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Willow, Chef Tracy O'Grady and Pastry Chef Kate Jansen on N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston - Closed


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a clever plant in ts chat about willow. i don't know what's up but i think maybe its tracy mcgrady's new venture.

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RE: Your Fantasy Restaurant Job: Recently defunct Gaffney's in Ballston is in the process of being reincarnated into "Willow"- I work in the building and have spoken a couple times to the two women owners- they've both worked at Galileo, one was at Kinkead's for a long time the other was one of the originators at Firehook Bakery and spent a year in Tuscany. Their intent is to have EXACTLY the sort of place you describe. I can't WAIT for them to open!

Tom Sietsema: Wow! (And good gossip. I'll have to check out the details.)

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Here's an excerpt from The Buffalo News a few weeks ago (online version expired):

Fans of South Buffalo native Tracy O'Grady -- the Washington, D.C., chef who was the U.S. entrant in the prestigious Bocuse d'Or cooking competition in France in 2001 -- will be happy to learn that she is opening her own restaurant, Willow, in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 6.

O'Grady, a former executive chef at Kinkead's in Washington, will partner with pastry chef Kate Jansen in the 150-seat restaurant.

Talk about pressure -- the same day that the restaurant opens, O'Grady will be married to Brian Woken, director of operations for the new restaurant and former executive chef at Butterfield 9 in Washington. After the ceremony, she'll change from her bridal gown to chefs' whites and prepare dinner for 500 customers.

As a fellow Buffalo ex-patriate, I'll keep my eye on this one.

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Spent an enjoyable evening at Willow's bar yesterday. This is definitely the nicest restaurant yet to occupy this ill starred space across from Rio Grande opposite the Ballston Metro station, so I fervently hope it will be successful. All indications are that it will be. The wine list is selective but covers the bets both by the glass and the bottle. The food concept is "modern continental" meaning they are dusting off some of the standards from before the new wave(s) of cuisine started battering the restaurant shores in the 70s. Thus no fru fru nouvelle, no (con)fusion, no asian/latino/carricom types of dishes except for perhaps a nod via the utilization of an ingredient from these styles. Heavy on French and Italian influence.

 
I had a rib eye steak served with a very savory mushroom/red wine sauce. The cut was not as thick as I would have preferred, but it was cooked exactly the way I asked. Started with the clams casino which are frankly the bomb! Very lemony and bacony and they don't fuss with the classic recipe. My wife had a pork chop milanese served just like a veal chop -- pounded out a little on the bone -- and from the bite I managed to steal, was quite delicious. Again not pretentious, just very well prepared. Came with a little spinach tartalet and my steak came with a small potato gratin. Due to the fact that I was still fairly full from the Po' Boy I had earlier had to leave dessert for the next visit, but they had some decadent sounding dishes such as chocolate tiramisu napoleon. Additional starters include a selection of grilled flatbreads -- influence, no doubt, of co-owner Kate Jansen, formerly of the Firehook Bakery.

 
The business was not exactly brisk last evening so I had a good opportunity to chat with the amiable staff -- mostly with JB the young but well-versed bar tender, who I believe hails from Evening Star. I pressed the manager to get their website up ASAP. Apparently the menu will change frequently on the basis of availability of ingredients. Come one, come all to support this promising new establishment!

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Correction: Bartender at Willow formerly from Stardust vice Evening Star. All other "facts" in post above verified again last night in another very pleasurable evening passed at Willow. Sampled the "Blue Fire" grilled flatbread -- onions blue gorgonzola and thyme-- very yummy and along with the clams casino (getting addicted to these), washed down with a few glasses of Piedmontese Rorero Arneis proved to be a nice supper.

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Went last night, figuring their participation in the Katrina benefit night was a good excuse to try them. I wasn't expecting such a formal looking space. It's very nice, though, with plenty of warm lighting and wood. As Johnny said, the menu is mainly about classic French and Italian cooking. A couple of us shared a wild mushroom grilled flatbread to start that was phenomenal. The hint of truffle oil and the generous use of thyme really brought out the flavor of the mushrooms. I tried a bit of the gnocchi (in a fondue) as well, which I thought were as good as Palena's. For an entree, I had bacon crusted salmon with broccoli rabe, port sauce and cauliflower gratin. The bacon crust was excellent, sorta like it was coated with crispy bacon bits (but the salmon a bit overdone). Thought the best entree at our table, though, was the one vegetarian dish on the menu: a lentil ragu with some incredible artichokes (seemed like they were cooked with orange and something else I couldn't identify). A promising place.

