I really hesitated before ordering the haggis at L’Ecosse, the new Scottish restaurant at 48th and Chicago. On the one hand, the thought of eating a combination of lamb kidney, liver and heart, cow tongue and oatmeal, all stuffed into a sheep stomach, sounded disgusting. (I eat tongue and tripe, but I can’t stand the taste of liver, or the smell of kidneys.)
But on the other hand, I reckoned that this could be my only chance in this lifetime to eat the legendary Scottish dish. How could I look other gastronomic adventurers in the eye if I passed up this opportunity?
So, reluctantly, I ordered a small haggis, figuring that I would take one token bite, just so that I could say that I had tasted it, and bring the rest home to Edgar and Hazel. (Some of you may recall Edgar from his appearance in my Naked Sushi escapade.) For my main dish, I ordered the Scottish meat pie with chips, while Carol chose the fish and chips.
Although I requested the small haggis ($4), I was brought the haggis entree by mistake, which is identical to the small haggis, except it comes with mashed potatoes and costs $11. (This seems to indicated the relative market value of haggis versus mashed potatoes.) It turns out that the haggis is not served in a sheep stomach (apparently there is a law against that, or something), but rather stuffed into a casing, presumably made from lamb intestines.
To my great surprise, it was quite delicious. It didn’t taste like liver, and it didn’t smell like kidneys – rather, it tasted like a savory, soft meatloaf with just a hint of nutmeg – actually quite pleasant. It was livelier than the meat pie with chips ($8.50), which was pleasantly bland in a comfort food kind of way. That’s also a good description of the fish and chips, a very generous portion of breaded pollock, served over chips with malt vinegar.
L’Ecosse seems to be struggling to find a workable business model. Owner David Macfarlane, a former White House chef during the Clinton Administration, opened the restaurant a couple of months ago with an amibitious menu that included entrees of steak, salmon, and chicken breast stuffed with sausage, but that menu is now available only on weekends. Last night, they debuted a second dining option: Christina’s Subs ‘N’ Dogs, which offers half a dozen 6″ subs ($6.85), plus a variety of hot dog treatments. The weekday menu also offers a variety of burgers ($7.50), fish and chips ($8.50), a very tasty chicken curry ($9).
We started our dinner with a very un-Scottish sampler of three kinds of bruschetta, (tomato, creamed onions and blue cheese), accompanied by marinated olives ($9)- actually quite delightful.
As for the haggis, I did bring some of it home to Edgar and Hazel. I put a little in their dishes, and they sniffed at it in a very skeptical way. But by the next morning, it was gone.
WIne and beer are available.
L’Ecosse, 4810 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-825-4041. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.