The rest of this review is basically how our night was and a lot of pictures of food.
The night was set aside to celebrate Courtney’s birthday (she shot all these photos with her iPhone4 by the way) and originally I had made reservations at Table 52. A restaurant we’ve long wanted to go to.
Since moving to the burbs and dealing with two little ones with bed time routines taking up the 7-8 p.m. hour it is very hard to secure a sitter and still go out at a reasonable hour. Courtney hates eating late at night.
Instead, we plan an early night out in the city after work and would pick up the kids on the way home.
When The Girl and the Goat started taking reservations the week of our planned Birthday celebration it seemed like fate that we got the time we wanted.
Courtney and I actually used to eat at Scylla, Stephanie’s old restaurant in Bucktown many times. It was the same period that Dirk was running Meritage (which we went to more often to be honest), but we loved Scylla and were rooting for Stephanie the entire time she was on Top Chef, basically because we knew her not only looked good but it tasted good too.
We got to the Goat and the hostess offered Courtney one of two, two-person “tables” facing the open kitchen. Courtney of course said yes and we were seated right in front of the grill station with Stephanie expediting to our left. It was kind of like being on a late-season episode of Top Chef where they’re yelling out orders left and right.
The other benefit of the seat is seeing every plate before it goes out, although we kind of had our minds set on what to order.
We started with some bread, that was truly top notch and worth paying $5 for. We got the onion butter spread, which came with a tangy olive oil as well. We also got a terrific bottle of wine compliments of Courtney’s dad and brother to celebrate her birthday. The sommelier came over and asked what she liked and brought the selection out. He hit the nail on the head. It was a bright, crisp white. I might have to order a case if I can find it anywhere.
Service over all was over the top. Our waiter was super attentive and friendly and all the waiters who had to come get their orders next to us were nice too. The best though were talking to the two guys manning the grill. During their downtime, early in our meal, they chatted more obviously and explained how the cooking was set-up. It was pretty neat and we talked about all the restaurants they had worked at that we had been to etc.
This is a small plate restaurant, which carries with it some pros and cons.
The biggest pro is that you get to sample a lot of different food and between two people you get to share even more. They recommend 2-3 plates per person and at five plates plus bread and dessert it was just a bit too much for us, but we figured we wanted to try a lot.
We ordered four plates all at once but they bring the plates out in a staggered way, namely because some plates take longer than others. This is the con in my opinion, you feel a bit rushed trying to finish one plate by the time the next arrives.
First out was a roasted beets salad, Courtney loves roasted beets so this was a given, but even I liked it. There were huge anchovies in the salad as well but I kind of liked the different earthy/salty tastes.
Then came the grilled baby octopus, which was kind of like a salad too, but with big lima beans and pistachios offering some different textures. I thought it could have used more octopus flavor and the lima beans overwhelmed the dish, but not to stop me from ordering it again.
The lamb ribs came out in four split sections so you could share it between two couples. The rest of the dishes I thought would be hard to share with more than two folks. The lamb was exceptionally tender and fell off the bone easily which Courtney prefers. The chefs told us they cook it all day long and then give it a few minutes on the grill to give it the taste of wood-kissed smoke. Yes, it’s a wood-burning grill.
And the smell actually was in our hair the rest of the night at home. I’m guessing the chefs smell like that 24/7. And it’s not an awful aroma if you like grilling.
Next up was the soft-shelled crab, which we knew we were going to order well before we sat down. It lived up to the pictures we saw online and more. While the crab was perfectly cooked and flavorful it was placed over a corn side dish with cream and potatoes that was delicious. I was scooping up every last bit of that. I’m sure it isn’t healthy but didn’t feel overly heavy either and summery.
At this stage we decided to get a fifth dish and went with the rabbit rillette, which I didn’t know meant a paste-like preparation. It was wrapped in rice crepes which taste exactly like they sound. This was definitely the heaviest dish we ate and while flavorful, I thought it was better for an early fall mean rather than mid-summer like everything else we ate.
Usually desserts at restaurants like this are hit or miss for sweettooths like us. But there was a “fudgecicle” on the menu, which our waiter recommended highly. It was actually pieces of rich fudge with a homemade ice cream (or was it gelato?) on top, a crispy cookie of some kind and a chilled sauce/broth with a hint of beer. Uh, it was awesome. Courtney could only eat two bites because she said it was too rich. “Too rich” is not a phrase in my vocabulary however and I finished it off.
At the end of the meal we asked the guys on the grill (sorry I forgot their names) to take our photo and they did gladly. All around it was a terrific experience and a great way to celebrate a belated birthday. I’m glad after all the hype of it opening it lived up to the anticipation.