Restaurant News & Reviews

Top Dish: Savor duck, pork shoulder, sausage cassoulet at Eat

Cassoulet Duck Confit at Eat Restaurant and Bar in Bellingham
Cassoulet Duck Confit at Eat Restaurant and Bar in Bellingham krelyea@bhamherald.com

Name: Eat Restaurant and Bar.

Location: 1200 Cornwall Ave., at East Chestnut Street in Bellingham. Serving brunch, lunch and dinner. 360-306-8137, on Facebook and at 4u2eat.com.

Quick bite: Eat has garnered some buzz since opening Jan. 29 in the space once occupied by the Shrimp Shack and the Thai restaurant I & Wife, which didn’t last long.

The bistro is operated by an ownership group that includes Eric Truglas and Dominique Faury, both French-born chefs. So it makes sense that the people behind Eat say they’re going for an American farm-to-table restaurant with a French twist. The eatery seems to be hitting its mark, judging by how busy it’s been.

I stopped in for dinner one recent evening, ducking out of the rain and wind into a warm space with high ceilings, burnt-orange walls and the thrum of conversations. I spied Truglas, who resembles the late actor James Gandolfini, near the bar where I was sitting and scanning the blackboards while deciding whether to order beer, wine or a cocktail.

I eventually picked a drink called The Crooner for $6.50. Made of ginger beer, lime juice and spiced rum, the cocktail was poured over ice and served in a Moscow mule mug, which is fitting since it’s a variation on that classic drink. Sweet and refreshing, The Crooner evoked thoughts of sandy beaches, sun and vacation — especially when sipped while listening to what sounded like Latin jazz coming from the speakers.

But I was all about the warmth of comfort food that night and went with the cassoulet Duck Confit for $19. This white bean and meat stew, which began as peasant food, is an iconic dish of southwest France and is so beloved that exactly where it started is said to be fiercely debated.

Eat’s version is made with cannellini beans, pork shoulder, duck confit and Toulouse sausage. I’m not sure what’s American about this classic French dish — I guess it could be a version of our franks and beans — but I don’t care.

Served in a bowl with a duck leg and thigh on top of the cannellini, Eat’s cassoulet was deeply satisfying with its firm beans, garlic flavor including from the sausage, hint of rosemary and bit of brightness from the tomatoes.

I pulled up the duck leg and rooted underneath for the pork shoulder, biting into and savoring the fatty and tender chunks of meat. The duck was hearty and had the kind of deeper flavor that makes dark meat so much more satisfying than, say, chicken breast, but I wish it was more tender overall.

Eat’s cassoulet is a generous portion of food and you’ll be glad for that because, like most stews, it tastes even better the next day when its flavors deepen.

Two friends joined me part-way through the meal, and we shared the Coconut Tapioca Pudding dessert for $7. The pudding was topped by passionfruit gelee, choco crispies, and honey-cayenne cashews — all served in a clear glass.

There was a lot going on with this dessert, a bit too much.

I loved the bold, citrusy flavors of the passionfruit playing off the coconut richness of the tapioca pudding. I was distracted by the bites of perfumy thyme that were sprinkled in as the garnish. One of my friends liked the thyme and the choco crispies, which resembled twigs of chocolate, but said the spicy cayenne blew out her tastebuds and she couldn’t taste the coconut. The other friend said the dessert was too complicated for her palate, though she did gleefully describe the choco crispies as “dark chocolate gourmet Krackel.”

I expect this to be the first of a number of forays into Eat. My stomach is set on the Poutine Confit Chicken Gizzards as well as the Parisian Grass-Fed Beef Burger, which looks like Eat’s version of a mushroom cheeseburger.

Ambiance: Comfortable and casual, though you can dress up if you want. The staff is friendly and helpful, at least my server was.

Got suggestions for tasty tidbits in Whatcom County or an eatery known for a particular dish? Send them to Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, krelyea@bhamherald.com, @kierelyea

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