Where the wild things are: Finding exotic meats in Toronto’s restaurant jungle

Where the wild things are: Finding exotic meats in Toronto’s restaurant jungle

Time to bite back (Postcard from Steven Martin) 

For those who are bored with beef or are still mourning the cancellation of Fear Factor, take heart (literally). Toronto restaurants serve enough exotic meats and wild game to satisfy any adventurer’s appetite. And since most of these animals are raised locally (and none of them are up for adoption by World Wildlife Fund), the environmentally conscious can indulge guilt-free. Our list, after the jump.

Alligator
Where to get it: The Fish House, 7501 Woodbine Ave., Markham, 905-948-1982, www.thefishhouse.ca.
Where it’s from:
Farm-raised in Louisiana
What it’s like:
“It’s very close to chicken,” says head cook Nazir Ally. “Most restaurants serve the tail, which has a texture similar to chicken breast.”
How much:
$8.49 for an appetizer. The bite-sized pieces of tail meat, which are marinated, breaded, pan-fried and sprinkled with Creole spices, come with a dill dipping sauce.
How to eat it:
Think chicken fingers: they’re gone in two bites, best eaten with a cold beer.

Lamb Testicles
Where to get it: Banu, 777 Queen St. W. (at Euclid Ave.), 416-777-2268, www.banu.ca.
Where it’s from: Meat shops that use local suppliers, such as Cumbrae’s.
What it’s like: “They look like scallops but taste like any organ meat, such as liver,” says head chef Amir Mohyeddin. “Some people compare them to sweetbreads. George Stroumboulopoulos once had a party for his show here. We were passing them out without telling anyone what they were—he thought it was chicken.” Mohyeddin cuts them out of the scrotum and marinates them in onions, saffron and vodka before grilling them. He then serves them with his grandmother’s pickled vegetables.
How Much: $15 for eight or nine testicles—a.k.a. “dom balan” or “urban oysters.” Similar to the shape of ping-pong balls, these traditional Iranian treats are typically ordered by large parties.
How to eat it: “Have a ball in your mouth and take a shot of vodka,” Mohyeddin says.

Horse
Where to get it:
La Palette, 256 Augusta Ave. (at Oxford St.), 416-929-4900, www.lapalette.ca.
Where it’s from:
Various farms in Ontario that usually export their meat to countries like France and Japan.
What it’s like:
“It has a mild, delicate flavour. It has that deep purple colour, and we joke that it’s so tender, you can almost cut it with a spoon,” says Shamez Amlani who runs La Palette’s front of house. “It’s also very lean, so it’s very healthy and high in protein.”
How much:
$34 for horse tenderloin with roasted potatoes, vegetables and a rosemary jus.
How to eat it:
Treat it like it’s beef and pair it with a glass of syrah. Since this is a tenderloin and much leaner than beef, order it rare to medium rare to avoid a leathery outcome.

Ostrich
Where to get it:
Byzantium, 499 Church St. (at Wellesley St. E.), 416-922-3859, www.byz.ca.
Where it’s from:
An ostrich farm in New Hamburg, Ontario.
What it’s like:
“It’s similar to beef,” says executive chef Jerome Rivest. “The meat is red and it’s very dense, slightly more chewy than tenderloin. It’s also very lean so it gets tougher the more you cook it.”
How much:
$28 for a marinated medallion with crabapple jelly, tempura-battered apple fritter, garlic mashed potatoes and market vegetables.
How to eat it:
Order it rare and pair it with merlot.

Frog Legs
Where to get it: Forte Bistro and Lounge, 133 Richmond St. W., Ste. 101 (at York St.), 416-867-1909, www.fortebistro.ca.
Where it’s from: Mostly from France and Vietnam where frog legs are frequently consumed, though Forte is trying to track down an Ontario supplier.
What it’s like: “The texture is like a very delicate, braised chicken,” says head chef Greg Argent. “But I’d say that the taste is a hybrid of chicken and oyster.”
How much: $15 for five Kermit gams encrusted in a panko crust with a lemon-tarragon aioli.
How to eat it: “Eat it like you would eat a small chicken wing. Ours are actually de-boned. Just roll up your sleeves and dig in,” says Argent.