If you’ve never heard of Euro-Japanese cuisine, you are not alone.
This fare can be summed up as western grub made with a Japanese interpretation. But these words fall woefully short when it comes to defining the food at Mukilteo’s new Euro-Japanese restaurant, Cafe Soleil.
To dig deeper into the meaning, a visit to the restaurant is a must. A thorough investigation would involve ordering several dishes because then you’d walk away from the table smarter, sated and smiling after having one of the best dining experiences you’ve had in a long time.
The food at Cafe Soleil is as delicious as it is delightfully presented, and the items to choose from pack a lengthy menu of organic and natural-based foods with no added chemicals.
And any notions you had about Japanese food not filling you up you can throw down the dumbwaiter. The food here is plentiful and reasonably priced.
My friend and I ordered as much as we could eat without hurting ourselves, including a few beers, dessert and coffee, and still we couldn’t get the bill over $100.
Let’s break this down for you.
Cafe Soleil has a lunch menu, a dinner menu and a dinner tapas menu. My friend and I ordered exclusively from the tapas menu.
Actually, before we even ordered, our extremely attentive and helpful — though not intrusive — waitress brought us a complimentary plate of crisp fried peppery skin ($3), which were flash-fried potato skins accented with black pepper and other seasonings that went swell with my Sapporo beer.
I started with an order of garlic edamame ($4), on the menu as a Cafe Soleil original that I would call soy beans with an attitude. My friend started with the spider rolls ($7.5), a combination tempura soft shell crab, cucumber and avocado.
The spider rolls are among the selection of sushi rolls the restaurant recently added to its menu because of popular demand, though Cafe Soleil’s owner Junji Ichikawa told another paper that the restaurant’s focus remains the western foods with a Japanese flair.
As we proceeded through the rolls, my friend and I chose another round of plates starting with the Japanese omelet with freshwater barbecued eel ($7). The omelet was served in a long, skinny white platter drizzled lightly with a sauce that was sweet like maple syrup. The egg was delicate and paired well with the slightly spicy eel.
My friend ordered the deep fried chicken karaage ($6). The lightly fried batter kept the moistness of these marinated pieces of chicken trapped so each bite was juicy. I am now a convert to these Japanese-style chicken nuggets.
Though our tummies were filling fast, my friend said she had to try the chef’s “ultimate signature dish”: kasu marinated lamb chop ($15). This rack of lamb was oven roasted and steeped in the kasu, a sake-based marinade traditionally reserved for fish but boldly used here, with mouth-watering results.
We were getting full and there was so much left to try, such as the poutine, French fries topped with curry sauce and melted mozzarella cheese ($6), or, off the dinner menu, the stewed hamburg steak with deep fried prawns ($16), which is described as a finely minced blend of beef and pork, hand-patted and slowly cooked in Hayashi sauce.
Though intrigued, we also didn’t try any of the pasta dishes such as linguine bacon marinara or penne cream chicken ($13 each).
We missed a lot but were so grateful for dessert.
Turns out Ichikawa co-owns the 20-seat Cafe Soleil with chef Shinchi Nakagawa, who studied French cooking in Japan and created quite a reputation for himself making desserts while at Bellevue’s Ginza restaurant.
Nakagawa, who acts as Cafe Soleil’s executive chef, crafted a refreshing pear compote resting atop raspberry ice cream. We also succumbed to the moki sponge cake. Here the chef combined rice flour and green tea to create an iridescent cake that exuded a subtle sweetness, topped with red bean paste.
Downing our dessert with aromatic Stumptown Coffee from Portland, Ore., poured from a French press, my friend and I relaxed and took in the tall ceilings, soft lighting and candles and the open kitchen.
We had begun our education in Euro-Japanese but we had a long way to go. So we’d have to return to Cafe Soleil for some more research. It would be best to bring a group of four or six so we could all try more dishes. And though the restaurant isn’t easy to find, it’s worth turning the car around for. Can you say, “field trip”?
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.
9999 Harbour Place, Suite 105, Mukilteo; 425-493-1847; www.cafe-soleil.net
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays through Fridays; 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Price range: Moderate
Alcohol: Wine and beer
Credit cards: accepted