Friday, September 9, 2011


Eastside Road, September 9, 2011—
A COUPLE OF FRIENDS — good friends — drove up from Berkeley today to take us out to lunch in town, our choice of restaurant. I had one idea, someone else another. We settled on Willi's, always dependable.
The place has grown since last time we visited: one of the tourist shops, a boutique specializing in crystals and rocks — who needs crystals and rocks? — finally moved out, and the next-door Willi's Sea Food was suddenly twice as big. The new dining room / bar looks nice enough, but we four wanted to talk, impossible indoors; besides, it was a nice day. We sat on the familiar patio.

Let's see. Four of us, right? Let's start with a dozen oysters, oh well, make it a dozen and a half: six each of Kumamotos, Walker Creeks, and Miyagi. After all, we've finally entered a month with an “R” in its name. After that, the sole almandine at the left there, and then with it a couple of lobster rolls, and a tray of squid circlets, and did someone say ceviche? and what about those green beans?

The Miyagi were amazing: clean, bright, fresh, chewy, everything you'd want from an oyster on the half shell. The Walker Creeks not far behind. I liked the ceviche a lot; but had to decline the lobster roll — arthropods are not my thing. (Lindsey said it was terrific, the best thing on the table. Damn.)

Sole almandine always seems to me the perfect expression of old-style French cuisine, the kind of thing you knew was soigné, sophisticated, genteel. This was Petrale sole, and had enough spice to it to be distinctly Californio, not French. It had wilted spinach on the side, too, so of course I liked it. Only the green beans — haricots verts, in fact — disappointed me: bland, needing salt, with unnecessary cashews and irrelevant goat cheese on the side. I crumbled some of the spicy oyster crackers that came with the ceviche over them, though, and they glowed.

I prefer the Willi's down toward Santa Rosa, with its north-Africa-oriented menu (at least as I remember it, admittedly from at least a couple of years ago). We go now and then to another of the places in this local chain, Monti's; most recently for goat. And there's a steak-house. Maybe they're spreading themselves too thin; but they're still okay by me.
Rosé, Belleruche (Côtes du Rhône), 2010 (fresh, a little flinty, serviceable, refreshing)
Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.9191

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