I ate dinner at The Fainting Goat on U Street twice in two weeks. I made the initial reservation because the name made me laugh and I had family in town, and I went again because I was determined to try every scrumptious bite on its eclectic, albeit limited, rotating menu.
The restaurant is airy and its light fixtures give the joint a gold glow. Paintings of upturned goats hang on exposed brick walls, surrounded by gray wooden tables and chairs. The first room holds a small bar and high tables, the ideal setting for a weekday happy hour. The dining room, up a short flight of stairs, has a bigger bar and cloudy ice-cube windows.
The Fainting Goat sources at least some its animal fare from nearby farms like Wagon Wheel Ranch in Mount Airy, Md. Its menu is divided into categories of ascending size (and price): Nibble for hor d’oeuvres, Graze for appetizers and Feed for entrees, as well as meat and cheese boards for $18 and $15, respectively.
The $8 flatbread is heavy with peppery goat sausage and whipped ricotta, sprinkled with garlic and pickled onion. It’s a cop-out meal at a place with more unique items like $14 beef crudo – with smoked tuna, lemon and arugula – and $8 goat cheese fondue, but it’s a dish anyone with taste buds would devour.
Though my friend and I stared longingly at the garlic buttered steak and grilled rapini on a fellow diner’s table, the $35 slab was out of our price range. Instead, we split $19 tagliatelle pasta with a generous topping of sliced, seasoned lamb belly, rich parmesan and tangy green peas. Pasta isn’t usually my mojo when I splurge on a meal, but this was worth breaking the “never order what you can cook” rule.
I also sampled a $9 duck liver parfait because my dinner partner-in-crime had a more adventurous palate than I do. It’s small cup of rich, processed meat topped with crushed pistachios that’s served with toasted brioche and greens with pomegranate seeds. The dish is for a more sophisticated palate, and while it’s not something I would normally eat, it’s satisfying – and definitely not something I could cook.
I ordered the octopus after the waitress’ eyes lit up when I mentioned it. I could understand – it is chewy, charred and glazed to perfection. The tentacles, coated with breadcrumbs that add a necessary crunch to the $16 dish, and are served with sweet yogurt and spicy mashed chickpeas.
Tied for would-eat-again are the roasted carrots. I have never ordered, let alone enjoyed, carrots before, but for $9, they came coated in ginger, sesame seeds and a minty herb called shiso. They were salty, filling and shocked me into leaving my vegetable comfort zone.
If you eat at The Fainting Goat, don’t expect dessert – it was only offered one time I went, and the only option was a creme brulee sans the hard caramel shell. Instead, savor every mouthful of your meal. For my third visit, I’ll try the pork chops.