Hell’s Kitchen, the ever-popular establishment that resides underfoot in downtown Minneapolis, is known for many things: bison burgers, huevos rancheros, caramel pecan rolls, and lemon-ricotta hotcakes. The culinary team works with the goal of creating “damn good food,” balancing great flavors with the growing demand for organic, healthy, and eco-friendly options. And so, when Chef de Cuisine Joseph Wuestenhagen went looking for something new and exciting to bring to the menu, he ended up with a rather unique protein that is sure to turn a few heads.
Kangaroo is a relative newcomer to the food scene here in the U.S., and restaurants that serve it are few and far between. Proponents of kangaroo consumption point to the positive attributes of the protein: It has a low environmental impact and provides a healthy alternative to red meat. Kangaroo meat is very lean, containing even less fat than an equivalent serving of chicken. Populations of wild kangaroo produce far less methane than cattle and, since they lack hooves, kangaroo cause less damage to farm and grazing land.
As strange as serving kangaroo may sound, it is actually quite befitting of Hell’s Kitchen. The eco-friendly meat fits naturally into a menu that already features free-range bison, free-range eggs, and organic beef. The particular variety served at Hell’s Kitchen comes from Australia, hunted from a population of free-range kangaroo. Hell’s Kitchen Co-owner Mitch Omer is excited about serving a product that is not only better for the customer, but also better for the environment: It’s “something we have to serve.”
After testing the new protein as a special, and receiving universally positive feedback, Hell’s Kitchen added a kangaroo entree to its regular menu last Wednesday. It was met with enthusiastic interest, selling out on its first night. On Friday, Hell’s Kitchen served up 46 orders of kangaroo, another sellout.
Regardless of the many virtues of kangaroo’s use as an alternative to red meat, flavor is the ultimate factor for many adventurous gourmands. Hell’s Kitchen’s preparation features a medium-rare loin of kangaroo served alongside sweet corn and aged cheddar polenta, pickled vegetable salad, bacon maple chutney, and a blackberry gastrique. Despite its natural leanness, the kangaroo loin was delicious and incredibly tender. The kangaroo had a “beefy” chewiness to it with a slightly sweet, mild game flavor. The spice rub on the loin added a hit of smokiness. The rest of plate expertly complemented the kangaroo and provided a very well-balanced tasting experience.
For those interested in trying something new, hop on down to Hell’s Kitchen and try this for yourself. Wuestenhagen and his team are certainly turning kangaroo into some “damn good food.”
Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S 9th St, Minneapolis; 612.332.4700