Little Goat Food & Drink is the latest restaurant from Chef Alex Svenne and his partner and front of house manager Danielle Carignan Svenne. It’s located out on Portage Avenue, right across the street from Underdogs Sports Bar. Little Goat features French comfort food as the base of it’s menu.
I first visited Little Goat shortly after it opened in December of last year. At the time they were only serving breakfast and so I decided I would wait until they were open for all meals before I would write the place up. A few weeks ago I managed to get in for a lunch service, but decided I wanted to add a dinner visit before I did my review.
Sometimes, when a place is out of my normal area of travel, it takes quite awhile before I get my visit in. Yesterday, though, was Bishop’s day with clergy at St. Andrew’s Woodhaven, which is just across Portage and a couple of blocks west of Little Goat. The afternoon session ended earlier than expected, which gave me plenty of time for supper before I head all the way across to Selkirk Avenue for the launch of a parishioner’s first collection of poetry.
Normally I would do my review from my first visit until my most recent, but I’m going to do this one in reverse, in part because yesterday’s meal was very memorable.
Little Goat Dinner
For my meal I ordered a starter and a main. I chose the Pork Meatballs, with Spicy Honey Glaze and crispy onions for my starter. When it came to my main, I took a cursory glance over the list, but new immediately that the first item was going to be my choice. This is the French Fried Chicken, the dish Little Goat entered into the recent Winnipeg Fried Chicken Fest. It wasn’t the chicken that caught my eye, so much as what it was served with, in this case the Pommes Aligot. I’ll explain in a bit.
The meatball order was a little larger than I was expecting. It’s definitely a dish to share between two or three people as a starter. I really appreciated the meatiness of the meatballs, they were all thriller and no filler. The spicy sauce had a nice piquancy to it, and the onions managed to be both crispy and chewy at the same time.
When it came time for my main, I was really excited about trying the Pommes Aligot. If you’ve been reading the blog over the last little while, you know I’ve been reading a lot of books related to French Cuisine. There’s the Bruno series, along with what you can find in my March and April reading roundups. Recently I finished reading Coquilles, Calva, and Creme, by G.Y. and Joanne Dryansky. One of the last recipes in the book is for Pommes Aligot, a dish where the potato and cheese are whisked together to produce a wonderful flavour and texture to the dish.
Dryansky, a noted gourmand, writes that in France these days, you can get Pommes Aligot kits made with potato flakes and cheese. Little Goat, offers the real thing, occasionally repurposing the previous days mashed potatoes to create the dish(I’ve often stated that I love leftovers, and this dish shows how great they can be). The result is a pure joy to eat. Topping the Pommes off, were three of the tenderest pieces of chicken I’ve ever had with a great, crispy coating that is loaded with flavour. If you don’t go to Little Goat for any other reason, go for this dish. I would have ordered dessert, but these two dishes left me delightfully stuffed.
Little Goat at Lunch Time
I arrived very early for my dinner at Little Goat, and as such was the only customer in the restaurant when I ordered(a couple of more customers arrived during my meal). Needless to say the service was attentive and solicitous. The same had been the case when I went for my first breakfast. Normally, I’d worry about writing about service when there were so few customers.
Fortunately, when I went a few weeks earlier for lunch, I arrived at a time when the restaurant was full. There wasn’t really a line up, but as soon as any table emptied it was immediately filled with new diners. The other thing I noticed on this occasion was that neither Alex or Danielle was part of the service.
In fact, most of the staff out front looked so young, I thought I had stumbled into a high school work experience project. However, the staff not only has the enthusiasm of youth, but also is clearly well trained. Ordering went like clockwork, and things such as the refilling of water and checking on the enjoyment of the meal were carried out to their full extent. I do know some of the staff are the children of Alex and Danielle, and they’ve clearly done a great job as parents, as well.
I ordered the $10 soup and salad combo. This included the crunch salad, and a red lentil soup. Both were very good. This combo makes a nice lunch, but I hadn’t had breakfast that morning, so after I had that I felt like I had room for a little more and so ordered the macaroni and cheese. This Mac and Cheese isn’t as adorned as the one Chef Alex was offering when he was chef at Boucheé Boucher, but it doesn’t suffer in any way for that. It is rich, creamy and delightful.
My first visit to Little Goat was way back in December. However, despite the time lapse, I don’t have any trouble recalling it. I started out with the oatmeal. I noticed that the menu offered a savoury oatmeal and thought that this would make a pleasant change.
Looking at the picture, you may think that there is not a lot to this portion, However, even though there is less oatmeal than some places offer, the bacon, cheese, walnuts, and creme fresh make this a fairly hearty way to start your morning. On top of that the flavour combinations are such that you will wonder why you haven’t been preparing your own oatmeal this way, all along.
While the oatmeal is satisfying on it’s own, I fell back on my trencherman’s instincts and also ordered the French Toast. One thing about Little Goat, the service is never rushed so you have time to enjoy and digest your meal properly. Much like the oatmeal, the French Toast was different from what I am used to. This one came with the blackberries and a caramel sauce along with the whipped cream (the current menu version is slightly different).
One thing absent was a container of syrup to pour over the French Toast. In this case, absence did not make the heart grow fonder. The bread used for the toast was itself quite moist under the crust, and the caramel sauce added great flavour while preventing it form going soggy. Again, this is a dish that may turn you away from any other restaurant’s French Toast.
One thing I really like about Little Goat, is that once I get to Portage Avenue, it’s not all that long a bus ride to get there. I hope to get there again in the near future.