Dining Out: Girl and the Goat (complete with really dark pictures)

December 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m not a “Top Chef” person. That comes as a big shock to a lot of people because I’m a food person. But no, I really have no interest in watching a bunch of people shriek and freak over their cooking. It’s bad enough I’ve spent the past 16 years watching people shriek and freak over their trading, and that’s enough drama for 5 lifetimes. So come Wednesday at 9 when Mrs Ilk heads to the basement for her weekly viewing I usually grab a cold frosty one out of the fridge and read on the couch.

I don’t live in a total “Top Chef” vacuum though. I know who Stephanie Izard is. What a great last name – visually it looks like it rhymes with both “lizard” and “slizzered” and you really can’t go wrong with a name like that. Sadly, it’s not pronounced like it looks.

SIDE NOTE: I met Stephanie at a Goose Island party this summer. We were both pretty well in our cups. The general gist of our conversation was that people with curly hair have more fun.

Anyway, everyone in Chicago raves about Girl and the Goat. Restaurants with a high degree of buzz and I usually don’t get along though. I hate being smashed into a bar area 5 deep while waiting to eat. I hate the pretense that’s usually abundant at such places. Most of all, I hate not being able to get a table unless it’s on a Tuesday 3 weeks in advance at 9:30 at night. Every time I lay plans they always go awry. But I knew we had to try the place at some point. 4:45 on a December Friday afternoon? Sure, why not!

Got there, place was about 1/3 full. We were offered seats at the bar immediately or the chance to wait for a table. I didn’t even bother with the “why would we have to  wait for a table when there’s a whole bunch of open ones” argument. Plopped down at the bar and took a look at the offerings.

G&TG is easily the best smelling restaurant I’ve ever walked into. It smells like wood fueled meaty goodness. It makes you want to eat – kinda like how Muzak makes you want to spend more time in the grocery store, or so I’ve been told. One look at the menu, and your first thought is “one of everything.” It was really hard to narrow it down.

Started off with a rye cocktail. It had a catchy name but I can’t remember it and it isn’t on the online menu. I’ve really gotten into ryes over the past year and this drink with its hints of grape (!) and spice was downright awesome.

Mrs Ilk got their take on a Pimm’s Cup (another catchy name I can’t remember) – made with vodka. According to the bartender, they took all their summer cocktails off the menu a couple months ago but had to leave this one on because the demand is so high even when it’s 30 degrees out.

Couple sips of whiskey and it was time to start the feast. The bar staff was AMAZINGLY helpful with advice.

First course was the chickpea fritters.

Fritter? Crispy. Cream? Creamy. Great combination. The thing that impressed me most about this dish was how it was layered. The fritter is perched perfectly on a bed of eggplant and chickpeas. The big surprise is that underneath that bed of veggies is some of the finest mozzarella you’ll ever try in your life.

Next, it was on to the mushroom ragout.

This dish has a sriracha creme fraiche. That alone is enough to make it awesome. Combine that with thin sweet potato ravoli (can’t remember the term) and some really dank mushroom flavors and you’ve got a surefire winner. This is one of the two dishes that I said out loud that I want to learn to make at home. Wonder if it’s in her cookbook.

Next up? The roasted beets.

Spectacular miss, to be quite honest. Pretty unremarkable dish. I used to hate beets as a kid and only started really enjoying them a few years ago. The anchovy in it dominated the taste in a few bites, which is fine by me but certainly might put a lot of people off. The green beans didn’t pick up any flavor and could have used a little cracked pepper lovin’ for sure.

Undaunted though, it was on to the roasted cauliflower.

This was done right. Roasted vegetable trump all other vegetables in my book. Lots of pine nuts and pickled peppers in there, both of which add great accents. The combination of cauliflower and parmesan cheese might be one of my favorite things on the planet.

Then it was time to get into the meats. First up? Duck tongues.

Mrs Ilk picked these and ordered these without so much as a moment’s hesitation. I was a little skeptical. The smaller tongues were perfectly crisped but the thicker ones were just a touch chewy. And I’ll be honest, when they’re a little chewy you start thinking “holy shit, I am eating a duck’s tongue right now.” The chili oil that they’re fried in added a nice heat. Definitely a dish with great flavor but a little inconsistency.

On to the pig face.

“So how do they make it?”

“Well, they take a whole bunch of cheeks/jowls, roll them together and then fry them.”

Hiding below that egg is easily one of the five best things I have eaten in my life. Spicy, crispy and incredibly flavorful. Break the egg and mash it all together and you’ve got a remarkable experience. Bartender told us it’s her favorite hangover cure. This is one of the can’t-miss dishes everyone talks about.

I finished with the grilled octopus. Thanks to Mrs Ilk’s seafood allergy it was mine all mine.

I’ll be honest. I was really hoping they’d present it whole. But that would make it a lot tougher to mix in with two different kinds of beans. It’s served with a lemon vinaigrette that complimented perfectly.

By this point we were stuffed. But not too stuffed for dessert which is a good thing because the chocolate chili gelato is mind-blowing.

It’s a really upscale take on the old “ice cream and a brownie” standby. The gelato definitely trends more toward chocolate than chili. Bartender told us a woman once took the bowl to the washroom after she finished this dish so she could lick it. Classic – and totally understandable.

Return trip is definitely in order. Didn’t get the chance to try any of the goat entrees, and there’s a lobster-stuffed goat belly with my name on it.

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