Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar
403 Healdsburg Ave.
Latin and East Coast-inspired seafood
Lunch and dinner Tues.-Sun.
Small plates: $8-$14
Full bar, good wine list
Walk into Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar, and you’ll notice its open, easygoing feeling immediately. Decorated with a decidedly Caribbean flair (complete with reggae on the sound system), the space features a long bar, a dual-level dining area (with semi-private booths) and a large outside patio.
The fun started with some specialty cocktails, of which there are many to choose. We tried a few, and the tangy, bright, blood orange martini and the smooth, light, cucumber-infused gin martini were our favorites.
Willi’s menu is made up of small plates meant to be shared. We started with the chef’s crudo of the day which, in this case, was thin-sliced fresh salmon with chili oil (yes, it had a kick) and topped with whole fermented small black beans. The hamachi ceviche was milder, and this light dish came with thin-sliced red and green peppers for color and texture. The tuna tartare was the stand-out of the three. Cut into cubes, it was mixed with peppers, chopped cashews, ginger and coconut milk (not sweet) that brought all the flavors together.
When the seared ahi arrived, we could smell the truffled soy sauce right off the bat. A dark and rich-flavored dish, it came with fresh avocado, thin-sliced cucumber, sprouts and a hint of ginger, all of which created a gentle balance of earth and greens.
The spinach salad was served in a wooden bowl, tossed with warm bacon dressing and jazzed up with crumbled goat cheese, thick chunks of bacon and crunchy almonds. After that, we enjoyed some calamari, which was another olfactory delight before it even hit the taste buds. Lightly breaded and flash fried, it came with a mildly hot orange chili gremolata. The calamari was also incredibly tender and absolutely delightful.
The warm Maine lobster roll was the comfort food lover’s dream. Served on a fresh, soft, lightly toasted roll, it had large chunks of lobster and was bathed in garlic butter. Shredded greens and a hint of fennel added some texture to the delicious and filling dish.
After that we had the bacon-wrapped scallops with whole pumpkin seeds and cilantro pesto. Served on skewers with spicy coleslaw (it worked great alongside the rich sauce), the three large scallops were tender and moist.
Last came the almond crusted blue nose sea bass (very tender) with lemon caper butter and thin-sliced, roasted almonds. Served over sautéed spinach, it was full-flavored and lovely.
Having completely stuffed ourselves, we hardly had room for dessert—but somehow managed to share Bev’s mudslide milkshake, made with vanilla ice cream, Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream (and the flavors came right through). It was thick, had a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and came with two cherry chocolate cookies.
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