Edited by cjsadler
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We tried Willow on Saturday night. I agree with the poster that it is the nicest looking of the restaurants that have occupied this space. We started with the caesar salad, which were ok but somewhat overwhelmed by lemon. This was listed on the menu description, but it was far stronger than expected. The soups were quite good - a butternut squash bisque with shrimp and a corn chowder with a small crab cake. The entrees were also ok, but somewhat disappointing. The pork was breaded and a bit overcooked, which was surprising and detracted from what was a very nice cut of meat still on the bone. The spinach tartlet was a highlight, however. I could eat a larger version of that as an entree, and would love to be able to replicate it at home. My daughter and I shared the halibut with orzo. The fish itself was cooked perfectly and it was nicely complemented by the oranges and sauce, but there was way too much sauce on the plate and the sauce was too thin. The orzo was floating and the serving size was meager - there were barely two or three teaspoonfuls on the plate. We were also underwhelmed by the desserts. The triple chocolate mousse was served in a smaller wine glass and seemed almost too dense for a mousse, although we did order it without the berry sauce. The chocolate tiramisu napoleon looked and tasted neither like tiramisu nor a napoleon. While the cake part was ok, the thin chocolate wafers that separated the layers were inedible - we were not even able to cut them with a fork. All that said, we will try Willow again. We live in Arlington and are always looking to support local establishments and realize that new places usually need some time to grow.

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I had a great lunch in the bar at Willow today. The Mushroom bisque is solid and hearty, and the apple wood smoked bacon and gruyere sandwich was really tasty and came with a side of beets and picked string beans. Very tasty all around and that include the bartendress.. :lol:

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Weeping Willow

Looking back, my expectations were somewhere along the lines of BalckSalt or Tallulah. I expected to find an outpost on an otherwise hollow corridor, at least culinary-wise.

Ask my dining companion, I even said in an e-mail before dinner that I was in the mood for "ham-fisted", feisty food. I wanted salt, I wanted starch, I wanted the opposite of Palena, Komi or Sushi-Ko...

I really dislike writing with so much ire, but actually this time, I think it's in your favor.

The meal started with appetizers, as usual:

Fried Zucchini & Ricotta Fritters, $ 7, oddly had an essence of lemon custard and came with a nutty-tasting dipping sauce of tomato and red pepper romesco. It was akin to something you'd find passed at a rather large book party catered by a corporate entity. Willow’s Clams Casino,  $10, were the best of the starting courses (I liked the clams themselves well enough). They're traditionally prepared with applewood smoked bacon, leek fondue (translation: leeks that looked and tasted liked scallions*) and lemon bread crumbs. I will say this, there is a huge abuse of something wonderfully simple at this place: lemon juice.

Trailing behind was the signature (Willow) flatbread, $16, which is matzah meets Cosi with wild mushrooms, lemon (a-fucking-gain), fontina, chives and white truffle essence. This dish reminded me of drinking a $200 bottle of wine with a microwaveable chicken potpie. Why? Because it was missing a huge element of acidity. It was screaming for really well-aged red or perhaps pickled fiddleheads. And there's a point where you just want to give the person with the bottle of truffle oil your middle finger... That flatbread is way overpriced.

The main we shared was the best dish of the night, but I can list at least two dozen places I'd go to get scallops again before this place.

The dayboat scallops were properly cooked and extremely generous in size. Three scallops, each resting on a slice of red-skinned potato with applewood smoked bacon and more wild mushrooms, afloat an overly buttery sauce. I think they were fine, but priced in the mid-twenties, there are other places I prefer to patronize.

Dessert (the pastry chef is one of the co-founders of Firehook Bakery, and I'm sure many of you know the history of Tracy O'Grady) was a pineapple semolina cake with ginger ice cream. It's essentially pineapple upside-down cake made with semolina flour, and I found it tasty, but a touch on the dry side (could perhaps use some alcohol).

Aye-yay-yay.

The space itself, the ambiance and Ballston are too depressing to touch on right now. The service at the bar, particularly one guy, was small town-enthusiastic, and he kept calling us grown adults, "kids."

I'm not weeping, I just won't go back.

The more apropos name might be Billow.

