Dinner at Willows Inn was incredible. It started with some snacks on the deck before moving into the restaurant for the main part of the meal. Everyone from the kitchen brought out dishes which gave us a great opportunity to discuss the food and ask questions about cooking techniques. Particularly baffling was the black cod doughnut, the fish was amazingly succulent and moist while the doughnut was light and airy. The cook we asked said it took them close to three weeks to perfect it for service, sad to think how much was potentially wasted in the pursuit of perfection unless the staff got to eat them.
We got to talk to Chef Wetzel a fair bit throughout the meal and talked about places we’ve eaten and compared notes. He ate at Alinea recently and loved it, while I said I was disappointed since two of the dishes were nothing special. We both agreed that it and many other fine dining establishments are too stuffy and he strives for a more fun atmosphere. There was rock/electronic music playing, you could walk through the kitchen to get to the restroom, there was butcher paper instead of tablecloths, and most importantly the dress code was very casual. I told him that he needs to make it to Japan to try a real Kaiseki meal since he strives to provide a similar experience serving the freshest ingredients the island has to offer and the dishes were works of art.
The best part of staying at the inn was being able to stumble back to the room in less than a minute and fall into bed.