Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Girl & the Goat

One of THE hottest restaurants in Chicago this year -- Girl & the Goat is opened by Season 4's Top Chef (first female winner) Stephanie Izard. The hub & I happened to eat at her previous Chicago-restaurant Scylla, on the very last day. We loved the food, and wondered why the restaurant would close -- then we saw her on Top Chef. She's possibly one of the most-loved contestants on the show... at least to me & the hub. She's GOOD, creative, talented, inspiring, kind, friendly, confident yet humble. I don't remember anyone complaining about her (and that's rare for a reality competitive show).

I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon her blog, and read about G&G opening. I had no idea how crazily busy & hectic it'd be, and would normally stay away until it quieted down a little (not a fan of gathering stomach strength before I project the loudest speaking voice possible across the table, while feeling like two tables slightly too close next to us are listening to our conversation)... but Stephanie & her intriguing yummies pulled us in...twice.

I read as much as I could before our first visit... in-house butcher so they can use the entire animal in the menu, in-house baker that changes up the bread menu with interesting varieties of both bread & butter/oil, how the name was Drunken Goat (named after Izard (mountain goat) & her drinking habits on the show) until they realized the name was taken so they named it after a painting they received, etc etc...

Perhaps my expectations were set too high, because our first experience wasn't superb. All of the food were cooked perfectly, but we weren't impressed by them. It was enjoyable, but I wouldn't go back for the same dishes. YET I would want to go back to the restaurant. Does that make sense? As a side note, we thought the goat pizza tasted too sweet at the restaurant, but it was incredible as leftovers the next morning... strange.

Maybe it was because the first visit cleared our expectations... we enjoyed our second visit so much more. Again, everything was cooked perfectly. This time, we noticed the beautiful layers of various flavors, consistencies, and loved the mix of delicate and pungent ingredients that worked wonderfully into each bite. Her food seems slightly towards the heavier, creamier, saltier side, yet I didn't feel sick afterwards. I was full, but I wanted more.

stecca - roasted garlic, white anchovy butter | 4
I was excited about picking out bread for both meals, and was especially ecstatic about "anchovy butter". Although both breads were good, they're just too filling (for 2 ppl, anyway). And it's not good enough for me to sacrifice my belly room for the rest of the menu. Note to self: no bread for our next meal at G&G, unless we dine with at least 2 others.

sauteed green beans - fish sauce vinaigrette | 8

Graham Elliot Bowles told Stephanie, "Those green beans make me believe in God!" Phil Vettel, "...the sauteed green beans, tossed in a fish-sauce vinaigrette with hints of sambal and Dijon mustard, will change your life. I'm thinking wistfully of my next serving already." Everyone & their mama loves this famous dish. The hub & I ADORE fish sauce, so ordering it was a no brainer. I appreciated the salty, fishy presence, thinly coated on each crisp green, but the hub said, "they're just beans. it was not life-changing."

kabocha squash ravioli - mushroom raisin ragout, brussels leaves, shroom creme fraiche | 11

Although I prefer saltier fillings than kabocha, I thought the savory ragout, fresh brussels leaves, and barely there creamy sourness of creme fraiche layered very well together. All of the ingredients tasted fresh. The ravioli had a perfectly slight chew to the bite. Warm and hearty dish.

steamed mussels - goat sausage croutons, cilantro, bagna cauda | 13

look at how big these mussels are!
First of all, these were the biggest mussels we've ever had. I really wanted to love this dish, especially since bagna cauda is apparently a (typically) vegetable dip made of garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter (some of my favorite ingredients, EVER). Overall, it was good. I used the shell to scoop up the sauce, and drank it straight up. But it wasn't as good as I hoped it'd be. I feel like it's lacking something, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's a little bitter?

hiramasa crudo - crisp pork belly, aji aioli, caperberries | 14

Another famous dish of G&G... Phil Vettel, "Izard is at her flavor-layering best with an inventive surf-and-turf of sashimi-style hiramasa (a farm-raised amberjack) and crisp pork belly, contrasting the pristine, clean flavors of the fish with the indulgent richness of the meat, using sliced caper berries, bits of Meyer lemon and squiggles of chile aioli for her tart, sweet and spicy accents." This was probably one of her smaller dishes. First, I put all of the elements into one bite...and felt uncertain. I thought, why overwhelm the delicate freshness of the fish, so I took a bite of just the sashimi. Immediately, I missed the crispy pork. When I took a second bite of all of the elements, it felt perfect. Phil Vettel was right about the indulgent & clean contrast.

goat, pork, and veal sugo - pappardelle, rosemary, cape goose berries | 12

I am a fan of Stephanie's pasta. Again, the pappardelle was fresh, soft, yet has a chewy bite. It slightly soaked the perfect amount of the meaty, delicious sugo (meat sauce) with tender, shredded meats. Another savory, tasty dish. Our waitress said they nicknamed this dish "So Good".

Not that I'm a huge fan of Vettel, he intrigued me when he said, "Izard's desserts are less sugary finales than they are logical extensions of her flavor aesthetic." I'm not a huge fan of sweets, so when I read that, I wanted to give it a shot. Too bad we were way too full (I blame it on the mediocre bread).

*Reservations necessary. This restaurant is so hot, if you type in the word "Girl" on google, the restaurant's name is on the top.

809 W Randolph St. 312-492-6262

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