Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicago: Girl and the Goat

Above and to the right of our table

Block 3 ended last week, and afterward I spent an extended weekend in Chicago with Andrew.  Soon after we planned this trip, we made a reservation for a Monday night dinner at Girl and the Goat, an astoundingly popular restaurant run by "Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard.  The only dinner slots available were for 4:45pm or 10:00pm, so we took the former.  Upon walking in, we were offered one of the two two-seat chef's tables, which are like bar tables at both ends of the open kitchen and line; this was quite a dose of luck, and of course we jumped on the opportunity to see the kitchen in action.  Above and below are some views from our seats.

Bryan ladles chickpeas, at left
Dinner prep starting to speed up
Behind us, the main restaurant

We were soon introduced to the line cooks working across from us, including Joseph, Bryan, and a couple others whose names I forgot.  Soon after, our server Tony came and talked us through the menu, which is all designed for sharing and is divided into sections of specials (including goat dishes), vegetables, seafood, and meats.  We had two great cocktails to start: "Winter Negroni" for me (gin, citrus, Campari, and bitters), and the "Smoking Jacket" (bourbon, syrup, bitters, and an atomized hint of pipe tobacco) for Andrew.

Water, cocktail, and bread.  Joseph is plating something.

Pretzel bread, served fresh and hot with honey mustard butter and Thousand Island dressing (it works!):

Kohlrabi salad with fennel, toasted almonds, and a fruity ginger dressing:

Plating a duck dish:

Roasted beets with green beans, white anchovies, and avocado creme fraiche:

Grilled baby octopus with guanciale, wax beans, radish, and vinaigrette.  This was one of our favorites.

Sauteed green beans with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews:

I should mention that the beets, green beans, and some later chickpea fritters were all surprise extras from the kitchen.  Right around the arrival of the green beans, with several items that we had ordered still to come, we started panicking about the number of dishes hitting our table.  Fortunately Tony came over and counseled us to pace ourselves, and he packed up everything we couldn't finish (which was enough for brunch the next day).

And so we continued with the confit goat belly with crab, lobster, bourbon butter, fennel, and a puree I can't remember.  This was incredibly decadent; the 3 oz portion of goat belly, shared, was more than enough.

Here is Bryan, presenting some chickpea fritters with chickpeas, masala, house-made pickles, red onion, and mozzarella.  The fritters had the texture of fried fresh tofu, in a good way.

Pork shank with butternut squash and shitake mushroom kimchee, served with toasted pita bread, kimchee puree and creme fraiche.  The meat was crispy on the outside, but needed no knife:

Thai chili gelato with chocolate cake, crisped rice (I think), pine nuts, something resembling toasted marshmallow, and pomegranate seeds:

Pear wonton with parsnip puree, pineapple, ginger, and tamarind stracciatella:

Truly a splendid meal!  We lingered and finally left around 7:00pm, after the sommelier stopped by to ask how everything was (a polite nudge that the table had to be turned).  Between the interesting and delicious food, the fun of our table, the smooth and friendly service, and my most excellent date ;-), I was in heaven.