Very Important Taco: The Camel Tenderloin Taco at the Lion's Share
Yes, it's really camel. Here's why you should try it.
Photo by Johnny Dolan
The Lion’s Share is well known for its strong drinks and exotic meat dishes, but the taco made with camel tenderloin may be its most unique appetizer yet—not to mention the story behind it.
Putting camel on the menu wasn’t exactly chef Johnny Dolan’s first choice. He was initially looking for goat meat and couldn’t get it, but saw that camel was available from his supplier instead. After learning that camel meat is extremely lean—it’s only one to two percent fat—he was open to experimenting with it.
“Everyone loves tacos, and I wanted to serve it in a way that’s familiar to people,” Dolan says. “This dish is one of the most adventurous, but also one of the most approachable.”
The tenderloin is cut down to small cubes and marinated overnight in a fermented Fresno chile sauce, then it’s seared and topped with a creamy aioli (which adds some needed fat), cheese, and micro-cilantro. The meat has a clean flavor and isn’t gamey; Dolan compares it to bison.
We may consider it a novelty, but in Somalia camel is an important livestock animal. The camel that’s served at The Lion’s Share is sourced from Western Australia, where it’s feral and considered a pest. The Land Down Under is the world’s number-one producer of camel meat and ships it everywhere, from Dubai to cities in the US with large Somali communities, like Minneapolis.
Have San Diegans embraced it? Apparently so—Dolan goes through 200 pounds of tenderloin a month and has no plan to take the tacos off the menu. “People think it’s funny, the idea of eating camel,” Dolan says. “But I haven’t had one person, to my knowledge, who didn’t enjoy it.”
629 Kettner Boulevard, Marina District thelionssharesd