LYNDEN - Cassoulet Café is bringing an unexpected and delightful touch of Old World dining to Hinote's Corner.
The café is tucked into a strip mall at the northwest corner of Hannegan and Pole roads, north of the Hannegan swerves and curves and south of Lynden. Proprietor Tiffany Hudson has warmed up a featureless commercial interior with a colorful fabric false ceiling and an amusing mélange of second-hand chairs.
The menu leans toward French, as the restaurant's name indicates, but there are varying Italian-style pasta dishes and Italian meatloaf, too, as well as unexpected and creative choices for salads, small plates and full meals.
Example: a roasted pumpkin salad, $8, featuring cubes of cooked pumpkin garnished with candied pumpkin seeds, cranberries, bleu cheese and sage emulsion. It was unusual and delicious, although I do wish they had come up with a word other than "emulsion" to describe the sage ingredient.
We also enjoyed a generous bowl of cream of wild mushroom soup, $6, made with crimini and chanterelles and Yukon gold potatoes, decorated with crème fraiche in a leafy pattern and topped with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves. It was a warm, satisfying start to a meal on a dreary winter night. I prefer some mushroom chunks in my soup; this one was pureed. But preferences may differ, and I did not regret ordering it - anything but.
Then we tried the steak frite, with grass-fed steak, lemony escarole, bleu cheese butter and a generous heap of well-executed house fries. This was a mighty good, mighty big steak for $19, with deft seasonings that provided a perfect setting for the meat.
Our other main course was the cassoulet, $25. One bite was enough to demonstrate why they named the café after it. This cassoulet is a hearty, richly seasoned bean stew laden with chunks of lamb, duck, sausage and bacon, topped with a crispy topping and a swirl of fresh basil puree.
The café also provides a decent selection of wines by the glass, and the wine list offers suggestions for pairing those wines with the dishes on the menu - a nice touch that should be more widely imitated.
One quibble: There was no bread. That seemed a bit odd for a restaurant like this.
I've heard a lot of good things about Cassoulet since its opening a few months ago. Based on our first visit, the buzz is understandable. These are nicely crafted meals at prices that are significantly less than other sophisticated restaurants around the county are charging.
Address: 6912 Hannegan Road, Lynden (northeast corner of Pole and Hannegan roads)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; dinner ends at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Entrée price range: $16-$25
Reach JOHN STARK at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2274.