Kangaroo, the iconic jumping Australian marsupial, is now available as an appetizer for brunch, lunch, and dinner at Isla & Co. in Bishop Arts.
The restaurant debuted last year as an Australian all-day dining concept with a menu that included avocado toast, salads, and brekkie rolls. The latest addition, the Kangaroo Tucker ($18), was tacked on after a long journey to find the right meat distributor, says executive chef Matt Foley in an email. Isla & Co. imports the meat through New Jersey-based Fossil Farms, which hunts the kangaroo in the wild instead of investing in the land and resources required to raise them.
Before you decide kangaroo meat isn’t your thing, consider these facts: Indigenous Australian people have eaten kangaroo for tens of thousands of years. National Geographic said many Australians see kangaroos as pests, and they wreak havoc on livestock in rural areas. In 2022, the Australian government reported there were 30 million kangaroos (the country has a population of about 26 million people), and the country’s cull and harvest quota was set to about 4.3 million kangaroos. And since kangaroos are hunted in the wild rather than raised on cleared farmland, they’re sustainable. Now back to the Tucker.
The dish comes with two skewers, each with three cubed chunks of ‘roo. The meat is marinated in a paste made of tamarind, coriander, shallots, garlic, and lemon juice before being grilled. They’re placed on a plate with a massive dollop of tahini (made with cilantro, Thai basil, and mint), cucumbers, pickled onions, and lentils.
Kangaroo is lean, high in iron, and has a hint of gaminess to it. It’s best served medium to medium rare, but Isla serves its skewers medium well to well done. The meat tastes like a blend of lamb and beef, though Foley says the taste is closer to venison.
Eating kangaroo or purchasing kangaroo products is still controversial stateside. California banned kangaroo products, including meat, in 2016. In 2021, U.S. Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-California) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) introduced the Kangaroo Protection Act of 2021 to curb the sale of kangaroo products in the U.S., specifically the use of kangaroo skins for soccer cleats sold by Nike, Adidas, and other shoe manufacturers.
Isla isn’t the only Dallas restaurant serving the marsupial, though. Lonesome Dove Bistro in Fort Worth has kangaroo carpaccio “nachos,” and Twisted Root Burger Co. once sold kangaroo burgers as part of its exotic meat menu. That exotic meat menu still exists, but offerings now include buffalo, wagyu, and one of the following daily: venison, elk, lamb, ostrich, rabbit, camel, duck, and boar.
The Kangaroo Tucker is tasty, and it’s worth trying for those who are feeling a bit adventurous. Isla & Co. has a seasonal menu, but Foley says he plans to keep it around long-term.
“It roots our menu into our Australian restaurant foundation,” he says.