100 Best Restaurants 2010: Willow

No. 39: Willow

Cuisine: Briny scallops get a hit of sweetness from a dice of butternut squash. Creamy-sweet smoked tomato bisque goes tart and grainy with a zesty olive tapenade. Chef Tracy O’Grady plays with flavor and texture on her seafood-centric menu, and more often than not her pairings come off well. Her years with Bob Kinkead have also made her a master fryer; shrimp, scallops, and sweetbreads are all done to a golden turn.

Mood: This sprawling space, with its dramatic drapes and oversize burgundy lamp shades, is more fun when full; the bar/lounge has an intimate vibe.

Best for: After-work get-togethers and dinner with gal pals—the rooms are spacious, and the menu abounds in high/low options.

Best dishes: Crisp fried veal sweetbreads; lobster agnolotti filled with sizable chunks of lobster and berthed on a “butter” of lobster roe and sherry; lemony fried chicken; flatbread pizzas, including the signature Willow, with fontina, thyme, lemon, and truffle essence; gorgeous farm lettuces with shaved Manchego and citrusy sherry dressing; a perfect-for-sharing fisherman’s platter with fried shrimp, scallops, lobster, calamari, pickled fennel, and spiked rémoulade; seared day-boat scallops with butternut squash two ways, diced and in ravioli.

Insider tips: Desserts have been disappointing lately, and the wine list is full of underwhelming picks. When making a reservation, ask to be seated in the main dining room; the two annexes, often used for private events, feel B-list.

Service: ••½

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Moderate to expensive.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.