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Willow - Chef Tracy O'Grady


Jmahl
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Traveling to D.C. area this week. Just read in Food Arts that Tracy O'Grady with her husband and partner have opened her own place, Willow, in Arlington.

Does anyone have any comments?

You may remember that Chef O'Grady was the U.S. competitor in the 2001 Bocuse d' Or.

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm surprised that no one has commented on Willow yet. I've been to dinner there twice -- once in the restaurant and once in the bar -- both times on Saturday evening.

Obviously, the restaurant is still new and is working out some kinks, but it already seems very popular -- booked solid both times I was there. My one observation is that they really need to change the menu -- it was exactly the same on both occasions -- even one additional daily special would be welcome, since the selection of entrees is very limited. Overall, the quality of the food was very good. The appetizers presented more interesting choices -- really nice, light gnocchi baked in a creamy casserole with shrimp, and ravioli of veal cheeks or short ribs were amazing. The ceasar salad had a nice hint of lemon -- maybe lemon olive oil -- and white anchovies, not the kind out of a can. Corn chowder with a tiny crab cake was rich and satisfying. The entrees were far less interesting. One dish described as rack of pork turned out to be something resembling a breaded pork chop, and it was overcooked. Bacon crusted salmon, on the other hand, was cooked perfectly and very flavorful, although the cauliflower au gratin that accompanied it was slightly watery only a little bland. The desserts were fabulous -- the napoleon of tiramisu, in particular, was delicious.

The flatbreads looked very good, but we didn't try them. They look great to split among 4 or 6 people, but the appetizers were too alluring. The flatbreads also seem a little out of place on the dinner menu, since I really had the impression that the restaurant is trying to be slightly more formal, and flatbread seemed more like something you would find in a more neighborhoody, casual place.

Service varied on both occasions. The first time, in the dining room, we never got any bread until we asked, and even then, it didn't arrive until after the first course had been cleared. And it was disappointing, because we missed out on soaking up some of the delicious sauces. The second time, in the bar, the service was extremely attentive until the bar started to get crowded. We were given an amuse bouche of hummus, cheese straws and some flatbread, which was all very tasty. Bread was brought without having to ask for it.

The bar seemed very convivial, and it was fun eating there, although the tables are a little small. The dining room atmosphere and decor is a little reminiscent of a mid-level hotel (think Hilton or Sheraton), because the carpet and chairs seem a little institutional, but the small private room tucked away in the back looks very cozy.

I hope they succeed -- I will go there again. That area needs a good restaurant, and Tracy has a great reputation. But I have to say that the other "newer" restaurant in that general area that I like is Tallulah, and right now I think Tallulah is better in terms of the menu offerings, wine list and pricing. Willow seems to be positioning itself as more upscale than Tallulah, but for the price, I would like to see a greater selection of things to choose from the menu and more interesting entrees with more creative garnishes. It really seemed like the appetizers and desserts were far more creative than the entrees, and the entrees were designed to be "safe" choices for inexperienced diners. I think they can do better than that.

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  • 1 year later...

What happened to Willow? Is it still in business? I hope so.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Willow is still in business. I've had two very nice meals there in the past six months. I always think that fish is the true test of a restaurant ... harder to make good fish than good beef, pork, etc. On both recent visits to Willow, I ordered fish and was served a silky piece of halibut, beautifully cooked. OK, halibut may be one of the easier fishes to prepare, but still...the salads were perfectly fresh and lightly dressed, the vegetables were fine, and the desserts very enjoyable. I have read the comments about Willow on other boards, including our local DC area board, and I haven't observed any of the flaws that others have (such as excessive use of lemon). I would definitely recommend it, though admittedly, it wouldn't be my first choice but that's only because there are so many new places I want to try before returning to other places. We don't live in that area, but I have to go over there for business occasionally, and I always try to use it as an excuse to have lunch or dinner there.

FYI, here's their website: http://www.willowva.com/

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Thanks Ellen:

I was concerned when their website was not functioning. At least the old site that I had saved.

Thanks again.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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