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July 24, 2010

Restaurant Review: Girl and the Goat

There are some dining experiences that are simply satisfying, and there are those that flush my cheeks, elevate my blood pressure, and make my buds dance on the fast track to cloud 9. If you have shared one of the those magical dining experiences with me (The Drawing Room, Table Fifty-Two, Angelina Ristorante, to name a few), you know the difference. My sister, Shana was the lucky one who bore witness to my buds' awesome performance at Girl and the Goat. Our superb server Meadows, and killer general manager Dan Russo may have caught a glimpse as well. The choreography made the Joffrey Ballet look amateur. My fancy was truly tickled.

As our cocktails wet our whistles, so did the
Tortone bread--made by their resident bread maker it consisted of mashed potatoes and garlic confit (yes, in the dough), served with sweet onion butter and herb oil. The soft, garlic filled center and the crusted to perfection exterior ensured that we finished the loaf. But not before we killed the sweet onion butter...

As we looked over the menu, there were several things that I would rather run laps around the dining room in my skivvies than leave without tasting. The Hiramasa Crudo and Crispy Pig Face were the top contenders. I knew I was headstrong for a reason.

The Hiramasa Crudo--with crisp pork belly, aji aioli and caperberries, proved that a harmonious marriage between delicate, raw fish and salty pork can in fact exist. And what a remarkable discovery it was! Two individual proteins, each delicious in their own right, but typically make an unthinkable pairing, came together in one beautifully cohesive bite. Thank you Chef Stephanie Izard for exposing my palette to new flavors and concepts. Not once...
But twice! Introducing Crispy Pig Face. Fear not, Babe is not on a plate staring back at you... For those of you who are curious, here is how it is prepared: they trim the meat off of the face and wrap it air-tight in the form of an extremely large, cylindrical sausage. Then, they chill it, slice it--thus resembling a patty at this point, bread it and pan-fry it. Served with chimichurri and arugula, which offset the richness nicely, this dish is absolutely divine. I highly recommend scorning whatever reluctance you feel towards the name or idea. If you were unaware of the body part it came from, you would simply think it was the most flavorful pork you've ever tasted. We were informed by Meadows that the face does contain the most delicate yet intense pork flavor. If you are a foodie and enjoy intense flavor as well as exhilarating dining experiences, you must try it. If it frightens you, fine. However, if you regularly consume pork but refuse to try face (alright... I recognize that it sounds strange), consider another way of looking at it--consider the pig. I am an advocate for utilizing the whole pig. I hate wasting all food, but meat especially. The animal has died; justify its death. Do not dishonor it by allowing edible, valuable, not to mention delicious meat to go to waste. Let's move on...
After ordering a few more items, don't fret--I will describe them in a hot second, I have to mention the Shaved Kohlrabi. We did not order this originally, but Meadows being the fabulous server he is, put an order in anyway--we had to try it, he said. I am thankful he did. My sister, who is as much of a meat-lover as yours truly, said it was her favorite dish. I can't say the same, but that is only because I don't pick favorites when every item is so damn good. Aside from being an amazing, light contrast to the richer dishes, it was just ridiculously delicious on its own. A mixture of kohlrabi (doh!), fennel, blueberries, evalon (cheese), and almonds--this ain't your ordinary salad! The opposite of what I like to call the "leaves on a plate" salad, this one is the cat's freaking pajamas.
I love grilled octopus, usually. It is, however, one of those dishes that can be so hit or miss. Unfortunately for me I've tried octopus that had the texture of rubber bands, carried a repugnant char flavor, and were just dead way too long, but miraculously served anyway. On the other hand, there are those rare occasions when a chef who does it right reminds me of why and how much I adore it. This was one of those occasions. The Grilled Baby Octopus with guanciale (similar to bacon) and lemon-pistaccio vinaigrette is the quintessential grilled octopus dish. Unique, mouth-watering flavor and cooked flawlessly, this grilled octopus is as close to perfect as they come.
Rabbit Rilette, where to start... The crisp, yet fluffy crepe? The heavenly, juicy rabbit? The sweet garlic jus? Oy, I'm getting disheveled just thinking about it. Superb. It was simply superb. Packaged inside two luscious crepes, the rabbit was exceptionally moist and savory. To boot, they were floating in a sea of sweet, flavorful jus. It was absolutely scrumptious. To be honest, it didn't strike me as I looked at the menu, but GM Dan Russo insisted we try it anyway. Once again, they know what they're talking about. For not striking me on the menu, it sure struck a chord within my foodie soul. This is the most excellent rabbit dish I have ever had, or more accurately, devoured. Yea, I went there...
In case you were wondering, yes I did still have room for dessert. I actually had room for all four. We had the 1) deconstructed fudgesicle, 2) potato doughnuts with apples and figs, 3) sweet corn ice cream topped with crispy pancetta, and 4) goat cheese and blueberry topped brown sugar cake. These are not your typical desserts, but they are mighty tasty. I enjoyed each one of them in a different way. The sweet corn ice cream and goat cheese desserts both introduce new flavors, mainly of the savory variety, into a world of sweet deliciousness. It's not every day that you see pancetta, corn, and goat cheese on the dessert menu. My advice to you: take advantage! If you have never tried anything like it, go for it! Explore new flavors. Even if it doesn't work for you, you'll live. You can always turn to the fudgesicle or doughnuts if you seek more familiar, safe flavors. There is a delightful option for everyone, no matter how sophisticated one's palette.

Six or seven pounds later... ALL DONE! Now let's get real about this restaurant. The amount of heart, time, and dedication that went into the highly anticipated Girl and the Goat is evident as you walk in the door, but it slaps you across the face with each bite of food. When I left Girl and the Goat, I was in awe. It is amazing to me how every single thing I consumed was not only delicious, but took me by surprise. I felt as if I had experienced food on a new, divine level. Culinary Nirvana, if you will. My dinner at Girl and the Goat singlehandedly opened a whole new world of food for me. It was a monumental experience in my life as a food lover.

Moral of the Story? Girl and the Goat hoisted me up to reach Culinary Nirvana, and I never want to come down.

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