Sunday, August 20, 2006

Willow Wood Restaurant -- Graton, CA

This past winter I went to Willow Wood's upscale sister, Underwood Restaurant, directly across the street in downtown Graton. My late friend Jon really wanted to go to Willow Wood but it was closed for remodeling so... Underwood's food was tasty and well presented but also expensive, with entrees in the $20 plus range.

To do something special for Jon's parents we took them out to Willow Wood which has been open for a few months now. I'd been there for a breakfast meeting but didn't eat or really look at the menu but had an idea that things had changed. The interior of the once mildly funky place had been opened up. The tables now match, as do the chairs. The interesting items for sale are relegated to a small, unobtrusive wall. Local art hangs on brightened up walls. And the menu has also changed.

They still offer their wonderful black bean soup by the cup or the bowl. But I guess that somehow they needed to pay for the fancy upgrade and the prices have gone up. And alas, to my husband's dismay, the hamburger is not on the dinner menu.

There were 5 of us for dinner and the tab was $125 and my husband anad I ordered sandwiches. Our son ate the black bean soup and Ceasar salad. Jon's mom ate lemon crab risotto (which they need a good cooking lesson about) and Jon's dad had a half roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed greens. We also shared an antipasto plate which was an ample appetizer (filled with cheese and meat).

I had visions of an opulent eggplant sandwich but that's not what I got for $10+. A small piece of artisan bread had been cut in half. Inside was one small slice of eggplant, a few crumbles of goat cheese, a nice slice of freshly roasted red pepper and that was it because I requested the very fatty aioli be put on the side. With my sandwich was an ample amount of very, tasty red potato salad with a viniagrette dressing. There were a couple of cornichons on the plate which were a nice accompaniment.

I cannot speak much about my husband's turkey and Swiss sandwich but he was also disappointed in the size of it. Shane had so much Ceasar salad that he needed more dressing and could not finish all the greens. It was huge and very pretty with the whole inner leaves of romaine lettuce.

The risotto didn't look very good at first glance with the rice grains not looking very congealed. First I thought that they mistakenly used long grain rice but it must have been the crab that I saw. Jackie said that she really didn't like it so I tasted it and the risotto was flat and without body (which is to me a crime at almost $20).

The desserts fared much better with a fruit and pastry dessert in a small dish topped with vanilla ice cream (and 4 spoons) and a coconut creme brulee, definitely disappearing. I tasted one bite of the fruit which was fresh and delicious but cannot directly comment on the creme brulee which Shane easily and happily ate.

This visit to Willow Wood was disappointing and we won't be back any time soon. On a scale of 1 to 10 forks, Willow Wood gets a 6.

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