2/18/2013 10:02:00 AM

The Best Thing We Ate Last Night: Black Bass at Willow Road

Willow Road's black bass
On what seemed like the coldest, most blustery night this winter, we were looking forward to the cozy comfort food of Willow Road, the new American restaurant that slipped into the old John Dory space between Colicchio & Sons and Del Posto. And boy, did it deliver, warming the cockles of the soul with a crusty, steaming beef pot pie, stuffed with saucy short ribs, carrots and potatoes; a honey-slicked fried chicken, with sharp jerk spices balancing the sweet coating; and a fennel sausage-laced mac and cheese.

Though we craved comfort, the knockout dish was on the lighter side of the menu, however: wild black bass “en papillote,” a moist, luscious filet steamed in parchment, tinged with perky black pepper and infused with ginger juice. It sat on a bed of “hand-harvested” wild rice from Minnesota, a nod to executive chef Todd MacDonald and chef de cuisine Grayson Schmitz’s Midwestern roots. Paired with a spicy cocktail, like the Romeo Blue, a powerful blend of tequila, agave, jalapeno, lime and cilantro, we were nice and toasty before braving the chill once again. Best of all, we came in search of hearty home cooking, but left with the lingering flavor of a dish that can only be delivered by a truly accomplished kitchen.

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