Eatin’ in Chicago 2

May 3, 2012 at 10:06 PM Leave a comment

Six weeks prior to his visit to Chicago, Jeff called The Girl and the Goat for a reservation. None were available, despite his seven day window! The friendly receptionist informed him that the full menu was served in the bar and seats were available, “If he arrived before 5:30.” After that, there would be a wait.

An unexpected production of Eugene O’Neil’s, “The Iceman Commeth” prevented his planned Sunday visit to the restaurant, but work ended early on Thursday, so Jeff and his coworker headed for the “Goat” arriving just after 5:00 PM. Indeed two seats were available at the window-side lounge-tables. Michele decided not to go to Chicago with Jeff and he expected to visit the city’s excellent restaurants alone. Going to The Girl and the Goat with another person afforded him the options of trying twice as many dishes and that was a good thing.

The Girl and the Goat is a “small plate” restaurant. This concept is probably most popular in the Windy City, with a number of interesting places featuring this communal-type grazing. Extra plates are at the ready encouraging diners to dig-in.

The GATG menu is divided into “V” vegetable, “F” fish and “M” meat with a side rotating card of breads and goat dishes offered on a separate menu. The accommodating wait staff suggests 2-3 dishes per-person and encourages sharing.

Jeff and his work companion started with the “V” and ordered the excellent Chickpea Fritters. This was a creamy fritter, blended with a rich mozzarella and a spunky onion side. They also had the Roasted Beet with crème fraîche and a touch of white anchovies. The only disconcerting note provided by the aggressively crunchy (and likely unnecessary) bread crumbs. They then moved onto the “F” category with perhaps the star of the menu, Hiramasa Crudo. (Hiramasa) Japanese Amberjack is (Crudo) raw, sliced thin and topped with a Lego of crispy pork belly, drizzled with a chili aioli and thin sliced caperberries. Wrapping the fish around the pork probably violated every law relative to vegetarian dining, but produced an orgasmic oral experience. The Frog’s Legs were a tasty fried treat that invited finger-licking.

For the “M” portion of the meal, Jeff and his work friend tried the Goat Empanadas. These were succulent pockets of shredded goat meat stuffed into doughy envelops of crunchy goodness. The “Pig Face” was a mystifying entrée of pork cheek and jowl topped with fried egg. The goal is to slice all of the crunchy pork goodness with the egg and sauce into a mélange of porcine wonderment and it worked. This was a true treat.

After nearly two hours of sitting side-by-side, Jeff and his workmate became chummy with their tablemates and the six started to exchange comments and leftovers. Jeff was able to try the Roasted Cauliflower with pine nuts and mint (excellent) Grilled Baby Octopus salad (remarkable) Ribs (!!) and Escargot Ravioli (Wow!). When the dessert menu arrived we ordered two and split it six-ways! It is that kind of place.

Indeed, The Girl and the Goat is the “hot” place to dine in Chicago, but I wouldn’t worry about making reservations. The REAL “hot” spot is among the lowly who dine in the communal areas of the bar. Make some new friends and eat with the commoners in the bar.

Jeff did eat elsewhere in the Chicagoland area. Serving the same type “small plates” and encouraging sharing was GT Fish and Oyster. He and two coworkers sampled the Bento with fresh tuna sashimi, salmon and hamachi; roasted cauliflower served with mint and a snappy yogurt sauce, a beautifully flavorful, dark and crunchy soft shell crab, Mussels in a rich tomato broth, mini fish tacos and the most excellent Stinging Nettle Ravioli. Toss in a few fresh oysters (a different selection is offered each day) and a wonderful meal was served.

Again, with friends from work, Jeff tried Bistronomics. This is a modern version of what Michele and Jeff usually call, “Pub Food” based on countless meals in pubs across Ireland and Great Britain. Not too fussy, but oh, so good. Jeff started with the dynamic Cauliflower Soup with a Veloute Cheese. Perhaps Jeff is remembering the name wrong, but it was an incredibly good and rich cheese that did not overpower the cauliflower broth. The pan roasted Duck Magret was served with rutabaga and a “not sweet” winter fruit and honey-lemon sauce. The duck could have done with a moment more in the finishing oven to relive it from a touch of toughness, but the flavor could not be argued. Baked Alaska, split three-ways was a nice end to the meal. Like the pubs in Ireland, one meal invites you back for a second and a third….

