Restaurants & Bars 6

Willow (longish)

Dakota Guy | Oct 23, 2005 09:05 AM

Willow is located in Northern Virigina on Fairfax Drive about two blocks from the Ballston Metro. It opened abount 6 weeks ago. It is billed as "modern continental" prepared by Chef Tracy O'Grady (formerly Executive Chef at Kinkead's) and pastry chef Kate Jansen (cofounder of Firehook Bakeries). Good pedigrees all. The restaurant has a website at

We had dinner there Saturday night. The menu is inviting. I started with the soup of the day: a wild mushroom bisque. It was very flavorful with a few crisp chantrelles and a beggar's purse of goat's cheese. She had wild mushroom ravioli with veal sweetbreads. Both were delicious.

We were intrigued by seeing "grilled flatbread" listed as a separate course on the dinner menu. These are essentially pizzas. We thought if an upscale restaurant (with a pastry chef) put these on the dinner menu, they must be worth trying. We ordered the "willow" which has wild mushrooms [do you see a mushroom theme emerging?] and fontina. It was delicious. We only ate half and took the other half to go. One could make a great dinner with just soup/salad/flatbread.

I had halibut for my entree which was nicely seared and served with a tomato orange broth. Unusual combination but very tasty. Also served with a bit of orzo, bruinoise of zuchinni, and a green olive relish. She had the ribeye steak which came with sauteed crimnini mushrooms [that theme again], a wonderful red wine pan sauce, watercress with tuffle oil, and a tiny ramekin of gouda potato gratin. Both entrees were delicious.

Full as we were, with a resident pastry chef, we had to try dessert. She had a white wine glass with dark, white, and milk chocolate mousse layers served with berry sauce and two tiny biscotti. It was ok but not special. We wouldn't order it again. Interestingly, there is an image of this dessert on their website, which drew us to it. The website picture appears much more inviting than the served presentation. I had the "warm apple nutmeg custard tart." Sounds like a great baked item from a pastry chef. I was disappointed. I wouldn't order it again.

The overall ambiance is upscale and very pleasant. The only sour note was (perhaps because we were seated near the dining room entrance which adjoins the bar area) was a too loud and inappropriate music [cajun?]. The music was out of place in the dining area and an unneccessary distraction.

Service was without fault. Friendly, helpful, and exactly right. [I hate overeager staff that pick up plates before everyone has finished a course or staff that deliver a course while one of the party has the left the table for a moment]. Service here was spot on.

Overall impression of the evening was vey good and I recommend the restaurant. On a scale of 1-4, I'd give 2-1/2. It has some growing pains to go through but I hope it succeeds. I look forward to eating there again.

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