Girl & The Goat
We are just two blocks away from Girl & The Goat but it is far from being merely a neighborhood joint for us since neighborhoods joints are generally places that people can just do a walk-in and easily get a table for dinner. Girl & The Goat is different. It is a destination place. Opened in the summer of 2010 it shows no signs of slowing down. Getting reservations are difficult (but certainly not impossible) and some pre-planning is required since even if you tried to make a dinner reservation two weeks prior to the day, you would probably be left with the least wanted time slots e.g. 4:30pm for dinner. Diners could try and do a walk-in but they would be probably be looking at about an hour and a half wait for a table. Prior to our recent second visit to Girl & Goat, we made a dinner reservation two months early and managed to snag a 6:30pm table. We thought those two months would not pass soon enough but it did. Here's a tip (if you did not already know it): plan ahead and make advance reservations. It is worth it.
What is the fanfare about surrounding Girl & The Goat? Stephanie Izard is no stranger to the food community and dining industry in Chicago and in the country. As if coming away as the winner of Top Chef 2008 was not impressive enough, she earned the title Best New Chef for 2011 by Food & Wine. Shortly after Girl & the Goat opened, it was featured on the New York Times as being the "tasty reason" to visit Chicago.
Girl & The Goat is not just a random name Stephanie Izard decided to name the restaurant. Izard is said to be the French word for a type of mountain goat. Interestingly, Stephanie Izard had never cooked goat meat until she opened Girl & The Goat. Staying true the restaurant theme, the back of the menus are printed with the image of the signature goat. The rustic environment, excellent foods, and fun atmosphere combine to give this place appeal. We stepped into the restaurant at 6:30pm and it was already bustling with all tables filled. As we were led to our table, the aroma from the open kitchen made us hungry. Stephanie Izard is generally always standing at the front of the kitchen expediting the process so do not be surprised to see her there. It is difficult to apply a strict category of the type of cuisine served at Girl & The Goat. The menu is evenly divided between seafood, meat, and vegetable and it could be seemingly American but the constantly changing menu has items that use ingredients inspired by Asian or European cuisine.
The drinks list has quite a good variety of micro brew beers to choose from. Wines by the bottle also come in a good price range. Our affordable bottle of Gouguenheim Malbec was pleasing to the palate and the mild fruity flavor made it a very enjoyable drink with food.
Everyone who has been to Girl & The Goat talks about the sauteed green beans. Believe what they say about it. It may seem strange because green beans have generally been an underrated type of vegetable in restaurants but thanks to Girl & The Goat, there is a revival of green beans. Sauteed with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews, the green beans were bursting with intense flavor. While the idea of fish sauce may put off some people, there is not a slightest hint of fishiness in the dish. Commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce is used to give dishes the umami flavor and it did just that in the resulting and amazing sauteed green beans.
The goat carpaccio was topped with very different tasting ingredients that resulted in a wonderful combination of flavors from those various bits of topping. The thinly sliced goat loin were fresh and pure in taste and the meat came dressed with tongue-olive vinaigrette and smoked roe. The figs and salsify crisps were a wonderful addition.
The smoked goat rilette empanadas were served on a piece of wooden board and the empanadas came with tuna aoili, celery, and tomato salad. The pastry crust of the empanadas were perfect and the goat rilette filling was still warm when we bit into the empanadas. Nothing beats eating stuffed pastry when still warm.
We really liked that the escargot ravioli stayed true to its name and form. Inside each ravioli pocket was a piece of whole escargot. Without any unnecessary added ingredients to the ravioli filling that could be a distraction to the escargot, the simplicity of each ravioli that was filled with just a whole escargot inside allowed us to taste and appreciate the escargot itself. Tiny bits of chopped bacon as well as a concocted tamarind-miso sauce complemented the ravioli well.
Easily one of our top favorite dishes is the skewered lamb's heart with spiced black mission figs and charred tomatoes. The texture of the heart meat was right on and the dish was prepared slightly under medium since heart meat has a tendency to become hard in texture when overcooked. We love how restaurants today are not afraid to embrace cooking with seemingly unconventional animal parts that may be part of the everyday food culture in other parts of the world.
If there is another part of our meal that I still think about it, it is the pork fat doughnuts we had for dessert. I asked our server about the preparation and was told that pork fat is added to the batter and then the doughnuts are fried. The resulting square-shaped pillow doughnuts were fluffy, light, and airy. I loved it so much I told T we had to return to Girl & The Goat soon even if it meant just grabbing a drink at the bar and getting an order of these doughnuts. The doughnuts sat on a layer of honey yoghurt and also in the dessert bowl were caramelized figs, lemony eggplant, and ham streusel. While the accompaniments do not sound very conventional (and that's what we love about Girl & The Goat), the marriage of flavors and textures of the entire dessert was very well executed.
Until our next meal at Girl & The Goat, here's getting down to some pre-planning and making an advance reservation perhaps for dinner two months down the road.
Word is out that Stephanie Izard has plans to open The Little Goat which will be an old school diner but with a contemporary twist. The diner will just be steps away from Girl & The Goat.
Girl & The Goat
809 West Randolph Street
2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef
2011 James Beard Nominee Best New Restaurant
2011 Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand
2011 Time Out Chef of the Year
2008 Top Chef Winner