Alone and in the suburbs, Jeff sampled Vie. This is a highly regarded place with a creative menu that did not disappoint. Each morsel was perfect and the modern interior was relaxing and inspired a memorable evening. The staff had only one goal, to make your visit successful and that they did!

Jeff started with a perfectly prepared set of quail appetizer and then the roasted asparagus salad that featured fluffy red quinoa, ricotta, and pickled fiddlehead fern all topped with spicy pepper vinaigrette. Both were excellent. His entrée was a real treat. A slow-cooked lamb leg was topped with lamb bacon rounds and surrounded by smashed peas, fingerling potatoes that were prepared with a touch of curry and pickled leeks and rich lamb-mint jus. It was easy to become lost in the pure joy of eating this luscious meal. During his fritter dessert, the house manager stopped by the table to check on his meal and invite him back. If Jeff ever finds himself in Western Springs again, you can be assured he will return! With a tea menu almost as large as the wine list, Michele may be tempted to come along.

A number of years ago, Jeff worked multiple weeks in the Chicago suburbs. One of the evening treats was sampling assorted Chicago Hot Dogs. A favorite quickly arose. While a chain, Portillo’s serves up a damn good dog. This trip, Jeff sought out an old haunt and dug into one of his favorite “guilty pleasures” a Chili-Cheese Dog at Portillo’s. Yum!

Spiaggia makes a point of reminding you that gentlemen are required to wear a jacket during dinner. If only the sartorial results of the assorted patrons were as successful as the culinary, this second floor dining room might be the most beautiful place to eat in Chicago. Certainly, the plates that emerged from the kitchen were a wonder to behold, each more beautiful then the next and each course, heavenly.

Jeff started with the Iberico ham accompanied by house made cheese. It was light and delectable. The second course was a perfect risotto, made memorable by its beautiful green color. For the entrée, Jeff ordered what he rarely does, strip steak, but it was no ordinary beef. Tagliata di Manzo is expertly trimmed, grilled to perfection and melted in the mouth. To finish, a cheese plate with soft subtle creamy and tart, aggressive bleu. This was a special meal.

Finally, a trip to Chicago is not complete without a visit to the Purple Pig. This crowded place, right on Michigan Avenue near the river is always jam-packed with people and brimming with great, reasonably priced food. The wine list is likewise well priced. Jeff has visited each time, alone, so it has been easy to slip into one of the remaining seat at the bar or communal table. Parties are almost certain of a wait.

Jeff has enjoyed a number of things on the menu, but decided to try a new collection. This time he tried the sliced asparagus with a parmesan olive oil dressing that was so good, it disappeared almost quicker then it arrived. The Pigs Ear is covered with earthy kale, pickled peppers and a fried egg. Before eating, the diner julienne’s the whole resulting in a mouthful of crunchy pork, tart kale and tangy pepper. Again…gone in a flash! For dessert, the faro and ricotta “Crema” was topped with chocolate sauce and nicely softened the festival of flavors during the meal. At some point, Jeff will likely try something a second time at the Purple Pig, but with the creative team constantly coming up with new ideas, it may be a while!

It could be argued that Chicago, not New York is the food capital of America. They are constantly reinventing ways to eat. New ideas in restaurants seem to come, not from San Francisco, but instead Chicago. Going there to visit is always a treat because there is something new to eat and some new way to think about food is around the corner. What could be better than that?

http://www.girlandthegoat.com/809 W Randolph Street Chicago,IL 60607 312-492-6262

http://gtoyster.com/531 N Wells Street Chicago,IL 60654 312-929-3509

http://bistronomic.net/hostalt/840 N Wabash Avenue Chicago,IL 60611 312-944-8400

http://www.vierestaurant.com/4471 Lawn Avenue Western Springs,IL 60558 708-246-2082

http://www.portillos.com/ Multiple locations

http://www.spiaggiarestaurant.com/980 N Michigan Avenue Chicago,IL 60611 312-280-2750

http://thepurplepigchicago.com/500 N Michigan Avenue Chicago,IL 60611 312-464-1744

Entry filed under: Eatin' Out of Town. Tags: , , , , , , .

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