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“Refined Dining Through Naked Simplicity” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Willows Inn Restaurant

Willows Inn Restaurant
Certificate of Excellence
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special Occasion Dining, Romantic, View
Dining options: Dinner, Free Off-Street Parking, Free Wifi, Full Bar, Outdoor Seating, Parking Available, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Street Parking, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible, Wine and Beer
Description: One seating at 6:30pm each night features a preset tasting menu that is entirely fished, foraged, and farmed from or around Lummi Island.
New Westminster, Canada
Level Contributor
225 reviews
173 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 192 helpful votes
“Refined Dining Through Naked Simplicity”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 March 2014

As part of a weekend getaway, we spent a couple of nights at the Willows Inn as well as enjoying a meal in the restaurant. Situated right on the coast of Lummi Island, the Willows looks somewhat rustic like many country inns. It has a nice lodge-like feel complete with an outdoor porch and a fantastic view over the water. With a single seating each night, dinner guests collect in the open lobby/lounge to enjoy drinks before being called in for dinner.

With our cocktails we enjoyed some pre-dinner snacks that featured two kinds of oysters which were fresh and tasty. But once seated for dinner, the real meal began. Given that was only their second week open for the season, the menu was comprised of a large number of foraged items including wild dandelion roots, wilted nettles and kale. With the exception of one venison dish, seafood was the primary protein that night with dishes including mussels, scallops, salmon, halibut and spot prawns .

Several of the dishes were cooked outside over wood or smoked, an apparently vigorous and strangely satisfying production we could observe through the windows between courses. The pervasive theme of smoke began with the initial mussel snack , right through to the pear baked in embers. This elevated dishes with relatively simple ingredients, like shitake mushrooms, or alder smoked salmon to new heights with an amazing depth of flavour. But a skilled hand prevented these from becoming simply one note dishes and the subtle taste of the base ingredients was always respected and preserved. That's the key here - great product, cooked simply without obvious technical wizardry.

For those that keep score, there were seven 'snacks' and nine distinct 'main' courses. Of these, very few had a significant starch content, which was probably just as well given the sheer number of dishes. Later in the meal a basket of dark bread did appear, served with chicken drippings and butter, but that was pretty much it for anything remotely approaching heavy. Delicious all the same.

Not all courses were knockouts. The spot prawn dish could have used a more concentrated stock and the dandelion roots were challenging to say the least. But the meal worked as whole and you could see there was thought put into every dish in the progression. The wine pairings too were very well considered with selections like a Dundee Hills Pinot Noir really transforming a dish of venison, with lettuce and rye cracker, into a complete dish.

The open, windowed main room where we sat was nice and airy, with reasonably spaced tables and a nice use of candles. There is also another dining area adjacent to the bar, which looked at little dark and quite a bit smaller to me. Service was friendly and the pacing was excellent, with the tempo slowing down as we became progressively more stuffed. Some of the dishes were served by members of the considerable kitchen brigade which was also a nice touch.

If this restaurant was in certain parts of Europe, it's quite possible it would have at least a couple of Michelin stars by now, and certainly meets my definition of worth a special trip. We're lucky in that even though we have to cross an international border, the Willows Inn is only a pleasant 90 minute drive away. We will be back, in fact, we've already booked our return for the Fall.

I suspect little on the menu will be the same, but I'm sure the experience will be no less outstanding.

  • Visited March 2014
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Boh_1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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150 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    134
    8
    6
    1
    1
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
44 reviews
41 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Delightful evening with wonderful food and friends”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 24 March 2014 via mobile

Delighted with the new flavors of food that we tried, the kitchen and waitstaff are very creative and caring.
Very tasteful, relaxed, casual atmosphere, at the same time very professional!
We went for a country island getaway and came home refreshed.

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
Thank Trapper E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
54 reviews
29 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Beautiful spot”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 23 March 2014

Great views, great food, excellent service. Most of the food is locally sourced which makes it so much more flavorful.

Highly recommended.

  • Visited March 2014
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank pcorsano
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Vancouver, WA
Level Contributor
24 reviews
11 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“One of the finest dining experience I have ever had”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 January 2014

My wife and I stayed at the Inn and dined at their restaurant for our anniversary. I cannot express how much this experience is true culinary art. The ability to take a relatively limited amount of material for a locally sourced restaurant on a small island in the Puget Sound and generate such a wide variety of tasting experience was truly amazing.

  • Visited July 2013
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank FourJays
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Seattle
Level Contributor
3 reviews
“One of the best”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 November 2013

This is a place to just go with the flow. Don't pay too much attention to the menu, you'll get to that eventually but it will be interspersed with a dozen taste sensations including baked kale with brown butter and rye crumbs to sunflower root with sweet onion to dungeness crab in wild seaweed broth. The portions are just right for a good satisfying taste but not so much as to dull your taste buds and appetite. Impeccable service without being obtrusive. As "foodie" as you want to be, but not a problem if you're just one to enjoy. And enjoy we did!

  • Visited November 2013
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank JayneR
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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