Among all meats, lamb particularly the fatty ribs, might just be my very favorite. In my Rego Park stamping grounds, I’m especially keen on Uzbek style lamb rib kebabs, but as many of you know my favorite lamb ribs of all were the Muslim Lamb Chop as served by the now defunct Peng Shun Spicy Pot.
The other week my hopes were raised when my buddy Stanford and I saw a dish on the menu of Alley 41 listed as cumin roasted lamb chops. “Can you ask the waiter if it’s fried fresh?” I queried of my pal whose Chinese is way better than mine. Eventually after a phone call to his father, the question was put to the waiter in a sufficiently delicate fashion. It’s a question of crucial importance too, because the restaurant that brought the dish to Flushing, Fu Run, chooses to fry the whole thing beforehand and then reheat it, an unconscionable disservice to both the diners and the lamb itself.
Alley 41’s menu did say lamb chops though and not Muslim lamb chop, so that’s exactly what appeared on the table. The heap of chops—zī rán kǎo yáng pái in Chinese—was showered in cumin, dried chilies, and fried garlic. Crinkle cut French fries also made an appearance. It was the tastiest Chinese lamb preparation I have had in quite some time, but unfortunately the quest to find a Muslim lamb chop to replace Peng Shun’s continues.
Alley 41 lies at one terminus of the 7 train in a bustling Chinatown that might as well be Hong Kong. My second favorite lamb dish lies at the other end of the line at M. Wells Steakhouse. The grass fed lamb saddle with chermoula and merguez meatballs takes well to the restaurant’s wood-fired grill.
A glorious crust coats the rosy meat, offset by the deep green chermoula and its punch of garlic, lemon, and cilantro. The spicy merguez meatballs are lovely too, though I always find myself wanting more of them. “It tastes like happiness,” my friend Jim commented when he saw a picture of the dish I posted on Facebook. He’s right.
Alley 41, 36-45 41st Ave., Flushing, 718- 353-3608
M. Wells Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City, 718-786-9060