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Report: MarketHouse and Girl and the Goat

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  • Bix10 Nov 7, 2011 07:56 AM
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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.

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Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

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  1. Thanks Bix10!
    love the review!
    I don't feel so bad now that I was not able to get reservations to the Girl & the Goat... LOL

    I hate bad service! more than bad food I think... at least if you get great service they "are" trying"... however I "must" have both in order to go back to the restaurant.

    I'll check out Markethouse... Yeah, never heard of it mentioned here on Chow

    1 Reply
    1. re: yesilovestotravel

      Yes, definitely give MarketHouse a shot and let me know what you think! I hope to go back and try some of their other offerings.

      I usually don't care so much about service and ambiance. For a birthday dinner with someone who does, however, I definitely noticed all these imperfections.

    2. The ham frites aren't actually fries with a ham steak. They cook and dehydrate the ham and then pulverize it turning it into a ham salt of sorts that they use to dust the fries. I wasn't sure we got ham at first, but after a bit I did catch the flavour I asked how they got the ham flavor onto the fries.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BeanTownGolfer

        That is very interesting BeanTownGolfer. There were little hints of ham but I think I was expecting to see ham in some form. My dining companion mentioned last night that I was harsh in my review of the ham frites. I have never seen fries this greasy and salty before and I was a bit disgusted by that.

      2. I'm someone who often enjoys The Bristol. And my only experience with G&the G was very unlike yours. At a place where there are so many choices and many are very unconventional I think it helps to have a wait person who gets involved. We did. It sounds like you didn't.

        Sorry you didn't like it. The crowds there tend to indicate that your experience was an anomaly, but other people here have been unenthusiastic. If I can get us another res, we will certainly go back and see what we think the second time.

        1. We've been three times including a very busy NYE and have never had the issues you described. Doesn't mean it didn't happen though. I'm not going to make excuses because you had a really awful experience but from my times there I think you really ran into an anomaly. 10:15 on a Saturday night is not an ideal time to sit down for dinner but that's not your problem, They should have handled it and your server sounds like an ass. I really feel terrible about where you were seated, I can't imagine a worse spot where people are brushing up against your table, scoping out what you're eating and then making comments. I think I would have asked for a different table as soon as they had one available. I think I would have demanded it. It has been well chronicled that some dishes can be awesome while some can miss the mark. I don't know what happened to the dishes you ordered but it's too bad that they didn't match your expectations. The only quibble that I have with your review is the timing. If I understand correctly that you arrived at 10:15, waited 25, each course was 30 apart, then your dinner didn't end until nearly 2am? If I were you, after such a horrible experience, I wouldn't go back. More room for the rest of us.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hoppy2468

            Yes, based on other reviews and on the feedback on this thread, I gather our experience was quite uncommon. So much so that, after the pain of Saturday fades, I'd like to try back. I am glad to read that so many hounds had great meals there.

            In terms of the timing, certain courses arrived with 2 dishes, and some arrived before we had finished (this was strange). For example, the pizza was served before we finished the salad, and the escargot ravioli and goat belly dishes were staggered similarly.

          2. I don't think your G&TG experience is typical either. I'm quite sure they (and just about any other restaurant) is not in the habit of comping courses. And the place they seated you was unfortunate, to say the least. FWIW, I didn't encounter any of those issues when I ate there a few months back; the food had its hits and misses, but our server was friendly, professional, and helpful, and the meal (on a busy Sunday evening) was properly paced. We were seated in the middle of the dining room, away from the bar and waiting patrons, so that wasn't an issue either. I'm sorry to hear of your experience; sometimes it can just be a matter of luck (good or bad).

            Thanks for your report. Including the part about MarketHouse. I know there are quite a few restaurants around Chicago that do a great job but don't get the publicity that a select few does, and it sounds like MarketHouse is one of them. Thanks for spreading the word.

            1. I also experienced some service snafus at Girl & the Goat when I dined there a couple of months ago, but fortunately the overall experience was not nearly as poor. They did seat us on time, we had a decent (not great) server and fine table location. However like you there were often some lengthy delays between courses and the server actually brought us the dessert menu prior to two of our courses arriving! We informed our server that we were still waiting for additional courses and (after expressing a bit of skepticism) the server went to check on the matter. She came back a few minutes later and apologized and told us that a mix up had occurred, but our dishes would be ready soon. They did end up comping both those last two courses as well as our dessert, so I felt that was very generous and more than made up for the mistake and slow pace of the dinner. I also found most of the courses to be good to excellent, though my wife was less impressed.

              I guess with a restaurant that large that is always busy and where people tend to order so many courses, things can at times slip through the cracks. That said the vast majority of the reviews for Girl & the Goat are outstanding, so most of the time they seem to do an all around good job. Looks like the two of us just happened to have an off experience and yours was further compounded by a lackluster server and bad table location.