Saturday, June 09, 2012

Girl & the Goat

1. Finally :), 2. hiramasa crudo, 3. chickpea fritters, 4. smoked goat rillette empanadas, 5. wood oven roasted pig face, 6. crisp braised pork shank

Long-time readers of the blog know that both Jude and I are huge fans of Top Chef (see here and here). And one of the restaurants opened by Top Chef cheftestants that we've always wanted to try is fourth season winner, Stephanie Izard's Girl & the Goat in Chicago. We've only heard good things about the food (1486 glowing reviews on yelp can't be wrong...) and so when we knew a month ago that we were going to be in Chicago to celebrate Jude's 40th birthday, I immediately tried to get reservations for us. But I clearly underestimated her popularity- a month ago, the earliest opening available for reservation was early July!!

Thanks to our friends, Libby and Naomi who live in Chicago though, we found out that there are a small number of tables set aside for walk-in customers. And so even if it meant that we had to eat dinner at 4.30, we made sure we ate very little earlier in the day (Jude and I split a Cuban sandwich at around 10 in the morning...) and were sufficiently hungry when doors opened for walk-ins at 4.15 :)

The restaurant and food were everything people said it would be, and then some. There is nothing pretentious or stuffy about Girl & the Goat- the ambience is relaxed, communal, and inviting- everything sharing and enjoying food ought to be about. The food is served small plates style-- meant to be shared-- and between the five of us (Sophie had her own little buffet of food I had packed), we had thirteen wonderful dishes that just delivered punches of flavor one after another. Everything was not only delicious, but interesting- who would have thought that scallops could be served with duck? Or that hazelnut hummus and chickpea fritters would be such a taste sensation together? And don't even get me started on the raw fish crudo with crispy pork belly or that hunk of pork shank that just blew all our minds away... And she made me love beets. Beets! Each plate was a conversation starter that got us talking about what we loved most about the dish-- we wondered aloud why we don't use fish sauce more often in our own cooking, we tried to figure out how we would try to recreate her ragu at home, and we all now want to eat more green beans because her sauteed green beans outshone some of the proteins as one of our favorites of the evening. Basically, the experience was communal not just because we were sharing everything that was put on our table, but also because the food made us think and talk about the thought that must have gone into conceiving each dish and about how much we were enjoying what we were eating.

The best part, it wasn't even that expensive at the end of the day. People like to think that delicious, creatively crafted food has to be expensive as well, but not at Girl & the Goat. We walked out feeling like we scored a deal considering the amazing food we just had the privilege of tasting.

If you have a chance, dear readers, drop by Girl & the Goat if you can. Even if it means making reservations months in advance or having dinner at 4.30pm :)

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