Sunday, November 20, 2011

Girls and a Goat

One last very overdue post about our trip to Chicago back in October! When trying to decide where to eat other than Alinea, I took a look at suggestions from my workplace’s Food & Wine mailing list. Moto was an option, but they weren’t open on Sunday nights. Another restaurant that got a lot of recommendations, if you could get a reservation, was Girl and the Goat. I saw that they had Opentable reservations (a big plus in my book!) so I did a search for Sunday night and saw one spot available at 9pm. So I took it. You know how perceived scarcity increases perceived value? Well, when I saw that there were no other weekend reservations available for many weeks out, I wanted to eat at the restaurant even more.

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Really, I didn’t know that much about the restaurant beforehand other than the good reviews. Sandy did, though. Girl and the Goat is the restaurant of Stephanie Izard, the winner of the fourth season of Top Chef. I don’t have television service and I’ve never watched Top Chef, but Sandy watched that season and the chef impressed her enough to give her quite a bit of interest in the restaurant.

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Sandy in the Take Action Dress and Bouquet of Roses Heels

The ambiance at the restaurant was decidedly different from Alinea. Things seemed more dark, earthy, and casual, reflected both in the d├ęcor and the food. But there were plenty of people who were dressed up as well. Sandy was channeling Anthro spirit with her Take Action Dress and gorgeous, hard-won Bouquet of Roses Heels.

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left: chickpeas fritters . eggplant-tomatillo caponata . crave brother's mozzarella
right: steamed mussels . goat sausage croutons . cilantro . caesar

The best way to experience the menu at Girl at the Goat is to share as many of the small plates of food as you can fit in your stomach. We tried seven and were completely full at the end. One of the first dishes to arrive was the chickpea fritters. It definitely didn’t match what I had pictured as a chickpea fritter, but the dish was delicious, one we all agreed was probably the best of the night. The mussels themselves were just okay (I’m spoiled with Washington mussels), but their accompaniments were good.

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left: sauteed green beans . fish sauce vinaigrette . cashews
right: roasted cauliflower . pickled peppers . pine nuts . mint

Both the green beans and the cauliflower came highly recommended by online reviews and our waitress. We loved the cauliflower, but the green beans weren’t as tasty as the typical garlic preparation we were used to from Chinese restaurants. I did like the cashews and the acidity of the vinaigrette as a nice change from the typical, but I’d still go with the garlic preparation if I had to choose.

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left: confit goat belly . bourbon butter . lobster n' crab . fennel
right: grilled pork ribs . tomatillo-mushroom slaw . grilled scallion vinaigrette

They say to come to Girl and the Goat with an open mind. Makes sense. After all, the restaurant has “goat” in the name, pictures of a cartoon goat all over the restaurant, and a good half dozen dishes that contain goat, a meat that isn’t that standard in American cuisine. We took a “goat lite” approach, getting little tastes of it through the goat sausage with the mussels and a small portion of goat belly. It won’t say the experience elevated my love of the meat to duck and pork level, but it was still good to eat. The pork ribs smelled delicious and came easily off the bone.

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wood oven roasted pig face . sunny side egg . tamarind . cilantro . potato stix

Remember the open mind thing? All over reviews on Yelp, people universally exclaimed, “Get the pig face!” Of course, we had to get the pig face. We aren’t extremely squeamish eaters, but once you hear “pig face,” it’s hard to get the image of a pig’s head staring at you out of your head. Of course, that’s not what the dish actually is. It’s just a piece of meat from the face (hidden under the egg in the picture) – a rich, sweet cut of meat. The idea behind the dish is “breakfast for dinner,” and I definitely agree that it’s a must try dish at Girl and the Goat.

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Great dining experience, very reasonable total bill, and the good thing about the late reservation was that we got free parking! They really ARE very full. Make weekend reservations months in advance or walk in and eat at the bar. Stephanie Izard wasn’t there when we went (she actually made a stop in Seattle not long after I got back), but you can probably see her in the open kitchen if you pick a day she’s there.

~N

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