I am currently reading “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin as one of my Day Zero Challenges. Specifically, I am reading “On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” (The title was changed to the shorter version from the 6th edition onwards).
I had hoped to visit to the ExInked Exhibition at the Manchester Museum this weekend, to tie in with and celebrate finally finishing the book. I had to put those plans on hold as I am two weeks in and still less than half way through.
My favourite fact about Dawin is not only was he a documenter of rare species and the father of evolutionary theory, he was also a voracious carnivore – one of the great eaters of unusual animals.
Matthew H wrote: “When [Darwin] discovered a new species he would lovingly sketch a picture of it in his notebook and then he would decide whether it would taste best roasted or fricasseed. One minute he was throwing back giant tortoise and the next he was chowing down on a bit of Armadillo.” (Yelp.co.uk)
I am considering reading “The Voyage of the Beagle” just to find out whether Darwin mentioned loading aboard and eating 48 tasty tortoises, making the species extinct. Arguably it was the tortoises fault: They made the mistake of being delicious and providing their own soup bowls.
If I could have joined the Gourmet Club with Darwin I would have. He ate hawk and bittern, armadillos and agoutis, puma, rhea, iguanas and the aforementioned giant tortoises. If I could, I honestly would.
With that in mind, one of my 101 / 1001 challenges is to eat 10 unusual meats that I haven’t tried before. Step one towards this goal was to eat at Genghis Khans: Mongolian Grill, on Chorlton Street in the Village, Manchester.
GENGHIS KHAN REVIEW
My first impression of the venue was a little mixed: From outside it looked warm and inviting with its deep red walls and appetising menu in the window, but the moment we entered I couldn’t help noticing that the wheelchair access lift, next to the entrance, was being used to store old beer kegs. Aside from being unsightly it raised the question of what other junk they store in the kitchen. (It also made me wonder how they expect their wheelchair using customers to get up the stairs to the restaurant to tell them they want to use the lift). I was hungrily anticipating eating zebra so I quickly dismissed these concerns.
At the bar we were greeted by our young server who immediately asked whether or not we had a Groupon voucher. Was she psychic? On this occasion we did have a voucher, but it made me suspicious that no-one pays full price. (If they don’t, was my deal really the bargain I thought it was?)
We surrendered the voucher and were led to the far end of the restaurant: past the food counter and cooking area, past all the other diners, up some steps, into a second dining area where every table wobbled. We know every table wobbled because our server very helpfully tried each table in turn to find the least wobbly option. As there wasn’t one, we selected a table beneath a fake raw-hide where we could peer into the main room and monitor the queue.
In addition to the raw-hide the wall was decorated with a shield boasting a portrait of Genghis Khan. (I don’t know why this was decorated with fake dead mice hanging from their tails. Do you?) Another imaginative feature was the numerous sets of chairs stacked up around the perimeter. (Perhaps Groupon customers eat in the store room rather than in the dining room.)
Our server was perfectly friendly but completely useless. She forgot our order the moment she turned her back. She was also confused by which starters we selected. As there were only four options: chicken, beef, pork or veg, I’m not sure why she found this so difficult. A different server brought us our starters then both left us alone to look at our food without any cutlery to eat with.
THE MAIN EVENT
Of course, we weren’t there for the starters. In fact, we were relieved that our skewer and rice dishes were minuscule. We didn’t want to fill up on boring chicken and beef – No; we were there for the unusual meats. Amongst other items the menu promised zebra, ostrich, buffalo and wildebeest, subject to availability. They also occasionally serve reindeer and crocodile but perhaps it isn’t the season. The unusual options of the day were kangaroo, wild boar and pangasius.
Although the starters and deserts are served at the table the main course was self serve. Along half the length of the restaurant is a counter where you wait your turn to select a bowl, some meat, some vegetables, some sauce, some herbs and spices then you deliver all that to the chef to cook up teppanyaki style for you.
(Apparently the Mongolian army’s daily meal was tenderised strips of meat barbecued on their metal war shields, using slender tree branches to toss the food. The restaurant equivalent is to cook the food on a standardised round hot-plate using elongated chopsticks).