*whatever

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Has the pleasure to dine with three friends at Willow this Monday past. A rainy, damp night and Chef O'Grady made up for it. Shared the Willow flat bread - well worth the $16.00. For openers the wild mushroom Ravioli - on the mark. The rib-eye was beautiful - well sauced and well presented. Personally would have preferred a slightly thicker cut @ $26.post-633-1131072346_thumb.jpg The sides were perfect. Party also had the scallops which went over very well. post-633-1131072382_thumb.jpg The Pork rack didn't quite make it. post-633-1131072417_thumb.jpgWine list is short but with good selections. The wine guy was very helpful. We stated with the 2002 Les Combes Coteaux Languedoc and then the 2001 Atalon Napa Cab. The bread service was a little weird. One small roll per place and then a battle to get replacements. I have read a similar comment elsewere and wonder what is going on. Also the wine list pricing on the web and in house are off. Its a bear to keep them updated but must be donel. We finished with the tiramisu and chocolate parfait. A fine ending.post-633-1131072450_thumb.jpgpost-633-1131072477_thumb.jpg

All in all a very good experience - and a difficult audience - two dinners have worked in French kitchens with ten M stars between them. You have to show some stuff to make them happy. Chef O'Grady has the guts to go it alone. We hope to be back and wish her and her partners a long run. Still a few bugs to work out. But only with less then two months open sure she will get it right.

Edited by Jmahl
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I had the pleasure of enjoying a very good meal at Willow last night. Based on previous posts, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I'm happy to report that food and service were on the mark.

Started with a glass of La Bete, La Fete “Cuvee Lambray”, Oregon, 2003 - mainly because I like the name, but taste wasn't bad either.

Five of us dined in the chef's tasting room (only because of a friend's acquaintance with someone on the management staff) - ordering from the menu. The room was very nice, cozy, but spacious for a party of our size.

The warm seckel pear and drunken goat cheese tart was my choice for a starter. The tart was as described - thinly sliced pear topping creamy goat cheese in a flaky pastry. Endive leaves sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts surrounded a salad of julienned endive and red onions dressed with a sherry vinaigrette. I also tasted the butternut squash and pumpkin soup and it was delicious - creamy and full of smoky, roasted flavor - proof of the server's earlier comment that Chef usually does a pretty good job with the soups. The scallion and Gala apple soup sounded interesting too... Others ordered clams casino and smoked salmon - no complaints were heard and clean plates were all that were left from the first course.

I, like others above, ordered the dayboat scallops (I had 5 in my order, wonder if Meaghan ate at the bar or if others complained about the scallop-to-dollar ratio too...) and thought the entire dish was wonderful. The scallops were huge and perfectly cooked - crispy and a beautiful golden-brown, top and bottom, but inside, mm - perfection! The sauce was light, and the mushroom and bacon accompaniment complemented nicely).

Others in the party ordered the lemon roasted chicken (2 VERY generous pieces), ribeye, bacon-crusted salmon, and (I believe) flounder.

Finished with the cookie and ice cream plate - bittersweet chocolate and peppermint ice creams accompanied by 4 mini cookies - peanut butter sandwich, a fantastic shortbread, less interesting chocolate sandwich, and a meringue strawberry cream sandwich.

With dinner - Vin de Pays des Herault, “Les Heretiques”, Iche, France 2003 - another one that caught my eye because of the name - but in addition to an interesting background story, it was also a decent drinkable red.

Service was attentive, professional, and efficient. There was a slight lag between first and mains, but not enough to be a problem. The bread was the only curiosity - as mentioned, small rolls, constantly refreshed, but I would have expected more variety or something more interesting from the founder of Firehook!

I thought the space was very tasteful and elegant. I could see going back to the bar for a glass of wine as well as enjoying another meal(s) there.

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My wife and I stopped by Willow after completing what I hope is our last Christmas shopping. We were both very happy with the service, and food.

For starters I had the Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Crispy Sweetbreads. This dish was nearly perfectly executed. The sweetbreads were perfect, my anti-offal wife even enjoyed the piece that I gave to her (until I told her that it was a sweetbread). The one complaint I had with this dish is that it is not served with a spoon. The loose filling makes it risky to pick-up the ravioli with a fork, lest it slip off the fork and fall back into the sauce causing it to splatter (no this did not happen to me).

My wife started with the Fontina and Proscuitto Fritters. These were delightful. The spicy sauce on the side brought it together perfectly. She said that the last bite was as good as the first, which is not always the case when eating breaded and fried food.

She wanted the Scallops for an entree, but they were not available. Instead she opted for the chicken. The bird was moist, with generous portions. She was less impressed by the carrots, as they did not really go well with the lemon sauce. I would agree, but I hate carrots so it would be very difficult to prepare them in a way that I would like.

My entree was the Bacon Crusted Norwegian Salmon. This was a nice entree. The crust was delicious, with just a hint of bacon, but also with plenty of fresh thyme, and crispy bread crumbs. This dish comes with two sides, garlic spinach and a gratin of artichokes. The spinach was nice and added to the overall flavor of the dish, however, I was flummoxed by inclusion of the artichokes. They were very nicely prepared (however, my wife did not like the breadcrumbs, but she is a purest about artichokes), but it was served as a separate dish, and did not add much to my over-all impression of what the chef was trying to convey.

