809 w randolph street
chicago, il 60607
after a riveting performance by the band thursday at the house of blues in which they played their landmark record full collapse in its entirety, i rushed back to the hotel, showered, and hailed a cab to the west loop. our destination was girl and the goat, top chef winner stephanie izards recently opened restaurant. the hype surrounding girl and the goat since its opening has been enormous, and reservations are booked up months in advance.
arrving just minutes before our 10pm reservation, we were asked to wait in the lounge/bar area until our table was ready. the first thing i noticed about the place was the very strong barbeque smell that wafted throughout. the second thing i noted was the soundtrack, with tracks from arcade fire, the smiths, the shins, and such playing overhead.
after only about five minutes of waiting, we were shown to our table. our server, a very helpful and friendly young woman, greeted us immediately, and went over the menu in great detail. girl and the goat is a small plates restaurant, with the bulk of the menu divided into three categories with ten choices each (vegetarian, meat, fish). there was also a bread menu (they charge $4 for bread) and a menu of nightly specials. the restaurant also has a nice selection of house made cocktails and craft beers.
as usual, we started the night with a pair of cocktails. pictured first is the dark and stormy, made with english harbour antigua rum, cruzan blackstrap rum, ginger ale, and lime. our second selection, entitled aviation, was plymouth gin, creme de violette, maraschino, and lemon. both drinks were good, but i prefered the dark and stormy, as the aviation had a slight astringency to it that i found a bit unfavorable. carrie actually prefered the aviation, which worked out quite well.
first to arrive, appropriately, was our bread selection. named squish squash, this was a squash bread served with pecan butter and an apple quince puree. both spreads were incredible, and the bread was out of this world good. served hot, the squash bread was perfectly crispy on the outside and very soft within. i was slightly put off by the fact that they charge for the bread ($4), but bread this good is totally worth it!
our first dish to arrive was the seared scallops with brown butter xo, goat sausage, white shrimp, shiitakes, and winter squash. also presented in the dish that was noted by our server but not the menu, were little pieces of pizza crust for added texture. simply put, this dish was amazing, and i even commented to carrie that it was the best thing i can remember eating in some time. the scallops were cooked perfectly, and the goat sausage added an unexpected but welcome spice to the dish.
the second dish to arrive, a special for the night, was the escargot ravioli in a tamarind-miso sauce. this was a good dish overall, but was over shone by the scallops. i will say that there were no textural issue for me with the snails, as they were neither mushy nor too chewy, and they had a rather mild flavor overall.
dish three was a dish i had read about prior to our meal, and couldn't wait to try. pictured above is the wood oven roasted pigs face with a sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, and potato stix. yes, this is literally a pigs face, tongue and all. with instructions to break up the egg and let everything mix together, we both dug in without reservation. the face was crispy on the outside with a creamy interior, and had a fairly sweet flavor to it.
at this point, we needed refills on the beverage front. i felt like a beer, and went with the stone india pale ale. as typical with ipas, this beer was highly hopped and had a bitter grape fruit flavor to it. not one for beer normally, carrie went with another cocktail entitled best of three. made with grey goose, pimm's #1, cucumber, lime, and mint, this drink was the winner for the night as far as cocktails.
our fourth dish was another one i had read about, and was highly anticipating. this was lamb sausage stuffed calamari with sweet garlic, sweetbread crisp, and current saor. this was another fantastic dish, combining things few would think to combine: sausage, thymus gland, and squid.
the final savory course of the night was the sauteed skate with goat belly, maple-pink peppercorn jus, and a quail egg. this was another great dish featuring two items i have never had before, quail egg and goat belly.
for dessert, we began with blood orange sorbet with parsnip pot de creme, pistachio cake, and a cheddar cornmeal crust. i have mixed feelings about this one, as there was an unusual interplay between the tart and refreshing blood orange sorbet and the savory cheddar crust. while i am still not sure if this worked for me or not, i certainly applaud the originality, and am glad that i tried it.
our last bites at girl and the goat were some of our best. pictured above is the sesame semifreddo with pork fat donuts and sambai pineapples. i was truly wowed by this dish. the donuts were wonderfully crisp on the outside and light on the inside, but as good as they were, the sesame semifreddo stole the show. the semi forzen mousse had an incredible spicy seasame flavor to it, and is something you truly have to taste to understand. it takes a special dessert to blow me away, and this offering from girl and the goat still has me licking my lips days later.
amazingly, given the hype surrounding the place, girl and the goat actually exceeded my expectations. everything we ate was delcious, with a few items being absoutley amazing. going into the meal, part of me wondered if some of the excitement was based around the unusual igredients and pairings used in chef izard's cooking. i can firmly say that the flavors in all the dishes were fantastic, and the fact that you were eating a pig's face or squid stuffed with sausage became secondary to the way the food actually tasted. there is no doubt we will return to girl and the goat in the future.