Girl and the Goat – Chicago

Girl & the Goat

Girl & the Goat

Girl and the Goat is one of the ‘IT’ restaurants in Chicago. A laudable hotspot on the Chicago culinary scene, it is run by Executive Chef Stephanie Izard who came to prominence when she won the 2007 series of the hit cooking show Top Chef on the Bravo channel. For two years after the win Stephanie travelled, speaking, cooking and promoting her project which was to become Girl and the Goat. When Girl and the Goat opened in 2010 it immediately received widespread recognition with Izard being named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef.

Located in the West Loop of Chicago, Girl and the Goat sits on trendy West Randolph Street and is suitably fitted with a look of urban chic. The restaurant is a quasi-namesake for Izard, which is French for a breed of Pyrenean goat. The buzz for Girl and the Goat hasn’t abated since it’s opening with reservations being very difficult to come by. But the restaurant also operates a walk-in policy with a waitlist for the table seats on a first-in-first-serve basis. There are also some lounge or bar seats that diners can simply walk in and grab. There are no waitlists for these and so you just have to be diligent and take one when they become available. We were witness to certain disagreements between parties about who got there first, and in my humble opinion, operating a waitlist for these seats would have helped to keep the peace.

We didn’t have a reservation but managed to secure some lounge seats at about 5.45pm where we started to eat while we waited for a table. The lounge area is quite a socialable place to hang out as you get the chance to chat to other diners and people watch. Moving to a table later on the evening, we liked the tightness of the seating arrangements much less. Also as a table became free, the restaurant insisted that we move immediately even though we had just started eating our second dish. We didn’t understand why we couldn’t have finished the plate of food before moving, but the restaurant seems to have a very in flexible policy on such matters.

Girl and the Goat offers an eclectic selection of dishes, hopping from Italian inspirations such as pasta, drawing from Hispanic ingredients such as Cubano pork and tomatillo, and integrating Asian flavours such as miso and tamarind. The menu is divided between vegetable, fish, meat, and goat, and was an incredibly interesting and difficult one to choose from as it was so captivating.

It is a sharing menu and we dipped from section to section, trying some escargot ravioli (fish section) with bacon and a tamarind-miso sauce ($15). As a pasta filling, the escargot was a little bland. But the pasta itself was well made, and the sauce was deliciously sweet and savoury if a little over seasoned. The bacon in the sauce also helped to bring the dish together nicely.

Girl and the Goat - Escargot ravioli

Escargot ravioli

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Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas

Franklin Barbecue

Franklin Barbecue

The next day, after my meaty dinner at Sullivan’s, I ventured to Franklin Barbecue for even more meat. Much has been written about Franklin Barbecue with some press publications alleging it to be the ‘best’ BBQ in the United States. Franklin also featured on Anthony Bourdain’ No Reservations series, and in the movie Chef, Chef Carl Casper stopped off at Franklin Barbecue in his food truck as he drives through Texas.

So what makes Franklin Barbecue so famous? There are many factors, one of which is the quality A-grade meat that they use. Franklin Barbecue also uses an especially dry Post Oak wood which has been cured for 9-12 months that helps to impart a special mild smoky BBQ flavour. Franklin also adopt a slow cooking technique, one that they have refined over the years. Depending on the meat, the cooking process can last for up to 18 hours, at cooking temperatures of between 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (about 107c to 121c), to produce that incredible melt-in-the-mouth effect for which Franklin is so famed.

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Hotel Sorella and Radio Milano

Houston, Texas is a sprawling city that is home to plentiful eating and the famous NASA Space Centre. During the first two days of my visit to Houston I stayed at the luxurious Hotel Sorella, located in the vibrant CityCentre development which is home to a number of sophisticated retailers, plentiful dining options, commercial office buildings and luxury homes. The hotel is sleek and stylish and designed with custom made details such as a unique European Murano glass chandelier and graphite colored ceramic floors.

Hotel Sorella - Lobby

Hotel Sorella – Lobby

The rooms are comfortably appointed with those on the upper floors offering sweeping views across Houston. There is a well-equipped spa and fitness centre and a variety of meeting room options for the business traveller, including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom.

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Yamazato – One Star Michelin Japanese Restaurant, Amsterdam

After a sumptuous dinner at &Samhoud Places, we followed this up with another lovely meat at Yamazato Restaurant which located in The Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. Yamazato is famous for its authentic Japanese haute cuisine, and in fact Yamazato was the first traditional Japanese restaurant to be awarded a one Michelin star in Europe. The restaurant is best known for its kaiseki menu, a multi-course Japanese menu that draws upon seasonal ingredients and a collection of skills and techniques in its preparation. But Yamazato also offers a wonderful variety of classical Japanese dishes from the a la carte menu, a selection of sashimi and sushi, and a more moderately priced lunch menu.

Decorated in a 15th and 16th-century Sukiya style, the décor at Yamazato embodies the essence of a classical Japanese fine dining restaurant. The waitresses were all dressed in kimonos and well trained in the art of fine Japanese hospitality. Surrounding the restaurant is a Japanese garden, beautifully landscaped to exude a sense of calm and serenity. The décor, the lovely service and the garden all went hand in hand in to create a harmonious dining experience.

Yamazato - The Garden

The Garden

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&Samhoud Places – Two Star Michelin Restaurant, Amsterdam

My recent weekend visit to Amsterdam saw me enjoying two days of glorious sunshine, a really pleasant stay at the Art’Otel Amsterdam and visits to a couple of Michelin Restaurants, one of which was &Samhoud Places, a two Michelin starred restaurant in Amsterdam headed by Israeli-born Executive Chef Moshik Roth. Roth’s career started from humble beginnings, as that of a pizzeria manager. But his career took a turn when he embarked on apprenticeships at De Librije and Zwethheul, both of which now hold three and two Michelin stars respectively. Today, Chef Roth is considered to be one of the leading molecular chefs in The Netherlands.