We decided to share Kate's Cookies and Ice Cream. It was a nice way to finish the meal. I particularly enjoyed the peppermint ice cream that was matched with a scoop of chocolate. The cookies were also quite nice, my favorite being the cut out.

All-in-all it was an enjoyable night. I will say that the room is way too noisy, and they should do something to try and abate this. Otherwise I have no real complaints. We will definitely be making a second trip.

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Went to Willow last night, for the first time, with 2 friends. Overall: ok but not great. If I go back, and I assume I will because it is nearby to me, I will go to the bar and not the restaurant. My friends and I were in the "overflow" dining area, which needs some kind of decorating help. The reviewers are not kidding when they say you won't be too happy if you are in the overflow area. If you sit there, it feels like you are at a conference or banquet that was oversold, so the hotel had to open the extra room divider and you are sitting in never never land, missing out on the real event. The tables in this area are too close together, which made it all the more fun when, 5 minutes after we had sat down, a waiter tried to squeeze between our table and the adjacent one, carrying a chair over his head.

Not all of the menu items are available for restaurant week, (for example, not included are: the Willow flatbreads, the scallops, and the poached pear). The restaurant week menu is, however, pretty good, and offers a good cross section of the menu. There was a wine pairing option for an additional $15, and 2 of us had the wine pairings. The wines were ok but not great and I would not order those wines again, and there was only one wine offered per course, which meant my friend had port with his lemon sorbet. Not so great.

The service was ok, but not coordinated, too many people asked if we wanted to order drinks (after we had) and no bread was offered to us. I know the restaurant wants everyone to order the flatbreads, but would it be that hard to offer breadsticks or something?

The food: I had: the smoked salmon with potato latkes; roast chicken, and a walnut brownie with ice cream. The smoked salmon was very good (but the latkes were too dry to add much to the taste sensation), the chicken was great (and I liked the carrots!) and the brownies were ok, a little dry, but made better by the ice cream. I can't recall the wine pairings, except to say there was a white wine with the appetizers, a red with the mains and port with dessert. The port was nice with the brownies. Another friend (also having the restaurant week menu) had mushroom bisque (very good), the bacon crusted salmon (very good and served with a side of some kind of cauliflower puree and wilted spinach) and sorbets (fine, but not good with port!). My friend's wife did not choose from the restaurant week menu; she started with the potato gnocci (delicious), then had the scallops (really tasty and very, very large, but there were only 3 on the plate and while they were large scallops, I think there should have been at least 4 on the plate). She had the triple chocolate parfait for dessert, it was good.

The service was fine. Nothing remarkable. I will go back and sit in the bar area, where I think I will feel like there's better atmsophere and better value, somehow. Right now the food is better than the overall experience, but I'm still happy to have Willow in the area.

Edited by cucas87
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My friend's wife did not choose from the restaurant week menu; she started with the potato gnocci (delicious), then had the scallops (really tasty and very, very large, but there were only 3 on the plate and while they were large scallops, I think there should have been at least 4 on the plate).

I went to Willow for dinner last month, and I'm pretty sure I had 4 scallops in my entree. From this thread, it looks like the number has varied from 3 to 5. I wonder if the number depends on things like the size of the scallops or how many they have left.

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We hit up Willow last night as the closer to our Restaurant week. It was my first time there and the experience was positive. We did stick to the RW menu, although I was tempted to get the scallops (not on the RW menu), partially just to see how many scallops I'd get. :) I had the salmon with potato latkes as a first course- very good, but the latkes were too small to add anything other than a textural element. For my main I had the lentil ragu with goat cheese and baby artichokes. I'm not a vegetarian, and I almost never choose the veggie dish when going out, but my entree was GOOD- hearty with a bit of tang from the artichokes and creamy from the goat cheese. I would go back just for this. The apple cheesecake for dessert was good- not too sweet, not too rich, but I'm not a big dessert person, so I just had a few bites. Service was competent, although by the end of the night our waitress looked very busy. Bottom line for me: Willow is a bit pricey for me for an ordinary night out, neighborhood restaurant kind of place, but I'd return if we're feeling a little flush and don't feel like going into DC.

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I enjoyed a meal at Willlow last evening. If you stop by to dine I would strongly encourage trying the Duck breast and confit leg. One of the most "must eat very scrap" meals I have had in a long time. Only regret is that I fled before I had the chance to have dessert.

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An Open Love Letter to Willow:

Dear Willow, I wasn't expecting much, as Sunday was the tail end of Restaurant Week and I've seen and heard mixed reviews about you. Baby, please forgive my low expectations.

