat from between tightly spaced bones, I could see fellow patrons spying on me. Jealousy!
Mutton is Sheep, Unless It’s Goat. But It’s Still Mutton!
Whenever I’m at a steakhouse, brasserie, or bistro, I get just a wee bit aggravated when I see so many interchangeable cuts of beef — and so little lamb.
When I think of chophouse steaks, I think of mild, marbled hunks of ribeye or porterhouse. Yes, they’re delicious. But when I dream of good lamb, I imagine meat that smells like a lush, fertile field after a cool rain.
You can surely guess which I prefer.
Indeed, this is a column dedicated to some of my favorite new (and old) lamb and mutton dishes, with a focus on steak-like chops, skewers, and kebabs.
Now, what actually is mutton? The term typically refers to the meat of an older sheep, a strongly flavored affair that hasn’t enjoyed popularity in the U.S. for quite some time (many American consumers tend to prefer lamb that’s more gently savory than gamy). But in Pakistan, India, and the Caribbean, mutton often means goat, a red-meat ruminant that has a similar-ish taste profile to lamb.
Jazba’s mutton is goat, Bhardwaj tells me. If that bothers you, keep in mind that the mutton at Keens isn’t true “24-month” mutton, but rather yearling lamb, a cut that still has a ton of flavor. And on that note, Hawksmoor’s lamb T-bones, like Jazba’s goat kebabs — both reviewed below — can flaunt an intensity one could could call mutton-esque. I mention this all because individual seasonings, farms, and grazing lands can impact taste in ways that transcend formal classifications.
What’s more important is that all of these ovine and caprine dishes pack a lot more character than most beef ribeyes — or milder American lamb chops. So enjoy.
Behind the paywall:
How the Jazba goat chop actually tastes
A review of the Keens mutton chop
A review of the lamb T-bones at Hawksmoor
Some quick notes on the lamb’s tongue at Rule of Thirds
A review of the mutton galouti kebabs at Jazba