I am excited to be posting for the first time! I have been a long-time reader, first in Boston and now here in Chicago. I have never felt compelled to post, but I had such an odd dining weekend that I have decided to take this opportunity to change my relationship with Chowhound.
In a nut shell: I had an awful experience at Girl and the Goat and some divine dining at MarketHouse. We'll start with the positive:
We had a restaurant.com gift certificate for MarketHouse, which my dining partner and I approached as a a break from cooking for the evening. Neither one of us had particularly high expectations, as there is very little here on the forum about MarketHouse. It was fairly empty as we entered through the DoubleTree Hotel, and we were seated in a quiet, comfortable, well-lit booth.
Service was friendly, unpretentious, and attentive. My water glass was never empty, and all of our needs were met throughout the meal. The courses were timed perfectly.
We were served house-made bread-and-butter pickles with sweet potato pecan bread to start our meal. The pickles were delicious and a nice change in pace. We split a very fresh but otherwise unremarkable chop salad to start, which was a necessary health-conscious beginning considering our entree choices: we ordered the pork shank, pot pie, brussel sprouts, and lobster special to share between the two of us. The pork shank was incredibly tender with a subtle smokiness. The buttery pastry on the pot pie enclosed a homey truffle cream sauce and a nice variety of vegetables. Most importantly, the lobster special knocked our socks off. We were having trouble keeping a lid on our moans, I am embarrassed to say! We were served lobster on top of corn, lobster mushrooms, truffles, and a truffle sauce, and we were fighting over the last bites! What an earthy, unexpected combination!
Finally, on the recommendation of our server, we ordered the lemon beignets and the bread pudding to end our meal. I could have forgone the beignets. They were more like dense little donut holes, and served with minced pears (I think) and some unremarkable sauce. But the bread pudding. My word. Please do not take this particular aspect of my review lightly. I am a bread pudding enthusiast. I enjoy desserts as thought it were my job (and I am hoping one day it will be), with bread pudding being my preferred method of contracting Type II diabetes. This bread pudding was right up there with the Basque cake at the Bristol. These are the only two desserts I've eaten in this town that made me question my decision to order real food first. Served with house-made pecan praline ice cream in a cast-iron ramekin, the bread pudding had the perfect amount of integrity and custard.
I contrast this review with our Saturday night experience at Girl and the Goat. I had been eagerly anticipating this 10:15 reservation for 3 months, and we were celebrating my dining companion's birthday. I had read rave reviews here and I could not wait to get my chompers on some creative, well-prepared dishes! My dining companion and I do prefer a quieter atmosphere, but I think almost anyone would have been uncomfortable with our seating arrangement. After a 25-minute wait beyond our reservation time, we were seated at a two-top near the bar. We had people hanging over our table, commenting on our food the entire evening. I let the guest of honor order his brains out, and he chose 6 items. Our very strange, affected server did a lot of standing around, a lot of peering at our table, and a lot of going over to the kitchen and coming back to look at us, but he did very little in the way of serving us food. We probably waited 30 minutes between every single course. Finally, I mentioned this fact to him. He said, and I quote, "yes, I noticed that! Listen, I have no idea what Chef is up to. It's like he's going crazy! Listen, dessert is on me. Let me check on your food." Well, fifteen minutes later, nothing had changed. The manager finally came over and explained to us that, "every once in a while, a table slips through the cracks. We always do a great job but sometimes we just fall short. Let us buy two of your plates for you." Free dessert and buying two of our plates? That is very generous, and we started to feel a bit better as two more dishes arrived at our table. When the bill finally came, they chose to only comp two plates, not dessert, which is fine but inconsistent, I think. I didn't say anything about this, but I was surprised because of the aforementioned promise and the birthday we were celebrating.
I would not have said a word about service, and I probably would not have even posted today if it not for the food. We kept on saying to each other as we were waiting, "it's going to be worth it because the food will be so very good!" It wasn't. Well, it was fine. But, given the reviews, I was expecting something exemplary. We ordered "squish squash" bread with apple puree and cashew butter. The bread was warm but unremarkable, the apple puree was very bright and well-done, and the cashew butter was basically salty butter mixed with cashew pieces. I was expecting pureed cashews and was unpleasantly surprised. We got an unremarkable salad with tarragon buttermilk dressing after (my standard for salad is the Bristol's green salad, which is simple and perfect and you can't believe you're eating a salad so good) followed by a very good goat chorizo pizza with shaved apples and ricotta. This was one of the only things that we wolfed down. Thirty minutes later, our order of ham frites arrived. These were the greasiest, saltiest, most confusing ham frites ever. I think ours came with no ham. They were served with a tomato aioli and a cheddar beer sauce, which were fine. Thirty minutes after that, we were finally served the goat belly and the escargot ravioli. The ravioli was boring and a bit mushy, cooked perhaps just beyond al dente, but the goat belly had us oohing and ahhing and fighting over each morsel. About 30 minutes later, we were served the cauliflower with mint, pine nuts, and Parmesan, which was very good but absolutely swimming in butter. Anyone can make cauliflower taste good when you add that much butter!
To end our meal, we ordered pork-fat donuts and the chocolate bouchon. The bouchon (with foie fluff which was foie in name only) was, dare I say, waxy? What a strange, unpleasant consistency! The donuts were served with greek yogurt and figs, which is a great preparation after such a rich meal, but they were tough (maybe the dough was over-handled).
I have to say, I felt uncomfortable and unhappy throughout most of the meal. With all the positive reviews I've read, I posit that perhaps they were having an off-night or maybe things just aligned unpleasantly for us.
Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661