Girl, you look GOOD. Dark, gleaming woods; honey lighting; interesting artwork. And hey, thanks for the free parking right in the building. Baby, your friend Gabby is a remarkable server; very friendly, attentive, and informed. And your friend the sommelier also was very nice, presenting our $35 Standing Stone Riesling (fresh, fruity, smooth) and later coming over to check on us and to thank us for visiting.

But you know why I love you. The FOOD! Thanks for the hot, fluffy roll that told us you give a damn about the bread basket! The savory, rich potato ravioli with two sweet shrimp and fresh herbs was elevated by the bacon crumbles to make a great starter. I was totally jealous of my friend's fried chicken, which had plenty of herbs under the skin, was moist inside, and had a nice crisp skin--and perfectly mashed potatoes and fresh-tasting spinach. But damn, girl. The pepper-crusted filet, perfect medium rare, bursting with juice and flavor. Yum. And two of the sides--red wine marinated olives and crispy, flavorful, thin onion rings--were so awesome that I forgave the "meh" potato tart.

Willow, I never knew I would sing the praises of a CARROT CAKE, for crying out loud, but yours is so moist, so delicate, with such rich-yet-light cream cheese frosting that I WOULD SELL MY GRANDMOTHER for another slice. The chocolate mousse pie was delightful and pretty, and the pear crumble with ice cream was wonderful, but I would gladly kill a kitten just to get more of that carrot cake. Baby, it was that good, and it was the perfect ending to a great night.

In short, I will be BACK because I love you and your wonderful food and your great service, and because the mere thought that that carrot cake might be there is enough to make me sleep in a pup tent for longer than I did trying to get U2 tickets.

Love,

Laura

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We did Willow for RW also. Agree with Laura's assessment. Our table of 6 had 4 different entree selections. The beef was by far the best. The fried chicken was great also - not too dry not too greasy. The spinach was good, but a tad salty.

BUT - the carrot cake!!! Holy cow. Who knew! I'm not a big sweets eater, but it was the best dessert I have had in the last 5 years. Next time I go, I will be sitting at the table next to Laura housing on the carrot cake.

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Last night was our first dinner at Willow. The food exceeded my high expectations. The ambience was really lovely. The service had some very major problems.

We started by ordering 2 glasses of Adega de Pegoes, Vihno Regional Terras do Sado, Portugal, 2005. It was light and refreshing, and went well with the Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura that we shared. The tempura was light and delicate, with the shrimp and vegetables perfectly cooked. I loved the lime-vinaigrette dipping sauce (which tasted better after we stirred it up--it does settle). The vegetables were asparagus, zucchini, artichoke heart, and onion, and they all were delectable.

My husband had the Potato Gnocchi and Chorizo Gratin. The taste I got was meltingly good, and he cleaned his plate so he must have enjoyed it. I had the Wild Mushroom Raviolis with sauteed Oyster mushrooms, parsnip puree, a Parmesan tuille, and the most divine wild mushroom and truffle emulsion. The raviolis were light and mushroomy and just perfect. We don't eat parsnips often, and this puree reminded me that I want to have more of them. The puree provided a bright, slightly sweet counter-note to the earthy mushrooms.

It was absolutely fabulous, and I was declaring the best single dish I've had in a very long time, and breaking off little pieces of bread to sop up the pool of truffle emulsion (I would have used a spoon, if I had had one), when a server appeared with our entrees. She got close enough to see that I was still enjoying my appetizer, and turned around to head back to the kitchen. Our waiter stopped her, took the dishes from her, and brought them to our table. My husband's appetizer plate having been removed, he placed his entree in front of him and took my appetizer plate out from under my hand poised with bread, replacing it with my entree. I declined his offer to leave the appetizer plate on the side, because I didn't see how it could fit on the small table, and glumly bid farewell to the rest of the truffle sauce. What should I have done? Sent our entrees back to the kitchen to sit under a heat lamp? It wasn't just the loss of the sauce, but I really prefer to wait a few minutes between courses (5 minutes would have been nice). The waiter hovered over us until dessert, interrupting us ever couple of bites to pour water or wine, or to ask how things were. I enjoy attentive service, but my husband agreed that this was a bit intrusive. So why was the timing of our entrees so off?

OK, our entrees were really terrific. He had the Pan-Seared Jumbo Day Boat Scallops with Ragu of bacon lardons, Brussels sprouts, Oyster mushrooms, and a Dijon scallop cream. The 4 scallops were jumbo, and they were perfectly seared, which can only happen if they're dry scallops. Husband loved the Brussels sprouts and the mushrooms, and liked the sauce although he said he didn't taste much Dijon.

My Herb-Crusted Flounder was a large filet nicely crusted and not overcooked, with great flavor. I loved the broccoli rabe, on which it rested, and the wild mushroom agnolotti. It was delicious!