&Samhoud Places is a collaboration between Roth and entrepreneur Salem Samhoud, hence the name. The restaurant is located in Oosterdokseiland, the Eastern Dock Island which is located east of Amsterdam Central Railway Station. &Samhoud Places spans two floors, the first floor being where the Michelin restaurant is situated. The ground floor is a more casual eatery offering street food.

We decided to go on Roth’s full Michelin gastronomic journey, electing to take the nine-course degustation menu (€195.50). Being situated on the Eastern Docks, the restaurant offers views of the waterways. But should you get a bar seat surrounding the open plan kitchen like we did, then you will get a chance to watch the chefs beavering away at work.

&Samhoud Places - Chefs at work

&Samhoud Places – Chefs at work

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Vox Restaurant – Grand Hyatt Berlin

Vox Restaurant in The Grand Hyatt Berlin is unusual in that it offers a sushi and sashimi selection as well as a contemporary European menu. The restaurant, located on the ground floor of the hotel, is buzzy and modern, and oozes a hip-n-happening vibe helped in no small part by its dark décor and sleek lines. The open plan kitchen is divided into two sections each catering to the two different elements of the menu. A bar graces the entrance to the restaurant which was busy partying away on the night of our Saturday visit.

We decided to try the Japanese side of things first and elected for the nigiri, maki and sashimi collection (€29) as well as an ebi (prawn) roll (€18) with unagi (eel) sauce. In a city not famed for its sushi, our offering proved to be acceptable. The fish was fresh and palatable, although we longed for salmon and tuna which were a little fatter and richer in taste. Also a touch of something sweeter, perhaps some Japanese mayo, would have really helped to lift the prawn roll. A miso soup (€6) was delicious, but we found a seaweed salad (€12) to be disappointing. The seaweed was a little chewy and bland, and the dressing a little too acidic.

Vox - Sushi, sashimi & prawn roll

Sushi, sashimi & prawn roll

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La Soupe Populaire by Tim Raue Berlin

La Soupe Populaire by Tim Raue (a 2-star Michelin chef of Restaurant Tim Raue) is about as ‘Berlin’ as it comes. Grungy, soulful and heartfelt, the restaurant embodies the essence of understated cool. La Soupe Popularie is located in a building known as The Studio House, a once derelict building on a large block of land, not far from central Berlin on the border of the well-known Mitte area. The building may have been unused for a while, but most Berliners will tell you that the site use to house many an underground party, all of which adds to the building’s sense of cool. Know also that its location feels slightly off the beaten track which also gives it an air of mystic. These days the building not only provides the space for La Soupe Populaire, but it is also houses an art gallery and the very, very cool Crocodile Bar. A multi-millionaire investor bought the site recently and his intention is to transform The Studio House into something bigger with a hotel and many restaurants. La Soupe Populaire is just the start.

In keeping with the design of the large industrial space, La Soupe Populaire has been decorated with vintage furnishings, minimalist table settings and a warm lighting that gives the restaurant a great sense of coziness. Tim Raue might be a 2 Michelin starred chef, but his intention for La Soupe Populaire was that this was to be the people’s restaurant. As such the standard menu, which shows off some true Tim Raue classics such as his famed mustard egg, oozes accessibility with its limited options of four starters, four mains and two desserts. But there’s also a concept piece to the menu with some additional dishes being devoted to honouring and complimenting the nationality of the artist who is on show at the time. These dishes change along with each exhibition change about every three to four months. Also of note at La Soupe Populaire were the prices that were exceptional value for this calibre of cooking.

To start our meal we were presented with some fantastic crusty sourdough bread and a wonderful selection of homemade pickles and a hearty meaty German sausage. For the bread, there was a spread of lard with roasted onions and pickles.

La Soupe Populaire - To start...

To start…

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Attica Restaurant – San Pellegrino No. 21 Best Restaurant in the World, 2013

In an age where foraging for ingredients is the vogue, Attica Restaurant in Melbourne has won out as the Australian restaurant which does this best. Chef Ben Shewry often wakes before dawn to forage for ingredients by the seashore. He also grows his own herbs and vegetables in his two gardens, one of which is situated behind the restaurant, the other in Ripponlea Estate in Melbourne. Foraging and cultivating such beautiful produce for use in his inspired cooking has earned him and Attica many awards including Chef of the Year 2014 and Restaurant of the Year 2014 from The Age (an Australian newspaper). In 2013 Attica also came in at No. 21 in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

The décor at Attica Restaurant is understated yet comfortable. There’s an air of expectation as you walk into the dining room. You can sense a purposeful energy in the way the waiting staff go about their business, as if the staff know that they onto a good product and that they truly believe in it.

While we perused the menu – an 8 course-tasting menu for $190 (about £102) – we were treated to some gorgeous homemade rye bread topped with wattle seeds, a rich Jersey home churned butter, and an incredibly delicious macadamia purée topped with a smoked macadamia oil and quandong (a natrive Australian fruit) powder. The combination of the two made for a thrilling taste sensation.

Attica Restaurant - The bread

Attica Restaurant – The bread

Next were the amuse bouches, the first of which was an unusual mushroom leaf to be dipped in a fermented corn juice with forest anise. The leaf is a native of Papua New Guinea and apparently only 25% of people can taste its mushroom flavour. We weren’t one of those people, but the leaf was fresh and inherently interesting when eaten with the intense, almost hollandaise like nature of the fermented corn juice. Alongside the leaves were some pickled chantenay carrots which were crunchy and sharply acidic.

Attica Restaurant - Mushroom leaves, corn puree and carrots

Mushroom leaves, corn puree and carrots

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