Counting Sheep


Not since Fat Baby Lamb—a northern Chinese restaurant in Flushing—have I encountered a place as obsessed with the flesh of young sheep. Driving beneath the D tracks on the ancient Dutch thoroughfare New Utrecht Avenue, a pal and I hit culinary pay dirt: a neighborhood with a diverse population of old-timers and immigrants that’s a wonderland of cheap eats. Around the corner from Cannoli Plus crouched the prosaic-sounding Bay Ridge Café. Weird, since we weren’t anywhere near Bay Ridge. But another sign advertised a second, more seductive name—Lamb House.

The restaurant boasts a narrow outdoor seating area along the street, protected by an undulating red-brick wall. It being a perfect sunny afternoon, we seated ourselves under one of the Campari umbrellas. Though the menu spread before us was clearly Turkish, a couple of Albanian things on the roster made us scratch our heads. Nevertheless, the menu’s most appealing aspect was its swollen list of lamb entrées. A further section featured lamb-chicken combos. Apart from those two animals, there were no other vertebrates, aside from a veal-liver appetizer and a cow-sheep entrée.

First off, let’s survey the lamb-scape. A stunning ten main courses are offered, most sided with salad and fat-slicked rice or ho-hum fries. Our favorite entrée proved to be iskender kebab ($12). Cubes of toasted and butter-soaked pide (a thick flatbread) are inundated with yogurt, tomato sauce, and raw garlic before doner cuttings from the twirling cylinder are laid across the humpy mass like sod shingles on a prairie hut. The various forms of animal fat commingle in little rivers, eventually coating your chin with grease, and probably your shirt too.

While purists may prefer such solid forms of lamb as chops and shish kebabs, it’s the ground-meat preparations—with their interlardings of lamb fat—that absorb the grill’s smoke most effectively. There’s kufte ($11), six miniature lamburgers constituting nearly a pound of meat, and adana, skinless sausages of ground lamb laced with onions and peppers. Beyti kebab features lamb ground with garlic and parsley, wrapped in a pita, then laked with yogurt and red sauce. Odd man out among lamb entrées is qevapa, an Albanian staple of ten wonderful shotgun shells of ground lamb and beef, sided with a slab of creamy feta. You’re well advised to eschew the chicken entrées, with the exception of chicken chops ($12), charcoal-grilled thighs that my friend Scooter pronounced “the best chicken in Brooklyn.”

Vegetarians—like Scooter’s girlfriend Alaya—need not despair. The appetizer menu features few things that once had faces. The shepherd salad (large $6, humongous $8) is heavy with cubed veggies and shaved feta but light on shepherd. Bread dips include a very garlicky hummus, and a baba ghanoush that, though pale, proves to be as smoky as a subway trash fire. The sigara boregi ($5) caused quite a commotion at our table: crispy phyllo flutes stuffed with dill and the ubiquitous feta. Nevertheless, it was the homemade grape leaves that intrigued us the most. The menu listed peanuts as an ingredient, in addition to the usual rice and mint. Goobers?

We were only mildly disappointed to find out that, when the menu said peanuts, it really meant pine nuts.