Working from the far end of the counter I selected some juicy looking pieces of kangaroo steak. I piled on a selection of mixed vegetables and was then faced with the decision of which sauce(s) and herbs to choose. There was probably about a dozen very different sauces and marinades to choose from but I wanted something that would enhance the flavour of the meat rather than mask it. I decided beer should work well. (Kangaroo – Australia – beer: you can see my thought process). To spice it up a little I added jerk and cracked pepper.
We delivered our concoctions to the chef who proceeded to cook it before us on a large semi-circular hotplate. Despite cooking about 20 meals at once whilst the customers wandered off or swapped places, the chefs did remarkably well at matching the concoctions with their owners.
Our first dish seemed to take forever to cook. We realised we’d made a mistake by not overflowing our bowls as the other customers had: By the time our dishes were reduced by cooking and served to us there was very little left to eat. That aside, my first taste of kangaroo steak was unforgettable. I had been right to keep the dish simple: It was delicious, perfectly tender, juicy and oozing with flavour.
The second time we queued for our food the time passed more quickly. Perhaps it was because we now knew it was worth the wait. Rather than diving straight into the wild boar I decided to mix together a few of the fish options: My bowl overflowed with squid rings, salmon, prawns and pangasius (catfish). Choosing the sauces again was difficult: They had lots of flavours that would work well with chicken, beef, pork and turkey but I didn’t fancy them with fish. I opted for a simple Thai Green Curry with a selection of extras from the spice rack.
As delicious as this new concoction was it was also potentially lethal. People have told me they cannot eat squid because they find it too stringy and that it chokes them. I have never had that problem before, but, wow, it was a problem this night! I really had to concentrate on each and every mouthful to prevent myself from dying.
I nearly choked on three occasions. I tried to only eat small pieces at a time but that’s hard when you’re using chopsticks. When I thought I’d chewed it enough I would try to swallow a bit – but unknown to me that ‘bit’ was usually still attached by a little unsnapable string to the ‘bit’ I hadn’t yet swallowed, so I was left with the frightening sensation of the whole thing slowly being pulled down my throat. Leaning forward to put gravity on my side didn’t help either. Scary stuff! I think I’ll skip the squid next time.
For my forth and final course I chose wild boar in a beer sauce. I know it was unimaginative to choose beer again but I didn’t want the sauce to overpower the flavour. I think the red wine would have worked well too but why mess with perfection?
(I watched other people mixing together a variety of different sauces – I’m sure individually they would all be tasty but mixed together like that they couldn’t taste good. Could they? Surely not.)
I thought the kangaroo was delicious and full of flavour until I tasted the wild boar. This packed a much stronger hit of flavour. It was similarly tender with a slightly coarser texture and it too was bursting with delicious juices.
So despite being a little overly critical and negative about the venue I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there again.* The dishes I had were delicious, (forget the starters – they were a load of rubbish) but I probably wouldn’t pay full price to go back, unless they were serving the more exiting of the exotic meats. (I’m very disappointed they didn’t have zebra). At £20.95 per person I would expect something more interesting than kangaroo and wild boar – both of which I could have bought at the forthcoming Manchester Food and Drink Festival or Manchester Christmas Market (or probably at most other Manchester’s food markets).
But I didn’t pay full price, did I? A little while ago I posted the offer on my Deals and Bargains page saying that GK: Mongolian Grill was offering 2 courses, including the unlimited BBQ, for 2 people for £15. i.e. £7.50 – per head. At that price it really was a bargain.
If another offer comes up for this restaurant I will be first in the queue.
*There was nothing wrong with the décor really – It was a bit tired and they should probably do something about all the wobbliness but it all adds to the character of the place.
- What is the strangest meat you have tried?
- If you could try any unusual meat (ethical reasoning aside) what would you eat?
- Do you know any other restaurants or food places in Manchester that I should try to help me complete this challenge?
All comments welcome 🙂