Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email email@example.com.
The Spot: The Thirsty Koala, 35-12 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria.
The Deal: Although Queens has one of the most diverse populations in New York City, Australian cuisine has yet to gain a foothold. The Thirst Koala aims to change that. Owner and co-owner Katherine Fuchs says the restaurant prides itself on sourcing local ingredients and building relationships with long-standing purveyors, such as the 100-year-old Caleb Haley in the Fulton Fish Market.
As is the case in cooking non-local cuisine, The Thirsty Koala can’t always use local ingredients and instead uses bush tucker, ingredients indigenous to Australia. Many of the bush tucker ingredients are meats: kangaroo from Queensland, lamb from Queensland and Tasmania, and award-winning beef from the Manning Valley in New South Wales.
The Dish: For diners new to Australian cuisine, Fuchs recommends the appetizer of pasture-fed grilled Australian lamb lollies. Although the restaurant’s aim is to use locally sourced ingredients, the lamb lollies are one of the few dishes to use imported meat. Fuchs imports the lamb to ensure the correct taste.
“I use Australian lamb because I have not found a locally sourced product that compares with its subtle yet robust flavor and tender texture,” she says.
The meat is rubbed with wattle seeds, one of the bush tucker seasonings on the menu.
“Wattle seed has coffee notes, but when used with our lollies it lends a toasty flavor,” Fuchs says. “I serve them with caramelized pumpkin and a small salad of rocket [arugula] and seasonal fruit, which at the moment is pomegranate.”
The combination of local ingredients and bush tucker creates a fresh and unique flavor for guests familiar and new to Australian cuisine.