The very first restaurant I ate at after arriving in Chicago was Girl and the Goat. My co-worker was able to make a reservation almost 2 months ago and it looked like times were pretty limited. Seeing that chef/owner was Top Chef Season 3 winner, Stephanie Izard, it was no surprise that this place would already be garnering a lot of interest. I was surprised at how large the restaurant was considering this is her first venture, but I would imagine with her Top Chef notoriety, she was probably able to get some serious financial backing. The kitchen seemed to take up the entire width of the restaurant in the back and was relatively open. In fact, from the dining area, you could see there were quite a few line chefs working in the kitchen. Considering the potential capacity of the restaurant, it made sense that there would need to be that many people working back there.
The menu was divided up into the Vegetarian, Fish and Meat sections. Between the three of us, we decided to order 3 dishes each. It was quite difficult because there were so many interesting looking dishes and although we tried to get a little variety across the menu, we did end up leaning toward the meat section quite a bit.
Unlike most restaurants, they actually charge for the bread here, and I would have normally skipped it, but the waitress described the Ruby Rye bread so nicely that we had to give it a try. In truth, the bread just tasted like any other rye bread, but the highlight was really the swiss mustard butter and a house-made 1000 Island dressing that came as condiments with which we could spread on the bread.
The Pan-fried Shishito Peppers served as the lone item from the Vegetarian menu participating in our dinner. Being longer than my fingers, they were definitely the largest Shishito peppers I had ever seen. They were sauteed and coated with parmesan, sesame and miso. In spite of being called “peppers”, they weren’t at all spicy but rather juicy and savory.
Hiramasa Crudo was prepared with an aji aioli and slices of caperberries and tasted surprisingly fresh and delightful. Considering hiramasa is a rather neutral tasting fish, it was the crispy pork belly pieces that provided a nice accent of flavor that made the dish quite memorable.
The next dish was Grilled Baby Octopus that were sliced smaller than I would have preferred and mixed with guanciale, wax beans, radish, favas and tossed in a pistachio-lemon vinaigrette. The octopus was quite tender, and I really enjoyed the combination of the other components which made the paucity of the octopus less disappointing. As a whole, the dish was slightly on the salty side, but I think it was the guanciale which is a smoked bacon is what contributed to the overall saltiness.
This was probably one of my favorite dishes of the meal. The scallops were perfectly cooked resulting in some gently searing on the outside without overcooking them, but the real kicker of the dish came with the brown butter goat XO sauce. It was so smooth and gave so much interesting depth to the scallops. The bok choy, shiitakes, and white asparagus were perfect accoutrements to complete the dish.
The escargot ravioli was prepared with bacon and a tamarind-miso sauce. It definitely sounded interesting, and although it tasted pretty good, I don’t think it lived up to its exotic name in terms of flavor. The ravioli wrapping was thicker than usual, but I kind of liked the al dente texture. Each one contained one or two small escargots with its characteristic chewiness but aside from that, the taste did not really stand out.
The Braised Beef Tongue was in large contrast much more tasty than the ravioli, almost overwhelming with flavor. Not only was the beef tongue, ever so tender, very well-seasoned, but the salsa verde which came with it added a very delicious Latin slant that really made the dish pop. There was a mix of greens and some crispy masa chips that was all ultimately drowning in the salsa verde. It wasn’t bad, but I think because it all ended up being pretty soggy, it didn’t necessarily add anything to the dish. I suspect that some who have never tried beef tongue might feel wary about this dish, but I think it’s definitely worth a try.
The Sugo was made with some nicely cooked linguini pasta and a very hearty meat sauce. The linguini was al dente, just how I like it, but I think the meat sauce was a tad bit on the salty side.
Confit Goat Belly bourbon butter, lobster and crab, fennel. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Goat Belly Confit seeing that I had never tasted goat before. However, since the restaurant is called, “Girl and the Goat” and the specials of the day included 4 different goat dishes, I figured that we had to try at least one of them. I think it might have been in part to the confit preparation which results in some very crispy, very cooked meat so I really couldn’t tell it was goat or duck. Nevertheless, it was pretty good for confit, but I must admit that confit is probably not my favorite way of meat preparation. I think it ends up being a little too dry yet oddly oily.
I have to say by this point in the meal, I was pretty stuffed and starting to really regret ordering such a disproportionate number of dishes from the meat side of the menu. The Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face did not look at all like I expected. In fact, it looked like an overly fried (almost burnt-looking even though it wasn’t) meat patty with a lot more crunch. It came topped with sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro and potato stix. Although it looked a little dry and had a similar taste and texture to the confit, I don’t think I could properly appreciate this dish after everything I had eaten so far. It just tasted very oily and salty.
Considering that I was beyond stuffed and I rarely ever feel the need to make room for dessert, I didn’t expect too much from the two that we ordered. Much to my surprise, these two desserts were quite delicious. The Bacon Fat Donuts sounded like they would be sinful, but they oddly weren’t. The donut wasn’t that oily and there really wasn’t too much chocolate ganache filling. They were actually quite tasty, so even with the ice cream topping, I didn’t feel too guilty.
The Blood Orange Sorbet was the most memorable dish of the night. I can safely say that I’ve never actually had such a creative dish. There was so much going on in the dish that I’m not even sure I can accurately figure out what made this dessert sing to me. It had a parsnip pot de creme pistachio cake and three sisters cornmeal crust. The sorbet was quite delicious, but I think it was the pot de creme cake which I found so interesting. The pistachio flavor probably put this dessert on the less sweet side which I thoroughly appreciated.
All in all, I was quite pleased with the meal at Girl and the Goat. The restaurant was actually quite large yet exuded a pub-like atmosphere with its wooded walls. It was quite packed for a Thursday evening with a mixed crowd including local hipsters and older-looking out of towners. The meal included a few hits and a few not so great hits, and generally speaking, in spite of some heavy-handedness with the salt on many of the dishes, it was all forgivable because the flavor profiles of many of the dishes were quite interesting and unique.
This is the second restaurant I’ve been to that has been opened by a Top Chef winner, although I think there are only two of them that have actually gone all the way to opening their own place. A few years ago, I had gone to Perilla in NYC, which was owned by Harold Dieterle, and I also found the food equally delicious. It is a completely different kind of restaurant although one worth checking out as well.
The highlight of the evening definitely was our chance to meet the chef/owner of Girl and the Goat and Top Chef Season 3 winner, Stephanie Izard. She was actually quite warm and friendly when we went up to her and asked to take a picture with her. Our waitress told us, “This is the hardest working chef in the industry right now.” So if you’re ever in Chicago, I highly recommend making your way over to check this place out. It is worth it.
Girl and the Goat
809 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
PAFO Ratings for Girl and the Goat:
Price 3½ stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars