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Willem's on Main: Local foods enhanced by European creativity

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Willem's on Main has quickly become Vancouver's go-to restaurant for fine dining. Willem Paul Klitsie, once chef and owner of Portland's popular Fratelli restaurant in the Pearl District, opened Willem's in the heart of Vancouver's downtown late last year.

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Willem's on Main offers Northwest cuisine with French and Italian influences in their 49 seat dining room. And the seats are rather interesting. Those in the forward area of the restaurant are renovated theater seats from Vancouver's historic Kiggins Theater, just up the street. Pair the interesting seating with the timber round tables, and you have a decidedly Northwest look.

Chef Klitsie continues his dedication to the Northwest by purchasing locally sourced foods and wines. His use of local foods as the base for his creative meals is what will draw me to return. No matter which delightful sauce is created in that kitchen, the taste of good food from local farms comes through.

The evening we dined at Willem's we arrived early. Choosing a seat in the window area gave us a chance to watch the bustle of the street and the restaurant. Even at the early hour of 5 p.m. on a week night things were hopping. A large group of women gathered for a special meal, a foursome of men, sat toward the back, perhaps discussing business. And, after we were seated more twosomes arrived. Even though the restaurant is small, the table configurations allow for a variety of seating options. And even with conversation, it doesn't seem noisy.

We began with a glass of Washington wine. The wine list was adequate and we were pleased to see local wineries featured. Our server was able to fill us in on the wine and the location of both the grapes and the winery.

For appetizers we shared both the bruschetta and the potato gnocchi with a delightful light sauce. And after that, our server brought some warm bread from a Vancouver bakery. It was a hearty, and delicious start. I especially liked the gnocchi and the smoky taste of the tomatoes (smoked on premises). I was beginning to appreciate Chef Klitsie's skill with sauces.

We chose to share a wild greens salad which proved to have notable and diverse flavors. So we asked our server about the greens. We found out that they were from Wildside Forest Farm and that some of the greens were actually foraged from the woods. Amazingly fresh.

Between courses we watched the tall Chef Klitsie working in the small kitchen. He was very busy, working pretty much alone that night, yet everything was created after being ordered and everything coming from the kitchen smelled wonderful.

The entrees were pan seared Draper Valley Farms chicken breast over polenta and a delightful spatzle dish with asparagus, Neusky bacon and bleu cheese cream, both served in bowls. All dishes were presented in an attractive manner which featured the foods. The hot dishes arrived steaming... immediately out of the kitchen.

As the evening drew to a close we shared a creamy chocolate dessert crepe... very rich and light.

The menu at Willem's will change with seasonal offerings from local purveyors which is why I certainly will return often. The use of local foods as a base for Chef Klitsie's culinary artistry is why I recommend Willem's if you are visiting Vancouver or if you are a local looking for fine dining. The Northwest cuisine with European sauces and a bit of Dutch heritage thrown in for good measure makes Willem's unique.

Brunch is a recent addition to the offerings at Willem's and is worth a visit. Brunch is served on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The wait staff is informed and efficient and the decor warm and inviting. I am pleased to have Willem's on Main as an option in downtown Vancouver.

Address: 907 Main Street, Vancouver WA
Reservations: 360.258.0989

Portland Sustainable Foods Writer Review
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Northwest Sustainable Foods

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Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.