Girl and The Goat [Chicago] / by Alex Boake

I recently had the opportunity to visit Chicago with my boyfriend Mike. Not one to waste time, I quickly did my research--where was the best place to eat? It didn't take me too long to stumble upon some rave reviews for Stephanie Izard's Girl and The Goat. As a goat fan, I also couldn't resist the cute mascot. Lucky for me I was able to squeeze in a late-night 10:45 pm reservation! We arrived early, around 9:45 pm, and the place was packed and lively! We asked if they would be able to seat us a little bit early, and after a short wait in the lounge area they were able to find us a table.

Our server was lovely and attentive. She explained that the best way to experience the menu was to consider you and your dining partner as a team--to pick around 4 dishes, and share them. She also asked right away about allergies, and when I informed her of a gluten sensitivity she immediately provided me with a gluten-free menu. Awesome!

My boyfriend and I ordered 5 dishes: The Kohlrabi Salad,  Sweet Potato Gratin, Kalbi Beef Short-Ribs, The Pig Face and The Goat Belly Confit. Each dish was brought out by itself so we could share and enjoy each one individually. The pacing was perfect, and we were never rushed or kept waiting too long for the next to arrive.

Kohlrabi Salad - With Fennel, Pear, Evalon, Ginger and Toasted Almonds

This salad wasn't our first choice for our vegetable starters. We'd asked for the Brussels Sprouts, and they were unfortunately sold out! However, we were not disappointed with this dish. It was refreshing and creamy. The flavours complimented each other with perfect balance, none overwhelming the other.  There were little pieces of chopped Black Olive in the mix, which added some extra zing! I wasn't sure what Evalon was at the time, but a little research indicates that it is a type of cheese, which explains the lovely creamyness.

Sweet Potato Gratin - With Blue Cheese and Crispy Onions

When I saw this on the menu there was no way I could resist ordering it. Both Mike and myself are huge Sweet Potato fanatics. I think this was possibly the best dish of the night, so good we were tempted to order a second! The natural sweetness of the Sweet Potatoes married beautifully with the sharpness and depth of the Blue Cheese. The thinly sliced Sweet Potatoes were tender and soft, but not mushy. The topping of Crispy Onions kept all that soft richness from dominating too much. This dish is a must-order!

Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face - With Fried Egg, Tamarind, Maple, Cilantro and Potato Stix

This was the one dish I knew I was going to order after reading some reviews online. Our server let us know that this dish is best when it looks its worst. It comes beautifully plated, of course, with the perfectly cooked Fried Egg topping the Pork, on top of a nest of crunchy Potato, with the Tamarind and Cilantro Sauces on the bottom. But, in order to enjoy it to the full, you must destroy it--making sure to combine all the elements in every bite. This dish is very rich and satisfying. The tender Pork and the crunchy Potato Stix soak up the tangy and sweet sauces, making every bite delightful. Plus, you can never go wrong with runny egg yolk!

...and just to note, the Pig Face was not literally shaped like a pig face--that's just me being a little creative!

Kalbi - Beef Short Ribs with Grilled Sweet Potato and Charred Okra

This dish was probably the most underwhelming of the evening. Not to say it was bad, but in comparison to the other dishes, it just seemed to have something lacking. The elements were quite separate, and did not really seem to marry. Our favourite part was the Charred Okra, which had a tangy sauce. The ribs were nicely cooked, and thinly sliced. They weren't overly fatty, as sometimes this cut can be. Overall a decent dish, but I think there are more interesting things on the menu.

Confit Goat Belly - With Shaved Fennel, Crab, Lobster and Bourbon Butter 

Another thing I knew for certain was that I had to order a dish with Goat!  The Goat Belly was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the Crab and Lobster meat was perfectly cooked. Fennel, which can sometimes be overwhelming, was inoffensive as it was very thinly shaved. The Shaved Fennel and the greenery on top were smart refreshing notes in an otherwise extremely rich dish. I hate to say it, but the taste of the Bourbon Butter was indescribable!

Girl and The Goat was one of the big highlights of my Chicago trip! The excellent service and the innovative dishes left me satisfied...and wondering how I can come up with an excuse to go back! It's a bit of a trek from Toronto...

If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend you dine there! That is, if you can get a reservation!

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