By Gloria Glyer • Photography by Ron Schwager

Consider cavatappi pasta with spicy harissa creme. Or crispy Muscovy duck-leg confit with warm frisée salad. These are just two of the stars on the lunch menu at Cascades in Roseville.

Cascades had a bumpy ride last year. It opened to rave reviews last spring in a stylish strip mall on East Roseville Parkway, then quickly closed when the owners couldn’t make a go of it. In November, the restaurant reopened with new owners, new managers and a new executive chef in place.

It’s an inviting space, with large windows overlooking an oak tree-filled ravine, and noise-deadening baffles hanging from the warehouse-style ceiling. The wine bar is part of the dining room without being intrusive. One drawback is the unattractive open kitchen.

The lunch menu gives patrons plenty of choices without overdoing it. Keep in mind, the Divas and guests chose from the winter menu. By now, executive chef Mark Liberman will have adapted to a new season and the products available.

Whatever the time of year, let’s hope creamy cavatappi pasta remains on the menu. It is divine. Cavatappi are shaped like corkscrews, which hold sauce wonderfully. And the best thing about this hearty dish is its addictive sauce, made with wild mushrooms, baby spinach, roasted fennel and harissa, a Tunisian blend of hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil.

Vying for top ranking was the duck-leg confit. A specialty of Gascony, France, confit is meat that has been preserved by being cooked in its own fat, then stored in a pot covered with the same fat. The generous serving of duck confit came with a warm salad of frisée, smoked bacon and fingerling potatoes tossed with mustard vinaigrette. Not a connoisseur of duck, I relied on the opinion of other lunchers, who proclaimed the duck perfect in every way. I especially liked the frisée with its sprightly vinaigrette.

We ordered a salad of tender romaine with garlic vinaigrette, croutons, Parmesan and two whole anchovies that you could eat or push aside—a good idea, because you either love anchovies or you hate them. We asked for grilled prawns to be added to the salad, but they were not as tender as they should have been. Miso-marinated grilled salmon salad included mâche, pickled beets and a lemon soy vinaigrette. The tiny beets were nicely pickled, but the salmon was not grilled quite enough.

The roasted eggplant sandwich featured roasted portobello mushrooms, creamy brie and basil pesto on focaccia—a delight. But the olive and garlic tapenade could not save the grilled leg of lamb sandwich: We ordered it medium-rare but it arrived more like well done, diminishing the lamb’s delicate flavor. Baby arugula and roasted bell peppers accompanied the herb-marinated hanger steak, which came with outstanding pommes frites. Those delicious, crispy french fries also accompany several other menu items, including the lamb sandwich and the hamburger.

The creamy Jerusalem artichoke and potato soup needs some serious rethinking. Jerusalem artichokes are not known for intense flavor, which is why this soup tasted more of potato than anything else. A swirl of olive oil on top did nothing for the soup’s flavor and, in fact, detracted from its appearance.

In the dessert department, the yuzu and wildflower honey tart—made with Ligurian olive oil and yuzu, a sour Japanese citrus fruit—was not available the day we dined at Cascades. Too bad. But we still admired the restaurant’s imaginative dessert list, which has several stars, including a saffron- and vanilla-roasted Seckel pear with warm sourdough bread pudding and caramel sauce. Our other favorites were the Granny Smith apple “confit,” a dense, concentrated stack of thin apple slices that had been layered with butter and sugar and cooked for 12 hours, served with a warm, silky walnut sauce and a dollop of tangy crème fraîche; and the toasted-coconut financier (spongecake), accompanied by bananas Foster sauce and salted almonds. (Make sure you eat at least one of those addictive almonds with each spoonful of cake.) An espresso panna cotta was gelatinous and rubbery.

Diva Comments

Gayla Mace loved the hanger steak for its melt-in-your-mouth succulence, along with the duck confit, the seafood cake sandwich and the pasta. Her favorite dessert: the financier.

Bernice Hagen thought the miso-marinated grilled salmon was interesting but had too many conflicting flavors. While she’s not a dessert fan, she thought Cascades’ sweets menu was wonderful. Hagen selected the wines, choosing the Neyers Chardonnay 2002 from the Carneros district and Folie à Deux 1999 Sangiovese from Napa Valley.

Peg Tomlinson-Poswall was relieved that she didn’t have to salt the food. “Chef Mark Liberman has it all together and knows how to balance flavors,” she said. Her favorites: the duck confit and the pommes frites. Joan Leineke thought the breads were wonderful and praised the roasted pear for its generous use of saffron.

The Guests Weigh In

Robin Thyne’s assessment of Cascades: “Relaxing, nice view, overall rating for food is good!” Her favorite dishes included the pasta for its rich, deep flavors; the duck for its distinctive taste and divine warm greens; and all the desserts, especially the pear. On the other side of the ledger: She thought the lamb lacked in flavor and she didn’t care for the soup.

Nancy Hug called the eggplant sandwich the best ever and something for vegetarians to order. She thought the seafood cake sandwich was innovative, but no soup or grilled lamb for her. “The lamb sandwich was very bland, while all the other foods were so diverse and incredible,” she said.

“Incredible,” said Catherine Lenz of the duck confit—and to prove it, she had thirds. Her favorite dessert: the apple confit. She was not a fan of the seafood cake sandwich.

Jim Herren, who admitted to having a “modest” wine cellar (his friend Lenz scoffed and noted modest is not the right word) tasted the Neyers Chardonnay and declared it better than fine, which was my uneducated rating. Herren appreciated the duck leg and the cavatappi. “Delicious!” he said. “Very original with perfect spices with the Sangiovese.” His favorite dessert was the saffron vanilla pear. Artichoke soup was a no.

Herren called the setting excellent and noted the restaurant has the correct glass for each wine. He observed that the bar has good beers on tap and the overall menu is excellent, but the wine list is modest.

Cascades, 1420 E. Roseville Parkway, Roseville; (916) 788-9707; Lunch 11 a.m.–
3 p.m Monday–Friday, dinner 5–9 p.m. Sunday–Thursday, 5–10 p.m. Friday
and Saturday.