The wine we picked to go with our entrees was Chinon, Charles Joguet "Cuvee Terrior", Loire, 2004. It was light enough for the fish and set off the mushrooms in several of our dishes very nicely, IMO. It was, however, served at room, rather than cellar, temperature, and was opened and poured before we had gotten halfway through our white wine.

Because I had read such positive comments about desserts here, I decided to order one--the cookies and ice cream plate. It didn't rock my world. I should have stuck with my original plan to end my meal with the pear and blue cheese salad, or even the caesar salad. Husband's torte (plum Florentine?) was reported to be "OK." I looked for carrot cake after reading prior comments, but there was none on the menu.

I do plan to go back, but will request to sit in a different section, hoping for a couple of minutes between courses. To our waiter's credit, however, we asked for recommendations, ordered the dishes that he recommended, and were extremely happy with the food.

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It was absolutely fabulous, and I was declaring the best single dish I've had in a very long time, and breaking off little pieces of bread to sop up the pool of truffle emulsion (I would have used a spoon, if I had had one), when a server appeared with our entrees. She got close enough to see that I was still enjoying my appetizer, and turned around to head back to the kitchen. Our waiter stopped her, took the dishes from her, and brought them to our table. My husband's appetizer plate having been removed, he placed his entree in front of him and took my appetizer plate out from under my hand poised with bread, replacing it with my entree. I declined his offer to leave the appetizer plate on the side, because I didn't see how it could fit on the small table, and glumly bid farewell to the rest of the truffle sauce. What should I have done? Sent our entrees back to the kitchen to sit under a heat lamp? It wasn't just the loss of the sauce, but I really prefer to wait a few minutes between courses (5 minutes would have been nice). The waiter hovered over us until dessert, interrupting us ever couple of bites to pour water or wine, or to ask how things were. I enjoy attentive service, but my husband agreed that this was a bit intrusive. So why was the timing of our entrees so off?

at the start of your meal, let your server know that you like to have a few minutes between courses.

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My husband and I had a phenomenal dinner at Willow last night. I noticed that this restaurant doesn't come up much here. I hope that's not because people aren't going there. The dining public owes it to itself to make sure this place thrives.

Unless you live or work in Ballston, I suppose it isn't much of a dining destination, with only a handful of restaurants, many of them lunch spots.

This place should be in everyone's rotation - though it is slightly pricey, it is worth every dime. The food is that good. When RTS is SRO, shoot down Wilson Blvd to Ballston (it's on N. Fairfax Drive, in the same building as Rio Grande) and (apologies to Mr. Landrum) you will have just as good a meal - and that's saying a lot since we worship RTS so much that we actually cross the river to eat there.

We unfortunately didn't have much time and couldn't really do the experience justice, but what we had was just as good as it gets.

Tim had a green salad of organic greens with hearts of palm, dressed with an ethereal sherry vinaigrette and topped with shaved manchego. It doesn't get fresher than this - the greens and the cheese were of the highest quality, and the dressing was applied with a very light hand. Just incredible how important good quality ingredients are.

The rolls - not exactly Parker House, but close - were warm and fresh but needed a dash of salt.

Tim's day boat scallops were perfectly balanced with a ragu of lardons, brussel sprouts, and mushrooms, topped with a dijon mustard cream - but again, with a light hand. It is unusual that the last bite of a dish is as satisfying as the first. My pan roasted halibut was a perfect piece of fish, perfectly cooked and served over a bed of mixed squash.

For desert, Tim had a strawberry and passion fruit parfait. Heavenly, though the passion fruit in particular was so good that I would have preferred that the ratios be reversed (it was two parts strawberry to one part passion fruit). My citron tart had a home-made quality. The crust was perfect. Most tarts are filled with lemon curd. Not this one. This one had a wonderful consistency that I can't describe. Blackberry coulis on the side, and two fresh blackberries on top.

About a year ago, I had lunch there...a delectable, juicy burger that elevated burger to the rank of real food (and I'm incredibly fussy about burgers...), and I'd always wanted to try it for dinner. Beyond all expectations, and now I need an excuse to return.

The space is so comfortable and pleasant and relaxing. Beautiful and elegant without being stuffy or fussy. Just enough decoration, superb lighting. We were there early, so I can't comment on the noise level. Only a few tables were occupied. Though there were 3 or 4 occupied right near us and we couldn't overhear conversation from any of them. The spacing of the tables seems quite nice.

There is also a private back room.

The service was pitch perfect (I think it was one of the co-owners who took care of us...). Not obtrusive, just pleasant and well-timed and thorough. We had mentioned that we didn't have much time, and the dinner was paced accordingly. It would have been nice to linger and to have had more time (for drinks, wine) but that's our excuse for a return visit.

