Walla Walla does have quite a bit going for it, be it their restaurant scene or, obviously, their wine scene. One spot that particularly impressed us, was Whitehouse-Crawford, a restaurant located in a nicely restored downtown planing mill. It has a great vibe, and, more importantly, a menu to match it.
Really, you can eat your way through every category on the menu here, and come out of it feeling good about yourself.
Going from the beginning, the Chinese pork belly buns is a great starting point. The pork has a mouth-tingling kick to it, which goes well with the hoison sauce. It's all wrapped in some incredibly soft buns, which, somewhat impressively, do not leak the juices from the meat or pickles.
It's not a big dish either, and it's a good indicator of things to come.
Of the salads, the warm frisee impressed. The duck liver vinaigrette has a subtle flavor, with the poached egg almost taking the job as a dressing. The bacon, too, is very good. I don't necessarily find many salads mind-blowing, but this one definitely holds its own.
As far as entrees go, I was particularly impressed with the duck. The breast and leg come roasted, and are served in a coriander jus. Both are perfectly tender, cooked to a medium-rare doneness.
It is not a particularly complex dish, really, and that is really the beauty of it. The clean flavors of a peppered duck with the deeper flavors of the jus, that should be all you need. And the accompanying kumquat salad rounds the dish out nicely.
For me, the only let down was the gnocchi. The flavors are undoubtedly good -- with a beef cheek ragu and all -- but the dumplings, during our visit, were too mushy for my liking. Flavorful, but just a bit too overcooked.
Finally, the house-made salted caramel ice cream is a good way to round out the meal. It might be hard to screw up that kind of dessert, but this ice cream actually makes it feel like you are sucking on a salted caramel. That's pretty impressive.
In fact, Walla Walla's restaurant scene is pretty impressive. It's not wine-tourist-good -- you know, good, but generic; generic, but good -- just simply good in its own right. You can, of course, get some impressive wines with your meals -- Whitehouse-Crawford has a great list -- but the food alone is really worth the short drive from Spokane alone.
And definitely stop by Whitehouse-Crawford if you go. Our experience was a happy one.