This city is synonymous with food and good restaurants. People visit just to eat and it is truly a treat to be in San Francisco. It is home to some of America’s “Best Restaurants” and my main purpose for this trip was to judge Cathay Pacific’s Noodles of Asia contest, but I couldn’t help but to extend my stay…
I got to drive the boat, have spot prawn sashimi for breakfast, kiss a live octopus, and then eat one cooked 5 ways for lunch… next to the 24 lbs of spot prawns we caught that morning. And between the docking of the boat and lunch I got to see a mother goose hatch her eggs! Last Saturday was hard to beat.
Working with the highest quality ingredients is already half his work done, but to be innovative yet respectful of each ingredient is no easy task. Blaine creates a story through presentation, aromas and garnishes, and the menu really sings in tune with the season. He delivers a memorable dining experience.
There is only one Chef’s Tasting Menu and they space out the orders and it feels like they are cooking just for you. This is small scale cooking so there is little room for error. They do have front of the house staff, but often it was the cooks, chefs and Blaine himself coming out to serve dishes.
It is one of the most non-pretentious fine dining experiences I’ve had, and the quaint atmosphere makes it even more memorable than the perfect dinner time sunset and waterfront view. It is impressive to see an unassuming tiny island pull off a dining experience as interactive and sophisticated as this.
Not every meal has to be “the best meal of my life”, but when I can see a chef’s culinary vision I feel as though he has succeeded. Of course it still has to be good, but that’s not a problem for Blaine. Course by course I got a clear understanding of what he was trying to do and showcase. It was simply the bountiful harvest of Lummi Island.
I’m not first to discover this hidden gem, but for many it still remains unknown. The New York Times called The Willows Inn one of the “Top 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride” in 2011, and Lonely Planet called it one of the “Top 10 US Travel Destinations for 2013″. This is a culinary destination.
It’s protein heavy or “meat-centric” and prides itself on sustainable and local whole-animal cookery. I definitely appreciate it for pushing boundaries in Vancouver’s culinary scene and they do it right by promoting sustainable meats and seafood. It has a casual and cool vibe that matches the food.