Mixing earth, wind, and fire can result in many things: a musical supergroup, three-fifths of the Planeteers, or one exquisite restaurant experience. Today's earthy fine dining deal lets you dine finely while surrounded by trees: for $20, you get $40 worth of contemporary American cuisine and drinks at Willow. Your Groupon is good Sunday through Thursday.
Willow's atmosphere walks the line between sophistication and accessibility, and chef/owner Michael Rudman's lunch and dinner menus follow suit by politely one-upping their diners' every expectation via innovative dishes and dashing drinks. The restaurant's signature dish, lump crab cakes, comes blissfully broiled and drizzled with a tangy red onion caper sauce and lemon-pepper asparagus ($27 as a dinner entree). Other favorites include the sautéed Alaskan halibut served on braised fennel with tomatoes that have been slow-cooked overnight and a cabernet wine sauce ($24). There are also a few vegetarian dishes offered, such as the Japanese pumpkin ravioli topped with sage, cabbage, pine nuts, and shaved parmesan ($15). If you're dining with the family, there is a special kids' menu. If not, there is a special adult martini menu (featuring a more complicated crayon maze) and adult wine menu to artfully accompany plates and lubricate parched conversations.
Willow incorporates the natural splendor surrounding the establishment into more than just its name. Large, windowed walls and surrounding willows, coupled with the interior's earth-tone paint job, fireplaces, and intricate ironwork gently baste the restaurant in eye gravy. The restaurant is large enough to seat 300, but the experience is kept cozy by breaking up the seating into nine distinct dining rooms. Feast with a gaggle in the communal Soc Room, pull up a chair to the outdoors with the scenic views of the Woods Room, or sit amidst the outdoors on the outdoor patio. Willow's woodsy and comfortable aura makes it perfect for date night or a refreshingly Bunco-free social escape with the neighborhood crew.
Reservations strongly recommended.
- Pan-seared cod emphasized a Mediterranean richness of flavor. Intensely sweet roasted roma tomatoes, briny caperberries and tender calamari ensured that every bite was interesting. A shallow pool of tomato broth kept the fish moist and hinted at a play on fish soup or stew…The cocktail list, however, was a pleasant sight on the main menu -- a sign that the restaurant takes cocktails seriously. The use of fresh juices is a great start, and the elderflower champagne cocktail with St. Germaine and pineapple juice is a lovely, balanced aperitif… – China Millman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Take the Ahi Tuna Pistachio ($24). Sushi-grade Ahi tuna is grilled deliciously rare under a crust of crushed pistachio nuts. Catch-your-breath hoisin wasabi garlic glaze zig-zags overtop. Tropical Rice Pilaf seemed the only way to go. A pilaf like no other, this one sports bits of pineapple and fresh coconut. An order of Half Muscovy Duck ($20) was crisply finished to a beautiful roasted and braised presentation in a mandarin orange Cointreau sauce. – Sally A. Quinn, Tribune-Review
- The food was wonderful and the service was fantastic. The meat was perfectly cooked and the dishes had good flavors that I would never think possible…The waitress was always there when we needed her, but not overbearing. She provided the type of service you expect from on upscale restaurant. – OpenTable.com user who dined on 12/24/2009