Hanna Raskin ventures north to Willows Inn for a taste of chef Blaine Wetzel's "wild, woodsy world, saturated with romanticism and reverence for the region's bounty." Despite earning heaps of praise and buzz when Wetzel joined the inn from Rene Redzepi's famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Willows is an "ego-free" place, "where cooks tromp down from the garden with plastic bagfuls of sorrel and watercress and are expected to help serve the dishes they create." The kitchen brings out several courses of "snacks" before dinner, a terminology "akin to referring to a Porsche as a jalopy.
Raskin even addresses the similarities to Wetzel's renowned former boss, and the question of whether the restaurant is "peddling secondhand genius":
The food at Willows Inn isn't a forgery: Wetzel trained with Redzepi, and doesn't attempt to hide his indebtedness. For all the talk of drawing on local resources, the creativity at Willows Inn is largely imported, a distinction that probably doesn't unsettle diners who can't afford to fly to Copenhagen to sample Wetzel's inspiration.
It's perhaps not surprising that at 25, Wetzel is more likely to borrow than steal. He still has many, many years in which to fashion a style of his own. Until then, his guests will have to make do with one of the finest meals they're ever likely to eat in the Pacific Northwest
Courses include spot prawns "huddled on the edge of an earthenware plate dotted with oyster emulsion and powdered seaweed," and a "King salmon crescendo" with "a spun sugar–like skin that plays off beads of mustard seeds and ghostly discs of turnips." It's a riveting celebration of the seasons and the land." [Seattle Weekly]
Hugo Kugiya says that in Redmond, "the most distinctive Indian restaurant and the most distinctive Chinese restaurant in town happen to be one and the same," the local outpost of the Inchin's Bamboo Garden chain. This "Indian-American approximation of P.F. Chang's" caters to diners who grew up with Indian-influenced Chinese food and "can’t be satisfied by going to a Chinese restaurant that caters to Chinese immigrants or Americans of an older generation weaned on sweet and sour pork, egg rolls, and egg foo young." Dishes are "spicy, but not fiery hot," with Halal meat and plenty of Hindu-friendly vegetarian dishes. There are "a few subtle Indian twists to familiar classics," but "most of the spices and flavors we associate with Indian cooking are entirely absent." [Crosscut]
Tan Vinh happy hours at The Capital Grille, where the $6 cocktail list is "as good a deal as any in downtown." At two for $6, sliders aren't cheap, but they are deluxe: the menu includes lobster and Dungeness crab sliders; mini lobster salad on a toasted brioche bun, and "one of the city's best mini-cheeseburgers." [Seattle Times]
In The Stranger, Megan Seling says Japanese-influenced bakery Cafe de Lion is an "extra-elegant, French-inspired version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory." Almond flour is ground in-house, as is the powdered food coloring concocted from "finely ground dried fruit." One favorite dessert centers on Hoji, a Japanese roasted green tea. Baker and co-owner Tomoyo Miura "pairs a Hoji-flavored mousse with a magically rich yet weightless chocolate mousse, stacking them in a short tower atop a crunchy almond cookie." [Stranger]
Bonus Stranger action: Bethany Jean Clement visits new bar Cure, and proclaims that the act of watching physical exertion go down in Cal Anderson Park while drinking rosé is "very satisfying." The bar "wins the prize for Place in a New Ground-Floor Condo Space That Feels Least Like It's in a New Ground-Floor Condo Space." When it comes to the meats and cheeses, "quality is high, but your bill might be, too; it's not hard to spend $35 per person and still feel like you need some dinner." [Stranger]