Our Top Chef: Girl & The Goat
You don’t have to be in Chicago long before hearing about Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to be in Chicago since Izard’s reach is on the national scale. After all, she is the winner of the fourth season of Top Chef. It comes as no surprise that Girl and the Goat has a constant stream of people coming through and that it’s difficult to get a reservation (unless you like eating at 11:15 p.m.).
My first visit to Girl and the Goat was spring time last year when I happened to land a 9:00 p.m. reservation on a Tuesday evening when I had out of country friends in town visiting. The meal, service, vibe, and people were all astounding. It has been almost a year since that memorable meal and I finally made it back. This time, no reservation in hand and on a Saturday night to boot.
I had friends (who may just be bigger foodies than myself) from NYC in town and we decided to head over at 5:00 p.m. and see if we could snag a same night reservation or try our luck with eating at the bar/lounge area that has full menu service. The wait was already over 2 hours but luckily we were able to grab some seats on the couches and eventually made enough room for us to dine.
We started the meal with the Spence Wheat Bread with peanut butter butter and honey comb. The bread came out piping hot and adding the peanut butter and honey comb created that classic childhood (and grownup) combination that is just to die for. I wanted the entire loaf to myself. It was so simple but outstanding.
Next came the Grilled Effingham Oysters with smoked Uni vinaigrette. I generally don’t care for oysters but these didn’t have the overpowering fishy taste and the vinaigrette was subtle and accented the flavor nicely.
As for the mains, we decided to split five dishes.
The first was the Goat Belly with bourbon butter, lobster n’ crab, and fennel. You can’t come to Girl and the Goat and not try the goat for goodness sakes! The goat was tender and the lobster added a slight sweetness that was nice. However, the group consensus was that the lobster was unnecessary and we all would have been happy with some more goat.
Next came the Crispy Duck Tongues with cara cara, roasted shitakes, thai basil, and crisp wonton. I’m confident that this is the first time I’ve had tongue and it was surprisingly delicious (I shouldn’t have been surprised, everything Stephanie touches tastes amazing). The acid from the citrus in the dish aided in cutting the oiliness from the tongue. It wasn’t as chewy as I expected and the wonton added a nice contrast in texture that pulled everything together. I’ll be eating tongue again!
On to the Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face with a sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple, and potato stix. This dish has the intimidation factor but is just pure fun. The presentation of the egg to look like a pig face is cute and creative. We combined all the ingredients together before trying the dish and I have to say this was the star of the evening for me. All the flavors were on point, yum!
Next came the Grilled Pork Ribs with tomatillo-mushroom slaw and grilled scallion vinagarette. I was surprised at the generous portion and the meat was falling off the bone. The vinagarette had a subtle spice that gradually gained on your palate but it was never enough to overpower.
The final main dish we ordered was the Smoked Blue Prawns with hedgehog mushroom gribiche and creamy polenta. The prawns were cooked perfectly and the polenta was a creamy consistency that texturally complimented the prawns brilliantly.
I have fond memories of dessert from my last visit. I swear we ordered one of everything. We found some intriguing options this time around and settled on the Chocolate Thai Chili Gelato with chocolate cake, peanut fluff, pomegranate, and left hand milk stout. We also picked the Pear Wonton with parsnip puree, pineapple sweet and sour, and tamarind stracciatella.
Both desserts were interesting. The chocolate dessert had a bit of heat while having some classic flavors (chocolate and peanut butter). I enjoyed it but it was a bit out there for me and I didn’t enjoy the bites with too much spice in them.
Initially I thought the pear wonton was more along the lines of a classic dessert until someone pointed out that it could easily fit in as an appetizer at a Thai restaurant. It tasted like a savory wonton with a peanut sauce. The wonton was delicious but it just didn’t satisfy that sweet tooth craving.
Overall, the food was as exciting as it was delicious and you just can’t beat the laid back atmosphere at Girl and the Goat. I cannot wait to go back.
Till next time, peace out food ninjas!