And they update the menu on their elegant, well-designed website every single freaking day. http://www.willowva.com/directions.html

I mean honestly - everything that folks find fault with about pretty much every other restaurant that is written up here - I defy you to find those faults at Willow. They really have it covered.

This place was so good that I felt I had to break my own vow never to post again.

Ellen

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My husband and I had a phenomenal dinner at Willow last night.
Great Post, Ellen. I wholeheartedly endorse your point about how Willow should be on our community's rotation as much as possible. As a long time resident of that area in NOVA, I have seen too many restaurants come and go in the space now occupied by Willow. It is chef owned and operated, and there is a strong commitment to food and service on their part. So Rockwellians -- come one, come all!
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Willow was one of the stops during our week-long celebration of Tripewriter's birthday. He loved the flatbread -- in fact, he's been agitating to go back just to have more flatbread :blink: -- and we both had pleasant meals. I have to say, the decor/atmosphere of the place was pretty offputting for me, but perhaps that was a function of where we were sitting. The food, however, was very nice. I really enjoyed my ravioli appetizer scallops, and Tripewriter also enjoyed the other scallop dish on the menu. One thing I really loved about the place was that the menu is The Menu -- it's written up fresh every single day, showcasing the ingredients that chef feels best about that day. Willow is definitely someplace that we'll visit again.

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Based on the recent buzz here, I'm taking Mr. MV tommorow to celebrate his birthday. Can't wait :blink:

Mr. MV's birthday dinner was at Willow in Sat night. I can say that I agree with the above regarding the food. The mushroom ravioli, gnocchi and scallops in particular were excellent. Moreover, the lovely way they acknowledged his birthday really made the meal special. I had booked the reservation on OpenTable.com and noted that we'd be celebrating Mr. MV's bday. To my pleasant surprise, our menus were headed with a birthday greeting to him, and our dessert was topped with a candle. A small embossed wine glass filled with cookies and biscotti came to our table attached with his special menu at the end of our meal. These touches were thoughtful and classy, although Mr. MV wondered if there would be any singing after seeing the menu! ;)

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They did the same birthday treats for Tripewriter after they found out during the course of the dinner that we were celebrating his birthday ;) Those miniature chocolate chip cookies were some of the best chocolate chip cookies I've had. Don't tell Tripewriter :blink:

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Avoiding the rain last evening, I stopped in at Willow and ended up having my dinner there. Here's the new deal now on offer: on Monday's for dinner you can have their most excellent burger ($12), on Tuesday's it's chicken ($15), and on Wednesday's hanger steak ($16). Last night the chicken was a Milanese -- pounded on the bone tender, seasoned perfectly and lightly breaded, and served with a creamed spinach and cheese tartlet that was just as good. The tartlet pastry was savory and buttery and worked harmoniously with the spinach cheese filling. For dessert (no carrot cake alas) they were serving this marvelous white frosting with cream custard filling passion fruit and berries cake. I got an enormous slab, half of which is now in my refrigerator fcr tonight. Allison Christ will be assuming duties as the new sommelier. Go!

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Based on the strong recent recommendations on here, I took the fiancee to give Willow a try last night and was very pleased. We sat at the bar to try out the burger that John recommended, which was very tasty if not a huge mess to try to eat. Tons of sauteed onions, mushrooms, and cheese and a tangy BBQ sauce that hit the spot on this plate. We also had the Orchid, which was a paper thin flatbread pizza with fava bean pesto, pecorino and fontina, lemon, and fresh basil. Again, this was a little on the greasy side, but very tasty and more than enough for two people to share as an appetizer.

We passed on the fancier items on the menu, but everything we had at the bar last night convinced us that this is definitely one of the best restaurants in Arlington and will be in our rotation for the near future.

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I don't know if this should go in the Dupont Farmers Market thread or not. But today as one of the special foods for the week at the market, the pastry chef was making "apple fritters." They were more like squares of custard with apples in them, coated with egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried. They then piped caramel sauce over them. They were very yummy, thought not very apple-y in flavor. But deep fried custard. Yum! Apparently, it was special for the market, and she occasionally makes them for large parties, etc.

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My wife and I took a friend to Willow on Friday night to celebrate her Birthday. We have been there a few times and with each visit we like it more and more. I found both the food and service to be perfect. I was impressed with the special efforts they took for my friend’s birthday. They prepared a special menu and provided her with cookies in a bag, with the menu attached as we were leaving. The menu is creative and the food quality is excellent. This is an example of a place where the chef has a passion about food in my opinion.

