5/10/2013 04:05:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate This Week: Lamb With Semolina at Pub & Kitchen

Eli Collins is getting into his groove at Pub & Kitchen. Last night we had the opportunity to attend a dinner at the Lombard Street tavern featuring A.A. Badenhorst wines from South Africa. Winemaker Adi Badenhorst described his wines are simple, with as little “winemaking” as possible, so as not to get in the way of the flavors of grape and soil. That left Collins plenty of room to play with his pairings.

Our favorite wine of the night was a blend from 2008, which had a strong but not fruity flavor, with a long, funky finish. “It’s based on Chenin Blanc,” Badenhorst said, “but there were too many varietals to even fit them on the label, so we just went with calling it a ‘Family Blend.’” Our favorite course, though, had to be Collins’ lamb dish.

Lamb came two ways: leg, in perfectly pink-in-the-middle medallions, and as merguez meatball. Beneath the meat was a toasted semolina polenta of sorts, which tasted somewhat like a really great breakfast cereal. “It’s gnarly,” said P&K’s Ed Hackett, “I could eat bowls of that stuff.” Asparagus added crunch, but the richness was best broken up by a few baby mint leaves scattered on top.

An earlier course of Spanish octopus was also excellent, and it featured ramps, prompting Badenhorst to relate that he’d never tried the spring alliums before landing in Philadelphia that very day. “He had fiddlehead ferns, too!” shouted a colleague, proudly, to which Adi responded, “I think you better settle down, my dear.” Still, the winemaker was visibly fascinated when Collins took him into the kitchen to taste all kinds of novel greens. Guess knowing all there is to know about grapes doesn’t leave a lot of room for other produce, but judging from the wines, the focus is worth it.


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