Apps:

Willow “Fritto Misto” Platter with Smoky Paprika Sauce - Prosciutto Friters, Fried Chorizo Stuffed Olives and Blue Cheese Dates-Excellent flavor combinations and product quality. This was also perfectly fried to allow for the combinations to come through. This is an excellent dish to share with the table, but might be a bit much for one person.

Shrimp Scampi Gratin -Creamy Fennel, Orzo Pasta, Lemon and Basil with grilled Cibatta Bread-Two plump perfectly cooked shrimp sitting atop a well prepared orzo and fennel mixture. Was a great combination of taste and textures.

Smoked Onion and Sherry Soup Gruyere Cheese Gratin-A well prepared soup with a nice balance of taste.

Salad

Willow Caesar Salad Fried Croutons, Imported White Anchovies, Shaved Gouda and Lemon.

This was a miss. I was looking forward to it when the plate arrived. The presentation was nice, a nice portion of romaine, a generous portion of cheese and white anchovies. The dressing suffered from to much lemon and the cheese lacked enough of a punch as did the croutons.

Dinner

Pepper Crusted Beef Rib Eye or Filet Mignon-Medallions $27 Potato & Smoked Gouda Tart, Red Wine Mushrooms, Crispy Onions and Beef Jus. Excellent all around, perfectly prepared and the meat was prepared as ordered. Everything worked.

Sautéed Jumbo Day Boat Scallops -Squash Ravioli, Shiitake Mushrooms, Crispy Bacon and Smoky Tomato Sauce- Excellent plump/succulent scallops perfectly prepared. This was a great combination.

Miniature Rack of Pork Stuffed with Housmade Sausage -Creamy Salsify, Cipolini Onions, Roasted Potatoes and Ham Hock Jus

Three perfectly prepared chops delivered as ordered. The meat was flavorful and tender. The sausage was a perfect combination with the pork, full of flavors without detracting from the chop itself. The potatoes were diced I a cream sauce and put on a puff pastry. The creaminess of the potatoes and the buttery taste of the pastry were excellent. I loved the cipolini. Overall the dish was perfect and hope it stays around for a while.

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Miniature Rack of Pork Stuffed with Housmade Sausage -Creamy Salsify, Cipolini Onions, Roasted Potatoes and Ham Hock Jus

Three perfectly prepared chops delivered as ordered. The meat was flavorful and tender. The sausage was a perfect combination with the pork, full of flavors without detracting from the chop itself. The potatoes were diced I a cream sauce and put on a puff pastry. The creaminess of the potatoes and the buttery taste of the pastry were excellent. I loved the cipolini. Overall the dish was perfect and hope it stays around for a while.

Tracy O'Grady developed her miniature rack of pork from looking for a unique cut of pork, and it sounds like she'll keep the pork chops around for a while. Click for WashingtonPost article.

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I like Willow. Please don't take my post as an insult here, but can they get a new person to write their menus that has a little more creativity?!

Currently on the lunch menu are:

Willow "Fritto Misto" Platter

Willow Caesar Salad with Mustard and Herb Crusted Chicken

Hickory Smoked Double Willow Burger

...and of course a flatbread called the "Willow".

I don't understand the need to repeat the name of the restaurant so often on the menu. Does it strike anyone else as being unnecessary?

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I've been spending a lot of time enjoying the wine-by-the-glass list compiled by Willow's excellent young somellier Alison Christ, but after being guilt-tripped by the bartender for never having any food (not true I've recently had several lunches there), I decided to order dinner last night. I will say what I've said before about Willow -- it just keeps getting better and better. I ordered the crispy duck two ways which includes a duck leg confit with a whole lot of rich meat plus the delectable crusty skin, and a generous serving of succulent breast with a duck jus. Resting underneath this rich offering of protein (and fat :lol: ) is a pouch of pumpkin risotto -- creamy and savory. I finished off the repast with a slice of the "cake of the day" a chocolate raspberry layer cake every bit up to snuff from the oven of Kate Jansen. All accompanied by a delicious Givry Chambertin which is on the wine-by-the-glass list.

Go now!

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I'm in Ballston this week taking an end-of-year training class, and haven't been to the neighborhood lately so this was a perfect time for lunch at Willow.

Sat at the bar, & enjoyed a nice conversation w/ Alison who was behind the bar. I ordered a medium-rare Hickory Smoked Double Willow Burger [2 patties, 8 oz. total] with Caramelized Onions, Red Wine Mushrooms and Havarti and includes Hickory BBQ sauce on the side and a nice amount of wedge potato fries. Deee-lish and served at a perfect medium-rare temp. I forgot how much I enjoy the food here. Had a nice glass of 2005 Ribera del Duero to accompany the meal.

Might come back on Friday to try something else!

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